Communications

Latest Capitol Update – January 22, 2018

As Democratic Majority Worries About A Wealthy Exodus from California, Democratic Legislators Introduce a New Business Tax

With the passage of the federal tax bill, California Governor Jerry Brown has signaled that by cutting off deductions that benefit the wealthy, California’s richest families may decide to leave the state for better tax havens.

“People with higher incomes pay a lot more money, and some of them may be tempted to leave,” Gov. Jerry Brown said when he unveiled his 2018-19 budget proposal last week. “This was an assault by the Republicans in Congress against California.” (Adam Aston, “Wealthy Exodus to Escape New Tax Rules Worries California Democrats,” Sacramento Bee, 1/18/18)

California’s wealthiest pay 48 percent of the state income taxes and the departure of a just a few wealthy families could have a devastating impact on the state general fund.

In an effort to prevent departures, Senate pro tem Kevin de Leon introduced a bill allowing California residents to write off their state taxes on their federal returns as a charitable deduction. But officials from the Trump administration have warned that this exercise will not be allowed by the IRS and could lead to penalties.

Ignoring the governor’s concerns, two Democratic State Assembly members Kevin McCarthy (Sacramento) and Phil Ting (San Francisco) introduced an Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA 22) that would raise corporate taxes on California companies with revenues higher than $1 million.

Liam Dillion with the Los Angeles Times quoted McCarthy, “I’ve seen enough billionaire justice in the first 11 months of this presidency to last my lifetime. At a time when reckless federal tax policy favors billionaires over middle-class workers, ACA 22 will help ensure that California can continue to grow and support middle-class families throughout the state.”

The Democrats seem to be divided on how to handle the potential exodus of wealthy families, but which one will benefit California’s economy the most?

 

California Attorney General Threatens To Fine California Employers $10,000 Who Comply With Federal Immigration Agencies

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned California employers that his office would fine any employer $10,000 who is caught directing the federal authorities to a specific person or group of people for immigration purposes. Becerra indicated that the only way an employer is able to provide employee information is through a court order or subpoena. If neither of these were presented, the employer is engaging in unfair immigration-related practices.

Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times reporter quoted Becerra saying, “It’s important, given these rumors out there, to let people and more specifically employers know that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws they subject themselves to actions by my office … enforcing AB 450.”

Becerra also indicated that his office is preparing “to issue guidance to local agencies” about California’s new state immigration law for distribution to companies.

 

San Francisco Assemblyman Introduces Legislation To Ban Gas Vehicles in California by 2040

Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting (San Francisco) has introduced Assembly Bill 1745, which bans the sale of internal combustion passenger vehicles in California by 2040.

Commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds would not be affected by this legislation. Consumers who already own a gasoline-powered vehicle would not be driving illegally, but they would not be able to register any after 2040. The bill only proposes a ban on the registration of new cars or trucks that is not considered a zero-emission vehicle.

The legislation is a way for Ting to help boost electric vehicle sales in order to meet California’s car emissions goals. Critics of the ban state that the legislation hurts the middle-class and poorer motorist who may not be able to afford to buy an electric vehicle.

 

Tampons Tax-Free Bill Fails Again

For the third straight year, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s (D-Gardens) legislation to exempt tampons from sales taxes in California has failed.

 

New Harassment Legislation Gives Victims Years to File a Complaint

Assemblywomen Eloise Reyes (D-Grand Terrace), Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced Assembly Bill 1870, which gives victims up to 3-years after a harassment occurs to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The current law only gives a year to file a complaint on any unlawful employment or housing practices.

 

Joel Fox: A Pandora’s Box: Suing Oil Companies, Consumers Pay

Some members of the Los Angeles city council hope to join San Francisco, Oakland and New York City in suing oil companies on the principle that the costs associated with climate change are a burden to the city and its taxpayers. If successful, this would open a Pandora’s box of problems for companies and the government itself. Not to mention, it would add to taxpayers’ financial burdens rather than relieving them of costs.

If the cities are banking on the idea that the lawsuit will force companies to contribute to the government coffers, they’re neglecting to realize that the taxpayers will ultimately pay the price.

