In a tight race, incumbent Republican state senator John Moorlach has been targeted by the prison guards union. In a report filed on October 1, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Independent Expenditure Committee disclosed spending $910,705 on cable television ads and mailers opposing Moorlach.
Running to unseat Senator Moorlach is Democrat David Min, whose campaign website leaves no doubt as to how he’s going to vote once he gets elected. His endorsements constitute a revealing list of who really runs California; public sector unions representing teachers, firefighters, nurses, AFSCME, the SEIU and dozens of others. While other special interests, in particular, powerful environmentalist pressure groups and high tech billionaires, exercise significant influence over California’s Democrats, the government employee unions are the senior partners.
It is nonetheless inexplicable why the CCPOA would oppose Moorlach in favor of an orthodox California Democrat who is much more likely to support Newsom’s intention to close two of California’s prisons. What could possibly override that very real threat to the interests of a union representing prison guards?
Understanding this apparent contradiction is key to understanding the priorities of public sector unions in California. Perhaps CCPOA is banking on public backlash to the anarchy overwhelming California’s cities to ultimately preclude prison closures. On the other hand, perhaps the CCPOA sees Moorlach’s ability to work with Democrats to enact pension reform as a genuine threat.
Senator John Moorlach is the most financially literate, articulate and outspoken champion of fiscal responsibility in the California State Legislature, and has been since he took office. He is capable of explaining to Democrats the urgency of pension reform. As federal bailout money begins to run out, and the deferred impact of the pandemic shutdown puts California’s state and local government agencies into an acute financial crisis, Moorlach’s presence in the state legislature could spell the difference between making necessary changes to pension benefit formulas, and maintaining them unaltered regardless of the cost.
A review of the legislation that Moorlach has sponsored over the past few years shows him to be a very different legislator than the “anti-science” politician with “extreme views” as alleged on a website paid for by his opponents with the grossly misleading URL “johnmoorlachforsenate.com.”
In fact, Moorlach’s bills, most of which were killed by the Democrats, are practical, non-ideological attempts to make government more transparent and accountable, efficient, and fiscally sustainable.
During times of surplus cash flows, accumulating debt and unfunded liabilities can be ignored, as can grossly expanded expenditures. But when the next financial crunch arrives, and it will, Moorlach’s presence in the California State Legislature will become a serious threat to the status-quo. Bills he’s previously introduced and had rejected will be resubmitted, and Moorlach will both make the case and provide the political cover for their possible passage.
For example, in 2018, Moorlach introduced SB 1033, which would have forced agencies that take actions which increase a pension liability to take full financial responsibility for the increase. As it is, when an agency takes an action that increases the amount of a pension liability, all the agencies where any of the benefiting employees previously worked have to help cover that increase, even though they had no voice in its approval.
In 2017, Moorlach introduced SB 32, which merely attempted to enact some of the reforms that Governor Brown had hoped to include in his 2013 Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA). Also in 2017, Moorlach tried to rein in retiree medical costs with SB 454. All of these fiscal reforms proposed by Moorlach, and others, were shot down by the Democratic leadership. But some Democrats supported them. In a tighter economy, Moorlach could introduce reforms like this and they could be passed.
Is this the real reason nearly every public sector union in California, even the CCPOA, are determined to get John Moorlach out of office? Moorlach can explain why, in terms everyone can understand, public employee retirement benefits are unaffordable and unfair to taxpayers. And once you’ve created an extraordinarily privileged class of public employees, largely exempt from the economic hardship which is a direct result of policies it supported, financial truth is a dangerous thing.
A final irony in all this is the apparent fact that even the threat to close prisons does not animate the CCPOA as much as getting rid of a politician that might successfully build a consensus to reformulate their pensions. Republicans in general, and Senator Moorlach in particular, are far more supportive of law enforcement than Democrats.
After all, it wasn’t Republicans, or Senator Moorlach, who pushed for disastrous initiatives such as Prop. 47 that downgraded drug and property crimes, or Prop. 57 that put many dangerous felons back on the streets. It wasn’t Republicans, or Senator Moorlach, that pushed for and passed ridiculous legislation such as AB 953 that requires police to fill out reports on the race and sex and gender identity of every person they pull over or otherwise interact with. It wasn’t Republicans, or Senator Moorlach who pushed the state legislature to eliminate bail in SB 10. The list goes on. And it wasn’t Republicans, or Senator Moorlach, who are trying to shut down California’s prisons.
Public sector union members and their leadership are urged to adapt to the financial tsunami that is coming ashore. Tough financial concessions are inevitable, no matter who is in office. With that as a given, they ought to back politicians who will be easier on small businesses to grow the economy and the tax base, and tougher on criminals to take back our streets – not the other way around.
Correction: We incorrectly identified Sen. Moorlach’s opponent as John Min when it is David Min running for State Senate.