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Will California's gun law place a target on card networks?

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Will California's gun law place a target on card networks?


The California law would enable tracking of gun purchases.

George Frey/Bloomberg

The large U.S. card networks may be building a merchant code for firearm and ammunition purchases in California — a move which could draw fire from other states where conservative lawmakers have worked to block such a creation.

Visa, Mastercard and American Express are moving ahead with the transaction codes, according to CBS News, adding that these payment codes would enable the card companies to comply with a California law that would enable banks to flag suspicious gun purchases and share that information with authorities. The law goes into effect in 2025.

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The payment companies had considered this approach in the past, but halted work on the codes in March 2023 following resistance from lawmakers in conservative states. More recently, Republican state representatives in Wisconsin have introduced a bill that would ban gun-specific payment codes. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express did not provide comments by deadline. Discover, which was not named in the CBS story, also did not provide comment.  

California’s law would likely require the card networks to have different compliance policies in different states. That’s not unusual, but it does place the companies in the middle of a political fight during an election year, given California’s size and its ability to influence federal policy and laws in other states. 

“Our increasingly fraught and fractious politics are playing out at state level with hard blue states like California and red states imposing their policy preferences on our payment system,” said Eric Grover, a principal at Intrepid Ventures. “National payment systems are going to have to navigate a patchwork of conflicting state-level requirements.”

Payment networks and processors will be able to manage the differences, but it will increase the cost and complexity of running their businesses, Grover said, predicting that policymakers in liberal states such as California and New York will increase tracking and the burden on payments for firearms. “Many pro-Second Amendment red states will ban or limit such tracking,” Grover said. 

California’s law could influence policy elsewhere. 

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There has been a link between California’s early actions on consumer protection regulations and subsequent actions by other states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to said Stewart Watterson, a strategic advisor at Datos Insights. 

California’s Consumer Privacy Act, passed in 2018, is designed to give consumers more control over the way businesses use their data. Similar laws went into effect in Virginia, Utah and Connecticut in 2023, and in Colorado in 2021.

These laws have pressured payment processors to update policies that manage how consumer data is shared and stored, as well as improve opt-in provisions for consumers to enable data sharing. 

“Overall, California’s early actions in consumer protection have set a precedent and spurred other states and federal agencies to follow suit in enhancing consumer privacy and financial regulations,” Watterson said. 

California is also considering a bill that would affect earned wage access products, which provide early access to payroll. The bill would regulate EWA payments in a manner similar to  traditional loans. 

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California also reached an agreement with earned wage access providers in 2021 under which the companies would share data with regulators, allow examinations and set limits on pricing, sparking several other states to follow suit.

California has had an impact on both conservative and liberal issues, according to Robert Hockett, a law professor at Cornell University, noting tax reforms in California have spread to other states as well as minimum wage hikes. 

“At least as interesting as the effects upon other states in this case, as it happens, might be reactions from Congress, whose Republican members are probably already primed due to the moves in the insurance industry on guns,” Hockett said. In 2023, several jurisdictions — including San Jose — passed laws requiring gun-related insurance. 

There is the potential that California’s market size could affect other states, but on certain issues, especially hot-button issues like gun sales, California’s outsized influence may not be enough to sway other states to follow suit, said James Wester, director of cryptocurrency and cohead of payments at Javelin Strategy & Research. 

“Regulations will simply follow political fault lines,” Wester said, adding that in terms of financial and payment regulation more generally, New York tends to be more influential given its role as a banking capital. 

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Large red states have also passed laws that either aimed for a national influence or indirectly created cross-state pressure. aiming for broader influence. Texas, for example, in the past three years has passed laws that require banks to prove they do not ban gun or ammunition sellers in order to do business with the state. Texas also requires state agencies to not do business with banks that restrict the oil and gas business. 

“Regardless of which state leads on any particular issue, however, this move by California on this [gun] issue demonstrates the complexity of compliance that payment and financial services providers must deal with,” Wester said.



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A billionaire-backed campaign for a new California city is off to a bumpy start

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A billionaire-backed campaign for a new California city is off to a bumpy start


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After two false starts, the billionaires behind a plan to build an eco-friendly city from scratch are behind schedule and off to a bumpy start to put their proposal before California voters this November.

Former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek unveiled his closely guarded ballot initiative for the proposed community between San Francisco and Sacramento in January, a plan that envisions 20,000 homes, transit infrastructure, schools, jobs and green space for an initial 50,000 residents. He has since amended it twice to address concerns raised by Solano County and a neighboring U.S. Air Force base.

Thursday is the deadline for the county counsel’s office to give the ballot initiative a title and summary, which will allow signature gatherers to hit the streets in search of the 13,000 they need — and preferably thousands more as a cushion. The delays mean the campaign has just two months, not three, to collect signatures if they want to give elections officials the maximum time to verify them.

