New California Covered health insurance exchange releases rate calculator
by Brian Leubitz
The California Covered health insurance exchange released their rates this morning, and as you would expect, they are still pretty high.
For a relatively basic policy, known as a "silver" plan, the total monthly premium in the Sacramento region for a 40-year-old single individual would range from $332 to $476, with federal subsidies on a sliding scale for people with incomes up to $45,960. Individuals eligible for the highest subsidy, $276 per month, would face out-of-pocket expenses of $56 for monthly premiums.
Under next year's controversial national health-care mandate, often called Obamacare, nearly all Americans will be required to have health insurance next year or pay a fine of $95 or 1 percent of their annual income, whichever is more.(SacBee)
Now, this is still likely cheaper, and far less confusing, than what you would have found on the open individual market. But clearly more needs to be done to control health care costs, or the yearly rate increases will be unsustainable for all but the most wealthy.
Sacramento Bee Columnist Thinks Vidak Win is a blow to "Democratic Left"
by Brian Leubitz
I have a lot of respect for Dan Walters. We don't agree on a wide range of issues (including his climate skepticism), you have to admire his persistence. He's been doing this for a long, long time. And anybody who can stick around a depressing and crazy place like California's capitol is worthy of respect.
However, he has a way of misreading political events, or forcing them into his own vision of what California politics should be. But, I must say I was rather puzzled by his "Dan Walters Daily" video this morning, embedded to the right.
Basically, his point is that the Vidak win is a huge loss for the "Democratic left" who want to reform government and increase revenue. However, to be quite frank, his point holds no water whatsoever.
First, on the supermajority: Democrats now hold 28 seats. A supermajority is 27 seats, so they can still afford to lose one vote on 2/3 votes. And if Democrats had won 28 votes on election day, with no vacancies to worry about, would there really be all the handwringing? This is a solid 2/3 majority after all, only one vote short of the 29 we came into the session with.
Next, who are we replacing? Michael Rubio was never going to vote for sweeping revenue increases. Rubio was never going to touch Prop 13, even if Sen. Steinberg was thinking about it. Rubio clearly was an easier vote to grab than Vidak will be, but this is hardly the loss of a "Democratic left" champion.
Rubio was the most moderate Democratic senator. He was pushing CEQA reform that would have really left the purpose of the environmental protection scheme in question. The environment of our state is really far better off with Sen. Steinberg carrying the load on that legislation than the state senator from Chevron. Rubio was going to be one of the lost votes from the start on any major 2/3 vote that progressives wanted anyway.
As for Leticia Perez, she likely would have been a bit better than Michael Rubio. But let's take a look at her campaign website, where she lists her platform:
"My campaign platform is simple: "1) I won't raise your taxes. 2) I will raise the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. 3) I guarantee that every child is taught to read and write English.
This is the devestating loss to the Democratic left? She announced that she would never vote for tax increases, and somehow that is a blow to the Democratic left? She was going to be lost vote #1, no matter how you slice it. Now, as you can see from points 2 and 3, she would certainly be better for the working poor and minimum wage issue than Vidak will be. But that is a majority vote issue anyway, and the decision on minimum wage is essentially left to the governor now. If Gov. Brown wants a minimum wage increase, he can pass it through the legislature, with Vidak or Perez in that seat.
Finally, you could argue that this breathes life into the California GOP. That might be true, but the math in this race is crazy. In 2010, when Rubio was elected, he defeated Tim Thiessen with a final tally of 71,334-46,717. In this week's special election, Vidak won by a count of 29,837-24,584. This was a very low turnout election in a district with big distances for voters and many working poor that just couldn't take the time off to vote in a single race special election. Furthermore, the district will change next year when Vidak has to run for re-election due to redistricting, and will continue to be a heavily Democratic district. There is a very strong chance for Democrats to take back this seat within 18 months.
Sorry, Mr. Walters. I just can't see this as the big blow to the progressive wing of the Democratic party that you apparently think that it is.
Andy Vidak has won election to SD-16 by carrying over 50% of the vote in the special election yesterday. That's the bad news for Democrats this morning.
Tuesday night, Vidak's supporters gathered at his Hanford-Armona farm and cheered him on as the votes came in from all four counties in Senate District 16. This includes all of Kings County, where Vidak lives, and portions of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.
