Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor:
California voters are in no mood to approve the usual tactics of borrowing and increasing sales taxes to mend the state’s budget mess. Recent Field Poll data not only predicts that Propositions 1A through 1E are destined for defeat; it looks like voters are strongly opposed to most other traditional revenue enhancement proposals (Field Polls released April 29 and April 30, 2009).

There is one idea that resonates with a clear majority of California voters: taxing and regulating marijuana. That’s right, 56 percent of voters support legally taxing the sales of marijuana to help raise revenue for state programs – that’s more than twice the support for increasing sales or gas taxes.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, saw the need to think outside the box for budget solutions when he introduced AB 390 – the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act. By taking California’s largest cash crop out of the underground market and strictly regulating and taxing it like alcohol, A.B. 390 will generate a significant revenue stream for the state – while significantly de-fund criminal cartels.

Inevitably, we’ll soon find ourselves in the same budget crisis mode we were in a few months ago and lawmakers will be forced to make some hard decisions while balancing the interests of their constituents back home. It looks like one of the more politically popular choices would be to get behind Ammiano’s AB 390.

F. Aaron Smith,
California Policy Director
Marijuana Policy Project

Dear Editor,
John Howard’s article, “ARB eyes ‘indirect land use’ in low carbon fuel standard” (Capitol Weekly, April 30, 2009), repeats some of the misconceptions that exist about the direct and indirect elements of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

To clarify, the “cradle-to-grave” (also known as well-to-wheels or field-to-wheels) approach measures the direct carbon footprint of fuels for their entire life cycle. Growth Energy and others have consistently supported and urged the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to include direct calculations in the LCFS. The controversial element of the LCFS however is the indirect land use penalty. This theory claims that growing crops for biofuel production could displace other types of crops, which may then be grown in other parts of the world, leading to deforestation.

The fact is that while corn ethanol production has increased by five fold over the last five years, deforestation in Brazil has declined by some 50 percent. In addition, techniques in ethanol production continue to improve and get better for the environment. A recent study comparing ethanol plants built in 2006 versus 2001 shows a 6.4 percent increase in ethanol yields; 21.8 percent reduction in energy use; and 26.6 percent decrease in water consumption. Not to mention, farmers are doing their part to use better, more precise and more environmentally-friendly farming techniques all the time, such as low-till and no-till farming, which disrupt the soil less and are better for the environment.

The ARB made it clear that there is a place for corn ethanol in California’s future. Our concern was that ethanol was being singled out by being the only fuel pathway to be “penalized” for its indirect effects.

While the ARB’s decision wasn’t everything we wanted as an industry, we will continue to improve our efficiency and become even cleaner and greener while working towards advancements in cellulosic ethanol by building on the solid foundation established by corn ethanol today. Corn ethanol is powering our vehicles now, and producers are working tirelessly to develop more advanced forms of ethanol, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 86 percent compared to gasoline.

Growth Energy will continue to support a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in California and the ARB’s promise to research indirect effects of all fuels, and we look forward to working with them to build a cleaner, greener standard.

Dr. Mark Stowers,
Vice President, Science and Technology,

Dear Editor:
In his April 30 op-ed, “Workers’ comp ‘reforms’ failed to protect injured workers,” California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) president Todd McFarren incorrectly claims that the “majority” of recent medical cost increases are due to “medical cost containment.” According to the WCIRB – the source he cites – these costs increased by $265 per claim between 2005 and 2007. Costs for actual medical treatments grew by $1,222 during this period.

McFarren wrongly asserts any increase in these costs reveals a trend of “denying and delaying medical care” since the reforms. In reality, these costs have increased because tools like “utilization review,” whereby reviewing physicians ensure medical treatment requests comport with evidence-based guidelines adopted by lawmakers, were largely unavailable before the reforms. Post-reform audits by the Division of Workers’ Compensation show that these tools are being used as lawmakers intended. In a survey of more than 1,000 injured workers shows the vast majority (83 per cent) are satisfied with their access to quality medical treatment.

It’s not surprising that CAAA members, who are paid a percentage of disability benefits, oppose the reforms, especially the shift to an objective system for rating permanent disability (PD). When McFarren claims there should be double the number of current workers’ comp claims, it’s clear that he would take us back to the old, broken system in which California racked up three times the national average of PD claims. As McFarren says, “let’s face it,” the applicants’ attorneys business model depends on more claims and more expensive claims. Except for CAAA members, that system worked for no one.

Jason Schmelzer
Policy Advocate
California Chamber of Commerce

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