The requirements for companies to participate in the cap and trade program with the goal of clearing up the environment would come with a cost, which eventually passes on to consumers. The Legislative Analyst declared that the cap and trade extension would cost consumers up to 79-cents per gallon of gas by 2031.

Read Full Article Here: http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2018/01/pandoras-box-suing-oil-companies-consumers-pay/

 

California May Circumvent Feds By Imposing Healthcare Insurance Requirement

The federal penalty for those without insurance expires at the end of this year. The bad news however, uninsured California residents may still be penalized with a new proposal led by state lawmakers.

Elizabeth Aguilera with CalMatters wrote, “‘Everything they are doing at the federal level, we are doing the opposite,’ said state Sen. Ed Hernandez, an Azusa Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and plans to host a bill-pitching session next week. ‘What drives individuals to purchase on the exchange is the marketing, but also the subsidies and the health care,’ Hernandez said. ‘We are looking at every option.’”

Read Full Article Here: https://calmatters.org/articles/california-may-buck-congress-health-insurance-requirement/

 

Tuition at the University of California Could Rise Again

This week, the Regents of the University of California, a governing board for the university system, is expected to increase tuition and fees an extra $342, to $12,974 at their next meeting in San Francisco.

As students began protesting, UC officials were quick to point out that California undergraduates whose families make less than $80,000 pay no tuition.

 

Apple Announces Plan To Bring Home $252 Billion From Overseas

In a dramatic move, Apple plans to invest more than $350 billion into the US economy over the next five-years by bringing home $252 billion from overseas, building a new campus, creating more than 20,000 jobs and issuing each of its employees a bonus of $2500.

The news comes after President Donald Trump’s tax reforms contained a deep discount in repatriation taxes for “bringing cash home from overseas.”

In a statement, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the U.S. economy. We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness. We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.”

Part 1: The “Please, Don’t Hit Me” Party

After spending a few days in Washington, D.C. interacting with party leaders and activists from across the country, listening to their stories and asking questions about their organizational structure and how they communicate to the public; It became clear that the battle ground members and those leading the massive marches in DC and yesterday in Berkeley, are fighters, willing to push back and take on the challenge, while many, California Republicans, have adopted the, “Please, Don’t Hit Me” strategy.

California Democrats deserve credit, for taking almost any issue and converting it into a crisis. They use this approach to mobilize thousands of people through email, social media and community organizations; with a unified voice, they blame it all on Republicans.

A few weeks ago they began spending $25,000 a month of taxpayer money to hire former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, nearly a month before Donald J. Trump took the oath of office, because of Trump’s campaign speeches.

Trump was sworn in office just ten days ago and when Holder was hired, no one knew what policies or changes he would actually suggest to congress, or who will fill all of the Secretary posts, or what executive orders he will undo. This single move, of hiring Eric Holder blanketed the airways, newspapers, social media, and was used to mobilize communities around the notion that: Donald Trump is dangerous to California and we need protection.

California Democrats charged that Trump would attack California on climate change, immigration, Obamacare, and stated, “‘[Holder] will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,’ Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.”

The best part of this Democratic strategy is the claim that it is being done in the name of bipartisanship, when the actions taken have been strictly partisan.

As an example, the California Democratic leadership has said, they fear Donald Trump will begin with massive deportations, yet Trump’s last comments dealt with deporting only undocumented immigrants that are criminals and finding a solution for the rest. Where was that anger and fear, when President Obama was deporting three million immigrants? Why wasn’t Eric Holder hired then? The reason is that the Democrats’ strategy is to blame Republicans, as Republicans sit idle and accept the blame.

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While some Republicans are comfortable with their crumbs, others are afraid of reprisal and some just lack a spine.

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The Democratic Party has controlled both houses of the state legislature for the better part of 20 years. Yet opposition research, policy challenges, and contrasts usually happen during the election season, when it should be occurring 24-hours, 365 days out of the year.

There should be other opinions and challenges inserted into the conversation and that requires a new strategy of a willingness to “push back,” rather than the tendency to not act and simply say, “Please, Don’t Hit Me.”