Overall, Vidak received nearly 52 percent of the votes. Leticia Perez had nearly 42 percent. (KSFN)
That means the Senate Democratic majority is now at 27, a bare supermajority, but a supermajority nonetheless. But, about that SD-16. It is a very Democratic district. Very Democratic, but a low turnout Democratic district. Special elections can be tough for a district like this. Vidak had a bit of name recognition, and the low turnout helped him across the line.
Now, as for the district going forward into the 2014 election, the district changes substantially. Vidak will have to introduce himself to a new electorate, an electorate that is still a strong Democratic electorate. And in an election where turnout will be substantially higher than a small special election. So, there is the long-term upside, I suppose.
Lorena Gonzalez takes Assembly Seat, Leticia Perez to Senate Runoff
by Brian Leubitz
Eric Garcetti rode his strength in his council district and the surrounding communities, while staying competitive in the Valley, to a victory in yesterday's Los Angeles Mayoral election:
Three-term City Councilman Eric Garcetti's relentless campaigning paid off early Wednesday as he decisively won a hard-fought race to become Los Angeles' next mayor, scoring well with voters across the sprawling city and even challenging rival Wendy Greuel on her home turf in the San Fernando Valley.
Garcetti took 54% of the vote compared with 46% for Greuel in preliminary results, ending speculation that the race was so tight that a winner might not be known for weeks. Some mail-in ballots must still be counted, but they are not expected to significantly change the results.
The gap was a bit wider than most expected, but with light turnout, Garcetti's base made all the difference. Garcetti becomes the first Jewish Mayor of Los Angeles, and is expected to continue to stress job creation as Mayor.
Meanwhile, Curren Price won a seat on the City Council, so there will be special elections to replace him and Bob Blumenfield after they are sworn into their new gigs. And in the special elections around the state, Lorena Gonzalez cruised to victory in AD-80.
You don't generally see sports news here. Not because I don't enjoy talking, or writing, about sports, but there are probably better places for your sports information. However, this piece of sports news is worthy of inclusion: Super Bowl L in 2016 will be played in the new football stadium in Santa Clara.
Team owners voted Tuesday for the 49ers' new stadium as host of the 2016 game. That facility in Santa Clara, Calif., is due to open for the 2014 season. The only previous Super Bowl played in northern California was at Stanford Stadium in 1985.
San Francisco beat out South Florida, which was stymied in its bid to stage an 11th Super Bowl when the Florida Legislature did not support financing to renovate Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins.
While many in San Francisco are still more than a little bummed to see the 49ers skip town for the South Bay, the City is working with Santa Clara and the NFL to host the Super Bowl. Many of the events will be hosted in San Francisco as well.
Now, that second paragraph, where the NFL complains about Florida's government not ponying up the cash? Well, that is typical sports economics, but the subsidies for billion dollar companies is always a bit frustrating.
A big job is up for grabs in LA, 2 more special elections
by Brian Leubitz
The Mayor of Los Angeles is undoubtedly one of the more powerful positions, at least as a bully pulpit, in the country. LA is the second largest city in the nation, and as such the gig can lead to a national role on issues big and small. The fight between Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti has been harsh and personal. Big divisions have grown within progressives and across the city, and for every issue both sides claim to be either more progressive, more pragmatic, or just plain right.
It is enough to turn off most voters, and in fact, turnout is expected to be shockingly low for an election of this magnitude. 20% turnout seems like something of a distant dream, and a record low turnout is possible. While Garcetti leads, Greuel's team hope that the labor turnout operation will be the difference maker:
The latest poll shows Garcetti with a seven point lead over Greuel, with nine percent of likely voters undecided. Both campaigns have said Latino voters could play a decisive role in the race. The federation's flier is in English and Spanish. It says "La Wendy will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour." (SCPR)
While Greuel has said she supports a $15 minimum wage in hotels, she hasn't said anything about the general minimum wage. One would have to imagine the business interests wouldn't be so thrilled about that. Garcetti is hoping for his relatively engaged base to turnout, and has been seeming gaining momentum with that last poll. However, until we start getting the numbers we won't know much more.
Also up today are Senate District 16 in the Central Valley, where we are likely to see a runoff between frontrunners Leticia Perez (D) and Andy Vidak (R), and AD-80, where labor leader Lorena Gonzalez has been running a strong campaign in a Democratic leaning district.
