- Squatter sues homeowners from prison, gets default judgment [Eric Ross, KOAA; Colorado Springs. Colo.]
- “Judge Thomas Hardiman on the history of judicial independence” [Cato Audio of last year’s Constitution Day lecture]
- There really needs to be an off ramp at Child Protective Services by which an investigation of a family that proves unfounded can just end instead of cycling through more and more investigation [Lenore Skenazy]
- Authors, journalists, photojournalists challenge AB5 in court: “California’s Anti-Freelancer Law Violates the First Amendment” [Trevor Burrus on Cato amicus brief in American Society of Journalists et al. v. Becerra, Ninth Circuit]
- California’s legislature has long been itching to gut or repeal Proposition 109 (1996), in which voters banned race and sex preferences. Now they’re going to try to bring back the old identity-spoils system [Gail Heriot, RealClearPolitics]
- “Identifying #NeverNeeded Regulation after COVID-19” [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Matthew D. Mitchell, Mercatus Center]
- California delay: “NIMBYs get to file until 90 days ‘after the current state of emergency ends.” In other words, no one can know when they are free to build so the law could put every CA construction project that hasn’t already past CEQA review into limbo.’ [Alex Tabarrok, earlier on CEQA] “San Francisco Bureaucrats Can Shoot Down Almost Any Housing Project They Want. This Ballot Initiative Would Change That.” [Christian Britschgi]
- Local building-stopping regs have national economic implications: “If America’s three most productive cities relaxed their planning regulations to the same level as the median U.S. city, real per capita income [for *all* Americans] would rise by about 8.2%.” Conversely: “If you were to force America’s 11 largest cities to be no larger than Miami, real income per American would fall by 7.9%.” [Tyler Cowen]
- In western U.S., value of implicit firefighting subsidy “can exceed 20% of a home’s value… and decreases surprisingly steeply with development density” [Patrick Baylis, Judson Boomhower, NBER]
- Review of “Order Without Design” by Alain Bertaud [Scott Beyer]
- Not new, but well worth a read: overlap between libertarian and Strong Towns ideas [Andrew Burleson, 2013]
- “‘I asked the park representatives if there was any way we could negotiate on this, and they told me, “The time for talking is over. We’re taking this property.”‘” Bike path eminent domain [Steve Malanga, WSJ/Manhattan Institute]
We’ve written before about the political genesis of California’s Proposition 103, a remarkably onerous and unreasonable set of controls on the insurance business:
After insurance companies were so rash as to support efforts to obtain liability reform through the initiative process, trial lawyers struck back in 1988 with the rate-slashing Proposition 103, which inflicted huge losses on the industry.
Now, in the wake of drastic declines in miles driven as a result of the COVID-19 emergency, many of the biggest national auto insurers have announced voluntary programs to refund a portion of premiums to motorists, as a goodwill gesture reflecting in part the expectation that claims payouts will be much lower than anticipated. Those checks will come in handy for consumers in most states, but there’s a problem in California: any refunds, even those voluntarily embraced by insurers, appear to violate the terms of Prop 103. Ray Lehmann explains at Insurance Journal. He concludes:
The result is absurd. It’s a bug in the text. But because it was passed by the people of California as a ballot proposition, these sorts of bugs can’t simply be fixed by the Legislature. Any changes to the law require two-thirds majorities in both chambers, and even then, they must be found to “substantially further” the goal of the proposition.
It is yet another example of ways that the structures of Prop 103, well-intended though they may be, have come to be a straitjacket on both insurers and their customers.
In other insurance news, a few days ago I wrote about business-interruption insurance, blasting interest groups that want insurers to have to pay out despite policy exclusions. Now President Donald Trump has weighed in about how businesses supposedly should be able to recover losses for pandemic interruption, policy language or no.
He’s wrong. As I wrote Monday. “This category of risk has been widely grasped for many years… pandemic-related business interruption coverage [was] neither promised nor paid for at the time.” Seven Republican Senators, including Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have signed a well-informed letter opposing the idea.
Yes, the situation is tough on a dozen business sectors, starting with restaurants and travel. But there’s no way they should be allowed to raid insurance coffers of reserves needed to pay countless other claims whose coverage *was* promised and paid for in premiums. And if we let them get away with that kind of raid, no insurer will ever be able to count on the language of a contract again. Guess what’ll happen to rates when they realize they need to cover that kind of unpredictable future risk?
In an emergency that has made trucking, logistics, and home delivery uniquely important, fractured the schedules of countless parents and caregivers, and sent the services sector reeling, it would be nice if California and other states were not making war on the work arrangements needed for the situation. That’s why California’s AB5 fiasco (earlier here, here) along with similar moves in New Jersey and elsewhere, come at the worst time.
