Two of the hottest issues currently plaguing California during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 statewide lockdown have just been given a pass by Democrat lawmakers, leaving many asking if there is any leadership in the State Capitol, and “where are the adults?”
Democrat Legislators in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee announced Tuesday that the planned hearing over issuing an audit of the Employment Development Department was cancelled, angering Republican leaders who had been pushing for such an audit, California Globe reported.
California, with a population of nearly 40 million, has processed a total of 9.3 million unemployment claims since mid-March, spending more than $55 billion, according to the EDD.
In the same week, the Legislature Thursday cancelled the August 11 hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, abandoning all efforts highlight the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars on personal protective equipment with companies like China-owned BYD and Blue Flame. In April, lawmakers sent Gov. Gavin Newsom a letter demanding details of the agreement, saying there was too little transparency in spending those massive taxpayer dollars, California Globe reported.
“This is beyond belief – rubbish,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama). “The Administration has botched one billion dollar contract after another, and now legislative leaders are looking in the other direction, and quietly walking away without reviewing how the state spent all that money – monies that could have gone to help businesses and unemployed Californians.”
“I’ve served in the Legislature for many years, and I have never seen anything like this. It is the duty and responsibility of this Legislature to oversee the state’s spending, always, but most importantly during an emergency declaration where extraordinary power has been vested in one person – the Governor.”
The California Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee establishes priorities and assigns work to be done by the Bureau of State Audits. “The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is created pursuant to the constitution and Government Code,” California Globe contributor Chris Micheli explained recently. “JLAC has seven Members of the Senate and seven Members of the Assembly. Four members from each house constitute a quorum of the committee and the number of votes required to take action on any matter. The chair of JLAC provides the requesting Member any report that was prepared by the Bureau of State Audits.”
Democrat Legislative Leaders Thwart Important Audits
Sen. Nielsen sat down with California Globe recently and discussed the gross expansion of California’s administrative state, the incompetence of the state’s government agencies, and unresponsive government, which now is almost entirely unchecked by the Legislature. Agencies like the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the State Water Resources Control Board, are making policy – a responsibility of the Legislature – without any legislative oversight. They empower themselves Sen. Nielsen says, and need to be stopped.
Even with the abbreviated legislative session due to the state lockdown over COVID-19, the Legislature is abdicating its responsibility to do important oversight of state agencies through audits.
“The citizens are just desperate,” Sen. Nielsen said. “Everyday that goes by, more and more small businesses won’t be able to re-open.” Sen. Nielsen said there really was no reason to close the state’s small and medium businesses over the coronavirus.
“The governor cannot relate to the circumstances of these small business owners,” Nielsen said. Newsom’s constantly changing positions in his daily press briefings make this evident, Nielsen said. Newsom’s changing positions also demonstrates that he has no fundamental principles. “The average citizen doesn’t listen to his words,” Nielsen added.
Sen. Nielsen said that bureaucrats fear honest reporters and journalists, as well as legislatively active members of the public. The governor must also fear reporters because he hasn’t had a press briefing in months with reporters present.
With an absent Legislature, reporters and members of the public need to back bureaucrats into a corner and demand to know what they are doing. “That’s how we win power back from government,” Nielsen said.
A critical mass has been reached, and loss of control,” Nielsen said. “Most lawmakers never even knew how much control these agency bureaucrats had.”
Nielsen says the California Administrative Procedure Act is ignored – particularly if no one will take the time to confront the administrators and bureaucrats. The act allows the public to participate in the adoption of state regulations in order to ensure that the regulations are clear, necessary, and legally valid.
This is why “bureaucrats with clipboards” are making surprise visits to businesses up and down the state, writing citations and issuing fines for violations of Gov. Newsom’s business restrictions and lockdown orders. These “bureaucrats with clipboards” have more power than ever, thanks to dictates by the governor and his arbitrary rules… all imposted during the Legislature’s absence from the Capitol.
On July 20, Senator Nielsen and Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, called for an audit of the state’s spending on Personal Protective Equipment.
In May, Republican lawmakers submitted a request to Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) to immediately convene the Joint Legislative Audit Committee for the purpose of hearing an audit request of the state’s handling of all 2020 spending on PPE.
“The Legislative year ends August 31, unless the Governor calls for a Special Session, and why would he do that when he’s been running the state on his own, without any interference from the Legislature during his extended State of Emergency order. But this is why the August 11 JLAC hearing is critical for all audit requests for this year including one to audit the Employment Development Department in its handling of unemployment claims during the COVID shutdown,” Sen. Nielsen’s and Assemblyman Salas’s press statement said.
The Black Hole of the Administrative State
Sen. Nielsen said he and his staff have handled more than 2,000 unemployment claims for constituents recently. Frustrated constituents, feeling as if they had no recourse, contacted Nielsen’s office for a last-ditch attempt at getting any help with the unresponsive Employment Development Department over their claims for unemployment. Nielsen said he personally made many calls to the EDD, and was hung up on countless times. He also said he encountered out-of-control EDD employees who would scream into the phone, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” numerous times when he called, and then hang up on him.
Gov. Newsom announced he has assigned a new “strike force” to the EDD, similar to the “strike force” he assigned to the DMV last year. However, as Newsom was making the DMV “strike force” team announcement last July, the entire DMV system crashed.
As for the PPE audit request, Assemblyman Salas and Senator Nielsen included in their letter: “According to a FEMA document dated May 15, 2020, the federal government ‘continues to meet demands for personal protective equipment through new acquisition, federal interagency allocation, private industry donations and the Strategic National Stockpile.’ As of May 14, FEMA reports it delivered 2.3 million N-95 respirators, 1.9 million gloves, 505,442 face shields, 3.8 million surgical masks, and 170 ventilators to California. FEMA also reports two Battelle N95 decontamination units being located in the Los Angeles and Fairfield/Fremont areas. FEMA stated it releases PPE and other medical equipment ‘based on disease activity and its effects, as well as the need to distribute limited supplies to areas where resources needed the most urgently.'”
These line items are among the issues Assemblyman Salas and Sen. Nielsen want answers to:
Review the State’s strategy and efforts to obtain PPE in 2020, including efforts to solicit and vet bids from vendors. This review should include but not be limited to the following:
a. Reviewing efforts to obtain PPE through normal procurement channels, and
b. Reviewing efforts to obtain PPE from established producers of PPE, including producers of NIOSH certified N-95 masks.
Identify and evaluate State efforts to obtain PPE from in-state manufacturers and companies, including any efforts to use executive authority to direct in-state manufacturers to produce PPE.
To read the audit request from Assemblyman Salas and Senator Nielsen, please click here. California Globe will follow up on the audit requests and report back with any news.
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