Proposed big screen TV ban would hurt California economy

Let me begin this commentary with a brief word of praise for the way that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been handling this most recent round of budget negotiations.  Clearly the Governor understands that Californians are over-taxed, and that we need to resolve the state budget’s $26 billion shortfall by reducing expenditures.  The Governor understands that California, and the nation, are in a recession, and that we need to focus on avoiding government actions that will negatively impact economic recovery.

That having been said, there are a number of key regulatory boards with tremendous power in California to which the Governor has unwisely appointed environmental extremists.  This has resulted in a situation where the Governor is focused on trying to reinvigorate the economy, while some of his appointees are actually proposing or enacting regulations that hurt our local economy.

A case-in-point example of this would be the California Energy Commission (CEC) that shows no signs of putting the brakes on the creation of new regulations to force energy efficiency on California families – regardless of the fact that such regulations will increase the cost of living at a time when Californians need regulatory relief, not a more expensive cost of living.

The Chairman of the CEC, Democrat Karen Douglas (whose resume shows her most recent jobs as being the director of the California Climate Initiative at Environmental Defense, and before that executive director of the Planning and Conservation League) has been aggressively pushing forward with a plan to implement a ban on all currently-produced 60” and greater plasma televisions (as well as many other big screens).   The theoretical logic here is that we are going to incrementally reduce energy use by Californians by mandating what kinds of televisions they can buy.

Let’s be clear, however, that the implementation of this regulation is going to have a very negative impact on the California economy – at the worst possible time.  The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents many of those who sell these kinds of effected televisions, conducted an extensive study on the potential effects of the ban.  The study showed that job losses because of it could be well exceed 4,000 – positions tied to television sales, distribution and installation.   Of course, many of these folks will end up on unemployment insurance, adding a further burden on state finances.

The negative economic consequences to this kind of policy don’t begin to breach the issues of consumer choice and individual liberty that would be severely impacted by the implementation of this kind of ban.

The Governor and the Legislature need to step up and stop these kinds of aggressive actions by powerful state boards and commissions that will negatively impact California’s economic recovery.  We are in a very challenging time economically for Californians, and for California government.  This means that not only the policy that comes out of the law-making process need to reflect this paradigm, but the regulations that come out of state government also need to prioritize economic growth over other policy agendas.

For my part, I would like to see Gov. Schwarzenegger fire off a letter today to his five appointees on the California Energy Commission asking them to hold off on such a regulation for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps he can sign these five letters in between Big 5 meetings where he is trying to instill fiscal discipline over a legislature that has spent us to the brink of insolvency.

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