“You get into this math game of time and availability of people to sign your petition,” said Jim Ross, a veteran Democratic political consultant based in Oakland. “Losing a month is a big deal.”

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But Brian Brokaw, a spokesperson for the campaign, said he is confident about making the Nov. 5 ballot.

“We’ve been walking a line of making sure we get this right and also realizing that the clock is ticking,” he said. “At the same time, we believe that the amendments that we made to the measure will significantly help increase our chances of success in November, and it was definitely worth the additional time that it cost us to get it right.”

Sramek needs Solano County voters to allow urban development on rural land his company has stealthily purchased since 2018 for at least $800 million to build what he’s pitched as a walkable community for up to 400,000 residents with a cute downtown, good-paying jobs and affordable homes. The state desperately needs more housing, especially affordable units.

Sramek has not said how much he’s prepared to spend on the effort. His California Forever company can count on the deep pockets of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, including philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

But lots of money doesn’t always translate to ballot success — in 2022, California voters rejected two efforts to expand gambling despite at least $460 million spent by supporters.

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Critics say the delays are on par for an unorthodox campaign that operated in secrecy for years, eschewed local input and now wants to break ground on agricultural land voters chose to protect from urbanization back in 1984.

“What we see from that is a bit of oversight in their process of actually engaging folks,” said Sadie Wilson, planning and research director at Greenbelt Alliance. The environmental advocacy group is part of Solano Together, a coalition that includes farming and open space interests and environmental groups.

Opponents of the plan say it makes flashy promises but is shockingly light on details.

The sustainable way to build more housing is within existing city limits, Wilson said, rather than plunking an enormous development on 27 square miles (70 square kilometers) of land in a county of 450,000 people with sensitive ecosystems and an already strained water supply.

Locals had wondered for years who had snapped up parcels containing cattle and wind farms. They were stunned to learn last summer that Sramek and his Silicon Valley investors wanted it for a new development — not yet named — that could become a city or remain part of the county.

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Sramek then went on something of an apology tour, including meeting with two irate congressmen who had sought for years to find out whether foreign adversaries or investors were behind the land purchases between Travis Air Force Base and the Sacramento River Delta city of Rio Vista. Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson still oppose the project.

In January, Sramek held a news conference to outline the ballot initiative, filed it with the county elections office and then withdrew it — all on the same day — after county officials requested language clarifying the process.

California Forever could have avoided this had the campaign shared its proposal with local officials ahead of time, said Ross, the consultant. “It’s very much an outsider approach,” he said.

Bernadette Curry, counsel for Solano County, said officials asked for technical changes to clarify that the county had discretion to approve a development agreement with the company before it can build. Previously the initiative contained language requiring approval by the county supervisors.

The initiative specifies that the development agreement will include the 10 guarantees made by California Forever, such as $400 million to help county residents and Travis Air Force Base families buy homes in the community and $200 million for the county’s existing downtowns. An environmental impact review would also be required.

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The campaign withdrew its initiative again after base officials raised concerns including its ability to conduct flight operations. The revised initiative establishes a larger buffer area between the development and the base.

There is no firm deadline for submitting signatures, said John Gardner, the county’s assistant registrar of voters. But the Solano County Board of Supervisors has only until Aug. 8 to approve its inclusion on the ballot, and elections officials have between 30 and 90 days to verify signatures.

That 90-day window means the campaign would need to submit its paperwork by early May.

Wilson, of Solano Together, said the approach taken by California Forever raises national questions about how decisions are made about development, farmland and climate resilience — and who gets to circumvent the rules.

“This really deserves greater attention because of the wave this brings,” she said, “and the precedent that it could set for other places around the country.”

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Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Dodd issues strong opposition to California Forever’s megacity plan

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Dodd issues strong opposition to California Forever’s megacity plan


California Forever officials have gained a new major opponent to their hopes to build a community in rural eastern Solano County.

State Sen. Bill Dodd on Wednesday came out firmly against the plan backed by several high-tech Bay Area billionaires and their vision to create a new community of up to 400,000 people between Fairfield and Rio Vista.

In a press statement, Dodd, a Democrat who represents the 3rd state Senate District, which includes Solano County, characterized the California Forever proposal as “deeply flawed and irresponsible suburban sprawl with the potential to displace farmers, worsen traffic congestion and hamper national security operations at the adjacent Travis Air Force Base.”

“I’ve been skeptical since Day One, but reserved my judgment as I gathered more facts,” Dodd said in the prepared statement. “It is now crystal clear to me that this project is bad for Solano County.”

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“This group of mega-rich developers from Silicon Valley are trying to steamroll the surrounding community, bypassing a proper, thorough vetting which they know they can’t pass,” he added. “What they’re proposing will drastically and irreversibly alter the area. It’s not right, and it’s time for all those who value thoughtful policymaking and Solano County’s future to stand up against it.”