A Lesson for California – Mexico in Peril over Increased Gas Prices

As Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government increased gas prices by 30 cents a gallon on New Year’s Day, the Mexican people took to the streets in protest, blocking roads, burning debris, blocking gasoline service stations and waving banners asking for Peña Neito to resign.

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The gasolinazo – the gasoline price hike – prompted taxi cab drivers, truckers, agricultural workers and other irate citizens to block the main highways into Mexico City this past week.

“Outside one gas station in the centre of the captial, Manuel López, a mechanic, stood defiantly in front of the pumps. Ironically, López does not own a car – he sold it because of Mexico’s ongoing economic downturn – but he said the size and shock of the gasolinazo had sent him into the streets.

‘It’s an economic issue,’ said López, 24. ‘Salaries are not very good. If gasoline goes up, it provokes an inflation in the cost of the items we consume daily,’ he added, reciting a list of common complaints among Mexicans. ‘The first thing that gets hit are people’s pocketbooks.’”

As the gazolinazo takes center stage in Mexico, in their northern neighbor of California, several Democrat legislators have introduced their own gas tax proposal that could drive the current gasoline tax of 58.83 cents to 70.83 cents per gallon.

Like clockwork, Democrats introduce a handful of gas tax measures like Senate Bill 350 and oil severance, while the California Air Resources Board (a government agency appointed by Governor Jerry Brown) is looking at its own set of gas-hike proposals.

Since the Great Recession, California’s economy has been growing. Unemployment is down, more than two million have been created in a six-year span, but this recovery hasn’t been shared equally by all. As Dan Walters of The Sacramento Bee recently noted, “The technology-heavy San Francisco Bay Area has almost single-handedly lifted California’s economy and while other regions are better off than they were during the depths of the recession, their recoveries have been more sluggish. The question hanging over the state, therefore, is whether technology can continue to buoy its economy, or whether another recession is just waiting to happen.”

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A 2015 report by United Ways of California, Struggling to Get By, noted, “One in three California households (31%) do not have sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. This is three times the proportion officially considered poor in California, according to the Federal Poverty Level that averages low cost-of-living states with those that have higher cost-of-living, such as California.

Households led by people of color are disproportionately likely to have incomes too low to make up the difference. State statistics show 51% of Latino households and 40% of African-American households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure. They are followed by Asian-American households (28%) and Caucasian households (20%).”

Even with the two million new jobs — with the largest gains made in low-paying restaurant, hotel and retail industries — and a slowly rebounding economy, will California Democrats follow the lead of Mexican President Enrique Peña Neito and create our own regressive gasolinazo to unfairly punish the poor?

The Real Work Behind Each Press Release

Don’t rely on the “send” button in your email distribution system, as the means to getting your press release converted into a media story.

The press release should only be sent after you have done the real work of putting together fact sheets, developed talking points, having the client approve a few opinion-editorials and communicated the significance of the issue with a reporter or select number of them. This doesn’t mean you have to conduct a press tour before issuing the release, but you need to pick up the phone and communicate your issue.

Identify key reporters (those who cover this particular issue or individuals you have built a relationship with) and give them a run down.

If the issue requires some background and/or a technical explanation, make the client or expert available to answer questions. This exercise will help you evaluate the situation and identify a missing component in your narrative. Keep the conversations “off the record” or “on-background” and embargo any documents until the release is sent (see Establishing Ground Rules with a Reporter).

By laying the groundwork first, a reporter is able to understand the issue and this takes away the guessing, as they scan through the 200+ daily press releases living in their inbox (see When to Send Out A Press Release).

Previewing the issue can also bring you back to earth.

At times, we get so caught up with the issue and client, that we become blinded as to whether the story is news worthy or get lost in the weeds that we fail to see the issue from the audience’s point of view. The last thing we want to do is come off as a conspiracy theorist.

Reporters will listen to your pitch, but also expect them to ask tough questions and verbalize the holes in your story. At the end your client will be better for it.

It is only after you go through this exercise, that you should feel confident in pressing the “send” button.

