25 years ago, John Moorlach gained the nation’s attention by guiding Orange County out of crippling bankruptcy and putting the County on a long-term path to success.
Then, during the Great Recession, he led policy changes that helped the County avoid the fiscal disasters experienced in other regions.
Now he’s leading the charge to help Orange County get back on its feet once again.
A steadfast protector of the people and their tax dollars, Senator John Moorlach was known as the “fiscal conscience” of the California Legislature.
He began his public career in 1994, when as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner, he warned that Orange County’s highly leveraged investment strategies would lead to fiscal disaster. Orange County filed for bankruptcy protection that December, incurring an historic $1.64 billion in investment losses. The incumbent County Treasurer resigned in disgrace and would be convicted and serve time.
Appointed to turn around the mess, John Moorlach quickly reorganized the Treasurer’s office, lowered risks, cut costs, and made it more efficient and transparent. As an officer of the County, he assisted in its exit from Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 18 months without the need of a sales tax hike. Moorlach also played a significant role in obtaining more than $800 million in litigation settlements, the largest in U.S. history at that time.
John Moorlach’s sound planning and diligent work ethic helped bring Orange County back to fiscal health and restored the peoples’ trust. He earned a national reputation as an accessible expert in municipal finance.
Grateful voters twice re-elected John Moorlach as Treasurer-Tax Collector, then in 2006 to the first of two terms as an Orange County Supervisor. In 2015, he won his State Senate special election outright in the Primary.
In the Senate, Moorlach warned that serious problems lurk behind California’s seeming prosperity. He produced balance sheet per capita ranking analyses of all California’s cities, counties, and school districts, communicating how pension and retiree medical liabilities are putting hundreds of budgets at risk for fiscal distress, should an economic down-cycle occur. The effort has been one of measuring the fiscal conditions in order to manage toward sounder financial policies.
Building on a concern for policies on mental illness, including leading the state’s implementation of Laura’s Law and funding for psychiatric hospital beds, John Moorlach is a recognized leader at the state and county in working for solutions to homelessness. This Legislative Session, Sen. Moorlach was a co-author for AB 1976, which made Laura’s Law permanent. He has been recognized nationally for his efforts to provide severely mentally ill individuals with assisted outpatient treatment, which is the focus of Laura’s Law. This initiative helps to reduce psychotic episodes for those dealing with schizophrenia that may lead to criminal activities.
While a County Supervisor, Moorlach served as the Chairman of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness where he interacted with local, state and national figures to implement a “Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness”. Once elected to the legislature, he authored several bills to better appropriate Mental Health Services Act funds, especially as it relates to the mentally ill homeless population. One of the bills includes SB 1206 which he co-authored with the former Pro Tem Senator Kevin de Leon. That bill would put a $2 billion bond on the ballot for the “No Place Like Home” effort, an effort to provide housing for the mentally ill homeless population. What began as a press conference at Skid Row in Los Angeles ended up on the 2018 ballot, where the voters overwhelmingly supported this measure.
Recognizing the strong correlation between mental illness and chronic homelessness, in addition to the several bills he authored to address the issue, he also was a joint-author on SB 1004 with Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco which provided more mental health early intervention and prevention resources for younger people. In 2018, he was co-author on the measure to create the Orange County Housing Trust to help people not just get shelter but have a pathway to permanent housing.
Throughout his time in the legislature, Moorlach proudly worked with numerous organizations that deal with the mentally ill and homeless including the Orange County Rescue Mission, Mercy House, HomeAid Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank, NAMI CA, the California Psychiatric Association, the Steinberg Institute and Mind OC/Be Well. On one particularly poignant trip to San Antonio, Texas, Moorlach toured Haven for Hope with a contingent of locally elected officials sponsored by the Association of California Cities of Orange County. More than a shelter, he saw a model to combat homelessness and get people a normal life through effective public-private partnerships that could and should be replicated throughout California.
John and Trina live in Costa Mesa and are proud grandparents. When his children were younger, John and his family spent family vacations traveling all over beautiful California, visiting every county and photographing nearly all its 1,114 historical landmarks.