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Solano (Courtesy photo)

With his formal statement of opposition, Dodd joins other elected officials who have gone on record to oppose the plan. The list includes U.S. Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson, both Democrats representing Solano County, Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy; and Suisun City Mayor Pro Tem Princess Washington.

Opponents cite several problems with the California Forever proposal, among them traffic impacts, loss of agricultural land, interference with Travis Air Force Base, and a lack of detailed plans and more firm commitments.

Among the Silicon Valley billionaires who funded the land-buying spree, spending an estimated $900 million, are Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist; Reid Hoffman, the investor and co-founder of LinkedIn; and Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of the Emerson Collective and the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Under California Forever and CEO Jan Sramek, they have become the largest landowner in the county, with acreage twice the size of San Francisco.

Dodd’s opposition statement comes as Sramek, a native of the Czech Republic, and California Forever have formally filed a proposed ballot initiative for the Nov. 5 general election. It aims to ask Solano voters to amend a longstanding “orderly growth” ordinance that protects Solano farms and open space by directing development to existing urban areas.

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The initiative, which has been revised twice, must be reviewed by county officials before the voter signature process begins. Should the proposed ballot reach the fall ballot and pass, the company would then be subject to a development agreement with Solano County and environmental review.

In mid-February, Reps. Thompson and Garamendi made clear in a press conference what the implications of California Forever’s ballot initiative would mean.

“Don’t build in this area,” Garamendi said. “Period.”

The words came on the heels of California Forever’s third filing of its initiative, rewritten to provide a greater buffer for the base, proposing “Travis Compatible Infrastructure” in the westernmost portion of the proposed new community.

Garamendi and Thompson, however, did not hedge their words, saying they’re still not buying what California Forever has to sell. They don’t think Solano County voters should either — if the initiative makes the ballot.

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“I have very serious concerns about what is going on,” Thompson said. “This company has come in and purchased about a billion dollars worth of property, and did it under a veil of secrecy.”

Concerns about base security were raised by both men, but a statement from a spokesperson from the base’s 60th Air Mobility Wing, released later in the day, indicated that the base will be able to continue flying all of its missions and operations.

“California Forever made significant changes to its plans in order to protect Travis’ global mission and local flight operations,” according to the statement’s wording. “With this revised proposal, Travis AFB will be able to continue flying its full mission, including all of our operational, exercise, and local training flights consisting of multiple patterns and landings to all runways, including night vision goggle training to the assault landing zone (ALZ) runway.”

The statement indicated that the base reached out to California Forever in early February with concerns about its land use in the northwestern segment of the proposed new community, and the revised plan addressed those concerns.

Reporter Staff Writer Nick McConnell contributed to this report.

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Video: Californians and Their Government

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Video: Californians and Their Government


In the March 5 primary, California voters will select the top-two Senate candidates who will appear on the November 2024 ballot. The February PPIC Statewide Survey taps into voter sentiment around candidates and gauges opinions on current issues affecting the state and nation. On Friday, Dean Bonner, associate survey director and senior fellow, discussed key takeaways with survey analyst Lauren Mora.


Bonner provided the latest standings among likely voters on the US Senate candidates: Congresspersons Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, both Democrats, and Republican Steve Garvey lead for the top-two primary spots. Support for Schiff and Porter is split somewhat among Democrats, while Garvey has earned the support of nearly half of Republicans. Among independents, Schiff and Porter each have 19% support; Garvey garners 14% support.

On the national stage, “Former president Trump is on pace to collect all of the delegates in the Republican primary,” Bonner said, indicating that the win likely means a replay of the 2020 election. Ahead of such a rematch, President Biden leads Trump by a 23-point margin among California likely voters.

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Mora noted that a solid majority of Californians are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in the US during another important election year. Furthermore, when people were asked how much influence they have in decision-making in the US, California, or their local area, strong majorities say not much or none in the US or in California; solid majorities feel they have little influence even at the local level.

Californians are also troubled by the state’s budget—Bonner indicated that most adults agree that the budget situation is a problem. In January, Governor Newsom released a spending plan for the budget, which is now estimated to face a $37.9 billion shortfall. To close the budget gap, Newsom is proposing to dip into state reserve money, or so-called Rainy Day Funds, a strategy that fewer than half of Californians think is a good idea.

Approval of Newsom has declined among adults since last year; Bonner pointed to double-digit declines across many groups—including Democratic-leaning regions like Los Angeles and among Democrats themselves—and noted that the budget may be a factor driving the drop in approval.

In terms of national issues, California adults perceive the situation with migrants at the US-Mexico border as a crisis or a very serious problem. The reasons behind the perception vary, Bonner said: three in four are concerned about national security; three in four worry about the lives and well-being of migrants—fewer than half, however, fear changes to US culture and people.

While Californians’ top concerns for the state still center around issues related to jobs and the economy, likely voters in the ten California congressional districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report have begun to express a little more concern over immigration. Along with the economy and inflation, Mora said that immigration may end up being a key issue for these House races in November.

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