- “Lisa Yakomin, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers… said the California bill is expected to cost tens of thousands of truckers their jobs.” [Dana Rubinstein, Katherine Landergan and Anna Gronewold, Politico; Deborah Lockridge, TruckingInfo; California independent trucker coalition] Operating in New Jersey trucking under an independent contractor model “is becoming incredibly risky,” as the state assumes power to shut down alleged violators by issuing stop work orders [David Kim and Salvador Simao, Ford Harrison]
- Jugglers unite: “My full-time job is being a mother, my second is cleaning houses. New Jersey please keep it that way.” [Antonette McKay, Star-Ledger]
- Musicians on the ropes as venues shut down. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could look forward to returning to an existent gig industry? [Fight for Freelancers NJ, Brian Ralston et al., Kim Kavin, Daily Kos (“The state could argue that by hiring you to play your French horn two nights a week, the theater violated prong A of the ABC test”), Michael Tanner (Lake Tahoe Music Festival), Ravi Rajan, Orange County Register]
- What hope for legal challenges to AB5? [Stephen Melnick, WLF]
- Audio/video: Reason video with John Osterhoudt on the California mistake; “State regulators and the gig economy” [Federalist Society teleforum with Alexander MacDonald]
- Getting services distributed to dispersed at-home locations is going to create a host of new communication challenges, but good luck with that: “The California legislature designed AB5 in a manner that completely disregards how professional translators and interpreters work.” [Philip Shawe, Crain’s New York]
P.S. Related Cato post now up. Truckers especially have many more problems than this right this moment responding to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, read about some of them here (and help if you can!) They have begun getting direly needed removals of regulations. But don’t let this one slip off the list.
- “Ninth Circuit Dismisses Kids Climate Case for Lack of Standing” [Jonathan Adler, more; John Schwartz, New York Times; earlier here, here]
- Administration finishes replacing much-criticized Obama rule on Waters of the United States (WOTUS) [AgInfoNet, WilmerHale, earlier]
- Prop 65 mini-roundup: the California chemical-disclosure regime “has not been shown to provide benefits that justify its high cost.” [Michael Marlow, Cato Regulation magazine last summer] It has also created a $300 million/year industry that includes not a few shakedown artists [Cameron English, ACSH] Take two Tylenol and label them as hazardous chemicals or else [Masha Abarinova, Reason] Gas utility’s Prop 65 insert warning of exposure to, yes, natural gas [SoCalGas] From Cal Biz Lit, lists of 2019 settlements and consent judgments;
- Forcing insurers to renew risky policies: “California Politicians Double Down on Encouraging People To Live in Wildfire-Prone Areas” [Christian Britschgi]
- Exchange on the Price-Anderson Act and the liability regime it creates for nuclear power generation [John Cochrane; Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution] “Germany’s closing of nuclear power stations after Fukushima cost billions of dollars and killed thousands of people due to more air pollution.” [Alex Tabarrok]
- Two Cato Daily Podcast episodes hosted by Caleb Brown: why scaling back National Environmental Policy Act review of infrastructure projects “won’t have much of an impact on environmental quality.” [Peter Van Doren] Should Presidents wield unilateral power to lock or unlock use of federal land, as is conferred on them under the 1906 Antiquities Act? [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Jonathan Wood]
Details continue to emerge about the University of California’s use of mandatory diversity statements in faculty hiring (earlier here, etc.) In Berkeley life sciences hiring “diversity statements were used at the outset of searches to eliminate candidates.. … No matter how good your scholarship, if you didn’t pass the diversity [advocacy] cutoff (a score of 11 in the second search), you were toast.” [Jerry Coyne; John Cochrane]
“UC Berkeley has publicized its rubric for assessing peoples’ diversity and inclusion statements. You get 5 points for ‘Clear and detailed ideas for…advancing equity and inclusion…through their research, teaching, and/or service.’ Note word ‘research’.” [Agnes Callard] What if you embark on research that bears on questions of equity and inclusion but it reaches findings that do not advance the cause?
UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge, a friend of this site, recently chose to submit and publish a diversity statement emphasizing his efforts to foster a more ideologically diverse atmosphere at his UC campus — testing whether diversity as such, or only some manifestations of it, are the goal [AEI “Carpe Diem”] It caused a stir [Bainbridge blog, reactions and emails; some faculty at campuses like UC Davis have begun to push back] Given that UC is a public university, the prospects for a legal challenge appear strong, and there is interest in mounting a suit [Brian Leiter]
Meanwhile at the national and federal level, a $241 million cluster-hire grant program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “is requiring every candidate to prove that they have already promoted diversity”; among those who may lose out are “minority candidates who have been doing things other than ‘changing the culture'” [Jerry Coyne]
- Authorities arrested man who stood in front of courthouse passing out leaflets encouraging jury nullification. Michigan Supreme Court should uphold his First Amendment rights [Clark Neily and Jay Schweikert on Cato Institute brief in Michigan v. Wood, earlier here, here, and here]
- Also on the topic of jury nullification, is that an appropriate metaphor for things happening with the Senate and impeachment? [Jim Galloway, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quotes me]
- In 2018 an Eleventh Circuit panel green-lighted a suit claiming that it was unconstitutional for Alabama to enact a law pre-empting Birmingham’s local enactment of a higher minimum wage, on the claim that the white-led state lawmaking majority had acted with the purpose and effect of injuring African-Americans, who (it was argued) were more likely to be beneficiaries of the wage mandate. Now the full circuit en banc (over a dissent) has dismissed the case on standing grounds without deciding whether disparate racial impact can taint otherwise neutral laws [Lewis v. Governor of Alabama]
- New California law CCPA, promoted as giving consumers the right to see and delete their data, results in users being required to yield up more data and creates new security risks [Kashmir Hill, New York Times via Gus Hurwitz (“anyone who didn’t see this coming shouldn’t be in the business of writing laws”)]
- Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Porter (“take some home to the wives”) is deemed okay by regulators in its own state of Utah, but is too naughty for their counterparts in North Carolina [Hayley Fowler, Charlotte Observer]
- Symposium on “The Politicization of Antitrust” with Luigi Zingales, Alec Stapp, and others [Truth on the Market] And “The Future of Antitrust: New Challenges to the Consumer Welfare Paradigm and Legislative Proposals” with Makam Delrahim, Maureen Ohlhausen and others [Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention]
- “Non-equity theaters, music venues and jazz clubs, dance companies, small cultural festivals of all types face very real threats” [Brendan Rawson, Cal Matters] Translators and interpreters hard hit by law [Dan Plante, KUSI]
- Women-owned businesses “reeling” [Elaine Pofeldt, Forbes] Disabled workers “hugely impacted” [Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos]
- California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) has asked members of the public for their stories about how AB5 has affected them. You can see the results here;
- “Ready, Fire, Aim: How State Regulators Are Threatening the Gig Economy and Millions of Workers and Consumers” [U.S. Chamber Employment Policy Division]
- “The New York Times is hiring a contractor to write about California real estate, but because of AB5 they will not be hiring anyone in California.” [Emma Gallegos on Twitter]
- Not an isolated outrage: union allies nearly got such a bill passed in New Jersey in recent weeks [Alida Kass, Star-Ledger; Jen Singer, Philadelphia Inquirer] New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now signaled support for something similar [Evie Fordham, Fox Business] And backers want to take the idea national through a bill called the PRO Act, or HR2474/S1306, in the U.S. Congress [Kim Kavin, Daily Kos; Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos]
- More on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ big plans to regulate employment [Cato Daily Podcast with Ryan Bourne and Caleb Brown, related earlier]
- It’s not just the joint employer rules, NLRB is rolling back Obama-era decisions in many other areas too: union elections, including “quickie” procedures [Laura I. Bernstein, Felhaber Larson]; confidentiality in workplace investigations and use of company email systems [Jon Hyman]
- California Agricultural Labor Relations Board adopts a regulation entitling union organizers to enter farms whether owners approve or no. When such a mass incursion, with bullhorns, disrupts farm operations, has a taking of property occurred? Ninth Circuit says no [Pacific Legal Foundation; Metropolitan News-Enterprise; Federalist Society podcast with Wen Fa and Bethany Berger]
- Study based on tax data finds typical member of top-earning 1% “derives most of his or her income from human capital, not financial capital” [David Henderson] Or on the other hand: “The [analytic] attempt to divide all income between labor and capital is a fool’s errand.” [Arnold Kling]
- “Both the financial market crash and the aging of America’s industrial workforce are real phenomena. They did not, however, cause the multiemployer pension crisis.” [Charles Blahous, Economics21; more by Blahous here, here, and here; earlier]
- Supervisor’s remarks critical of exercising FMLA leave options keep nurse’s lawsuit alive despite clients’ complaints about her behavior while visiting their homes [Ronald Tang, SHRM]
The new California law on consumer data is stringent but, as is so often the case with that state’s legislation, less than pellucidly clear [Natasha Singer, New York Times] :
“Companies have different interpretations, and depending on which lawyer they are using, they’re going to get different advice,” said Kabir Barday, the chief executive of OneTrust, a privacy management software service that has worked with more than 4,000 companies to prepare for the law. “I’ll call it a religious war.”
The new law has national implications because many companies, like Microsoft, say they will apply their changes to all users in the United States rather than give Californians special treatment.