When to Send Out a Press Release

In communications, timing is everything.

After working hard on the language and tone of your press release, next comes the big question: “When should the release go out?” When determining the best time to send the press release, ask yourself, is the client seeking to minimize or  maximize exposure?

Minimize Coverage

If you are trying to minimize coverage, send the release on a Friday after 4:00 pm, when most reporters have already written their weekend article and it’s been submitted to the desk for review and editing.

If timing permits, schedule the release on the Friday before a 3-day holiday or the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. On those days, most broadcast stations have skeleton crews and print reporters will have already filed their articles and like most people, they are focused on something else, except work.

Even though it’s likely that most reporters will have mentally checked out for the long weekend, you still need to be prepared to answer media questions.

If you are trying to minimize exposure, you need to realize that there is no escaping coverage. With our mobile devices attached to our finger-tips, the endless number of bloggers and Google Alert, your content will be viewed by someone and will live online.

In a 24-hour news cycle world “flying under the radar” is impossible. Especially if the issue involves a high profile company, celebrity/politician/high powered executive or a topical issue.

Elements of your statement are bound to end up on social media, some blog or picked up by the weekend crew at a news station.

I have known too many people who don’t prepare, but spend their time hoping and praying that a weekend news story or sensational event will knock their story off a reporter’s list. That is a difficult way to live.

No matter the situation, have your talking points written out and be ready to respond.

Giving Your Story A Chance  

Each morning, most journalists are in front of their computers reading and sorting out their emails. They are looking for breaking news, scanning through the press releases and reviewing their in-progress files, before heading into a morning staff meeting.

Reporters receive 30-80 press releases a day, and in an election year, that number grows to 100-200+. If you don’t stand out, you’ll get buried.

In a press release, the subject line and first two to three sentences are key – eliminate the fluff and get to the point.

Also, try sharing your release at odd times. Instead of 7:30 am, send the release at 7:33 or 8:12. Don’t let your message get clogged up in the avalanche of pre-programed emails.

As to what day of the week works best, while weekends and Friday are not ideal, next comes Monday morning.

On Monday mornings, most people spend time sorting through and cleaning up their inbox – just look at the amount of junk mail you get throughout the weekend.

Like most people, reporters are spending their Monday mornings deleting, figuring out what is relevant or what emails to file for another day.

I like Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. You will be given an opportunity to connect with a reporter before you send out the release (more on this in my next article) and you don’t have to deal with the Monday morning email clutter.

Establishing the Ground Rules With a Reporter

When reporters get a lead on a story, it is their job to talk with multiple sources, to gather facts and opinions, in order to analyze whether the story is worth pursing.

Before beginning an interview, its important to establish an agreement to determine how the information will be used and sourced, such as off the record, on the record, on background, or deep background. This agreement needs to occur at the beginning, not the end of the interview. You can’t begin an interview and then say, “Wait, that was ‘off the record.’”

Here is a brief summary of some ground rules when talking with a reporter:

“Off the Record” means the information can’t be quoted, referenced or used in an article. The information is offered to provide the reporter with a greater understanding of the issue.

“On the Record” means the information you provide can be used or quoted for the story. This includes using you or your client as the source of the information.

“On Background” means that the information can be used by the reporter, but not attributed to you. They can refer to you as “an expert” or “government official” or “a senior executive.” This type of agreement usually occurs when the information is sensitive, so the source is not disclosed.

“On Deep Background” means that the information can be used in a story or to enhance the reporter’s knowledge of the subject or as a guide for other leads, but the original source cannot be quoted or identified. Here is how Associated Press defines it: “The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.” http://www.ap.org/company/News-Values

Before sitting down for the interview, write down what you want to say. Don’t ad-lib.

Set the ground rules for the interview.

Treat everything you say, even if you are “off the record,” as though you are “on the record.”

Remember a reporter will be talking to multiple sources and some key word or phrase you provide can open the door to another source, who might be willing to go “on the record.”

** Update:

A colleague and communications professional, Alicia Trost brought up a good point, these rules also apply when text messaging. Thank you @AliciaTrost