California stands as a vanguard for progressive policies in the nation’s capital, shaping the narrative on issues like criminal justice, homelessness, climate laws and more. This became even more apparent when President Biden tapped former San Francisco prosecutor Kamala Harris to be his VP four years ago.
The administration has already adopted some of the Golden State’s most innovative policy ideas championed by liberal Gov. Gavin Newsom, from progressive climate initiatives such as “clean energy,” the “Housing First” solution to homelessness and its own version of the Golden State’s controversial AB 5 labor law.
Newsom has also been circulated as a viable option for Democrats to propel him as a presidential candidate in 2028 as he continues to position himself on the national stage. Last week, Newsom made several stops to campaign for Biden’s re-election bid ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary in February.
But what would the U.S. look like if a few of California’s most controversial policies were enacted federally? State experts weighed in on these key issues with Fox News Digital.
California boasts the highest population of homeless people in the country with more than 170,000 living outdoors. The state’s highly concentrated cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, are two hot spots where the problem has spiraled out of control in recent years.
But the state touts a “Housing First” solution, which is the belief that homelessness is first solved through putting people in apartments, motels, hotels or “tiny homes,” rather than mandating rehabilitation for drug addiction or mental health treatment. Between 2018 and 2023, the state spent $20 billion trying to address the crisis, only for the problem to increase by 30%.
According to LAPD officer Deon Joseph, who has worked on Skid Row – where LA’s highest density of homeless people live – for more than 20 years, some of the state’s homelessness policies are already spilling out to other cities. Four years ago, he said, he was invited to share with the Austin City Council the policies that have exacerbated Los Angeles’s homeless crisis.
“It sounded like the mayor was hell-bent on doing things the LA way,” Joseph told Fox News Digital. “And once again, I looked at Austin compared to the first time I went, to where it is now, and it’s really sad because it all could have been avoided.”
“You can’t have a hands-off approach to homelessness, it fails every time,” he said.
Even though Texas passed a law banning public camping to prevent homeless people from congregating, encampments continue to be an issue for Austin residents.
Last summer, the Biden administration unveiled “ALL INside,” with a target to cut homelessness by 25% by 2025. This initiative focuses on providing housing for homeless individuals in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix Metro, Seattle and the state of California through collaboration with local governments – a federal push for the “Housing First” approach.
Recent FBI data shows California’s violent crime rate was 31% higher than the national average in 2022. This is mainly due to an increase in aggravated assaults, which are rising in California while declining nationwide, a November 2023 Pew Research study found.
Zero cash bail, also known as no-cash bail or zero-dollar bail, has been a popular social justice initiative to allow individuals who are arrested and charged with a crime to be released from custody without having to pay any bail money upfront.
The policy was first rolled out in LA during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to decrease jail crowding. It was terminated in July 2022, but a judge reinstated the policy in May after a class action lawsuit was filed by recent arrestees who couldn’t afford to pay bail and had to remain in custody for a few extra days.
Last year, Illinois eliminated cash bail entirely, following in the footsteps of California’s liberal city.
“Looking to California for guidance and leadership, they’re gonna end up as bad or worse,” former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley told Fox News Digital. “The California state Legislature has adopted virtually every radical left wing concept that they can locate in the criminal justice system, and they have been sort of a silent but deadly part of California’s deteriorating criminal justice system.”
Cooley argued zero cash bail nationwide would have a “detrimental” effect on public safety, as criminals are often booked and re-released within hours.
“There are people who are now dead – murdered – because some people who should have been in pending posting bail got out automatically,” he said.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden described cash bail as a “modern-day debtors’ prison,” and vowed to terminate it. However, almost four years into his term, he has hardly mentioned it.
Climate and Economy
Biden recently introduced a new independent contractor rule similar to California’s AB 5, potentially impacting the earnings of millions relying on gig work. AB 5, signed by Newsom in 2020, redefined many freelancers as full-time employees based on the “ABC” test – making it harder for companies to hire freelancers. While proponents argued for better compensation and benefits, thousands of freelancers protested against the law.
“That’s one of the most destructive things to wealth creation for individuals,” a Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association spokesperson, Susan Shelley, told Fox News Digital. “To take away their ability to work freelance and to pursue different kinds of career opportunities outside of traditional payroll employment, and [Biden] wants to take that away in the whole country.”
“It’s a rule that essentially makes freelancing illegal, which is horrible for people,” she said.
Shelley said California employs a cap-and-trade program, akin to a hidden energy tax, requiring utilities and industries to pay for permits to emit greenhouse gases, which ultimately increases costs for consumers in energy, gasoline and goods.
Additionally, the state’s ambitious goal of achieving 100% carbon-free energy by 2045 has led to costly long-term contracts for solar and wind, despite the current inadequacy of renewable energy to meet daily demand, she said. This pursuit, while aiming for sustainability, results in increased reliance on traditional energy sources, making the endeavor “quite expensive”.
California has also mandated that gasoline-powered cars cannot be sold in the state after 2035. While existing vehicles can still be kept, this initiative is already facing pushback as consumers are hesitant to embrace electric vehicles.
“Drivers don’t necessarily want to buy electric vehicles, they’re kind of rejecting them in the marketplace,” Shelley said. “So what does that do? That means that the costs are higher because the manufacturers are required to sell them. But if nobody buys them, everybody loses money. So, that’s a bad policy that shouldn’t go national.“