One week after the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office ripped a taxpayer funded report by faculty members at Sacramento State University, Assemblymember Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) who requested the report, introduced legislation to prohibit any future state contracts with public or private universities or their faculty for research that isn’t subject to minimum academic standards including peer review. Earlier this week, De León also wrote the president of Sacramento State University informing him that he will oppose any future state contracts for research with Sacramento State until the university adopts academic standards such as peer review to ensure that taxpayers aren’t being bilked for junk science.
“We can’t afford to waste taxpayers’ money on shoddy academic research,” said De León. “What I really want is our money back, but short of that I don’t want another dime wasted on junk science.”
Assembly Bill 2656 will prohibit any state agency from contracting with a public or private university or its faculty for research unless that research is subject to academic standards such as peer review.
In 2006, the state Office of Small Business Advocates commissioned a study on the costs of regulations on small businesses. A second study was also requested in 2009 to examine the possible impact of AB 32, California’s landmark global warming reduction legislation, on small businesses in California. Sacramento State Professors Sanjay B. Varshney and Dennis Tootelian were paid $54,000 of state taxpayers’ money to complete the report. Both reports came back with incredible cost estimates claiming that state regulations will cost California’s small businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.
Just yesterday, the “Updated Economic Analysis of California’s Climate Change Scoping Plan” was released by the Air Resources Board (ARB) which repudiated the Varshney and Tootelian reports stating that, “After reviewing several critiques by independent economists, staff concluded that the Varshney and Tootelian estimate was unrealistic.” The ARB report included a list of all-star academics that had each independently analyzed the reports.
In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Professor Sweeney whose report was cited in the newly released ARB report reiterated his critique, along with UCLA Professor Matthew Kahn, in an op-ed titled “A flawed cost/benefit study of a greener California.” The op-ed summarized the many flaws imbedded in the economic projections made by Varshney and Tootelian and the professors conclude that the findings in the report are so outrageous that they defy “200 years of economic logic dating to Adam Smith.”
In his letter to Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez, De León said, “I strongly support academic freedom, but I also believe there must be basic academic standards by which faculty operate when producing research at taxpayers’ expense.” The non peer reviewed Varshney and Tootelian reports were commissioned to provide policymakers insights into how to more efficiently protect the environment and California business interests. Instead, they provided an “essentially useless” report according to Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor.
De León also this week renewed his calls for oversight hearings sending the new Chair of the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee, Wesley Chesbro, the Legislative Analyst’s report and cited Mr. Varshney’s response to academic expert criticism asserting that the criticism was politically motivated.