[Source: Assemblyman Travis Allen, Op-Ed OC Register] The American people are increasingly convinced there are two sets of rules in this country: one for the elites, and another for the rest of us. This conviction cuts across partisan, ideological and demographic lines. It is fueled by innate distrust of the actions of powerful elites in and out of government. It is the tectonic force underlying the political upheavals of the past year.
In Southern California, we have seen this dynamic at work regarding the Southern California Air Quality Management District, which is responsible for regulating stationary sources of pollution in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. While everyone supports sensible laws to ensure a clean environment, the SCAQMD is a powerful unelected body of bureaucrats historically prone to siding with elites over the interests of the general public.
In 2013 for example, the SCAQMD sided with wealthy beachfront property owners who didn’t want the “riff-raff” (read: people who cannot afford beachfront properties) using public beaches near their homes. Despite overwhelming public opposition, the agency’s board of directors voted 7 to 6 to remove our beloved beach fire rings. The issue was not about dirty air at the beach. It was about an unaccountable government agency colluding with a small group of wealthy individuals against the public good.
I led the fight against this blatant government overreach, and we succeeded in saving Southern California’s historic experience of a beach bonfire for generations to come. It is of note that this victory came at a price – it took significant time and energy from all interested parties, and ended up being an international PR nightmare for the state of California. This was only three years ago, yet the agency once again is brazenly coming to the Legislature with another overt power grab.
A bedrock principle of American government is the separation of powers into legislative, executive and judicial branches – each acting as a check on the power of the others. The SCAQMD cavalierly disregards that principle and concentrates those three powers within itself – the only “check” on their power is a 13-member board of directors, of which only three directors are appointed by the governor and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate.
The attempted fire ring ban was only the tip of the iceberg of years of damaging regulatory overreach by the SCAQMD. The Declaration of Independence tells us that whenever government becomes destructive of its just purposes “it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” Doing just that, fed up board members from around Southern California last year chose to change the dynamic of the board, which should have been the end of the matter.
However, the entrenched interests vested in the status quo have powerful allies in the liberal elites who rule state government – state Senator Kevin de Leon introduced Senate Bill 1387 which would double the number of SCAQMD directors who are appointed by Sacramento politicians from three to six. Furthermore, de Leon’s bill would require these appointees to be representatives of overzealous groups which relentlessly advocate for blatant regulatory overreach.
Simply put, when the public interest overcame the extremist vocal minority fair and square, those special interests reacted by attempting to rewrite the rules in their favor.
In that respect, this power play by Sacramento special interests is no different than the Washington, D.C., Beltway dynamic that has outraged middle America: The powerful aren’t held to the same set of rules the rest of us are expected to obey. Passage of SB1397 would be equally damaging to the vitality of our economy, and further corrode the battered ideal that just government exists to secure our rights rather than enforce the ideological will of the elites.
Assembly Member Travis Allen represents Assembly District 72.
Source: OC Register
August 6, 2016