Progressives push legislature to use supermajority for big change
by Brian Leubitz
When the Legislature hit the magical 2/3 mark after the November 2012 election, a lot of progressives started dreaming big. Prop 30 just passed, and a statement had been made for a progressive vision of California. A majority of Californians had just voted to raise their taxes. Whether thanks to the strong field campaign around Prop 32 or through changing demographics of a presidential election, the Democrats gained big on the Legislative front.
But muddying these waters was a lot of mixed messaging. Gov. Brown had at least signaled that he thought Prop 30 was the only tax revenue measure that we should pass for a while, and some of the Democratic legislators had more or less said the same thing.
On the other side, the dreams were building for those who focused less on the immediate political future and more on the long term progressive vision. Progressive leaders were looking at Prop 13 reform, oil severance taxes, minimum wage increases and more. A lot of powder has been kept dry over the past few years with the constant budget fight, and with that superminority concern out of the way, some looked to really mount the pressure. And to be clear, they have mounted a lot of pressure. I've seen enough of these discussions between progressive leaders and legislators to know that the pressure on them is real.
"The supermajority is something that you have to use it or lose it," said Rick Jacobs, head of the 750,000-member Courage Campaign, which has been at the liberal vanguard of several grassroots and online campaigns. "It is time to be bold. What is anybody afraid of?" (SF Chronicle)
To some extent, this is about two competing theories of politics. One says that you have a limited supply of "capital." Under this model, you can only expect to do so much progress on the legislative front. Gov. Brown is pushing for a gradual and slow movement that prioritizes consensus and getting buy in from as many as possible. On the other hand, progressives tend to favor an idea of politics that promotes efficiency. You get into it what you put in kind of thing. Voters will respect action, even if they don't get every component right away.
But for now, Speaker Perez and Sen. Steinberg seem to be of the same mind as the Governor. They're taking it slow for the time being. Steinberg has said that he doesn't plan on [touching Prop 13 this year, and Speaker Perez thinks this is just the beginning of a larger fight.
Even though Democrats could override Brown's veto with their two-thirds majority, "a lot of Democrats from more conservative areas don't want to vote to raise taxes because they know it would kill them in their districts," said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Pérez.
Plus, say Democratic leaders, it is still relatively early in the legislative calendar. Budget negotiations are just beginning.
"C'mon, it's only the second inning. There's a lot of time left in the session," said Maviglio. "We're moving forward on a lot of bills that are friendly to labor and progressives.
"I would tell some of the people who are saying these things to just relax," Maviglio said.(SF Chronicle)
Now, perhaps that last sentence could be more eloquently phrased, but Mr. Maviglio speaks of building a long term progressive supermajority in the Legislature. It's a laudable goal by any Democratic perspective, but getting everybody on the same page isn't necessarily the easiest task, even within the same party.
In his negotiations with the Legislature, perhaps Gov. Brown would prefer to bargain over less money and pocket any extra revenues that fall into the general fund over the course of the fiscal year. But alas, the LAO thinks that the bigger sum should be in discussion:
Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor projected state revenues Friday that are $3.2 billion higher than those projected by Gov. Jerry Brown this week in his revised budget proposal.
The difference translates into $400 million for the current fiscal year and $2.8 billion for the year that begins in July. The projection sets up a potential battle between Brown and fellow Democrats in the Legislature. who want to spend more than he proposes.
Both Brown and Taylor urge fiscal restraint, however, because revenue projections are largely dependent upon economic factors ranging from employment to housing prices. Both also agree that the bulk of the money will go to schools under state law.(SacBee)
Taylor is generally in favor of taking the cautious approach, so that's no surprise. But acknowledging the extra cash will surely mean that the fight is more intense from legislators that are looking to restore funding for some of the state's programs. Social services, the judiciary, higher education and other interests are competing with the Prop 98 K-14 funding guarantee, and the fight will be typically intense. This LAO report will only add intensity.
Health insurance exchange will facilitate voter registration
by Brian Leubitz
When I moved to California, I got my driver's license and registered to vote at the same time. Super convenient, except for the written driver test and couple of hours waiting. But, as long as you have folks walking through the door of a government building, why not get them voting?
Well, it turns out that is actually a federal law from back in the Clinton era, and SoS Bowen will be making sure the health care exchanges help register voters too:
Secretary of State Debra Bowen made California the first state to designate its health exchange as a voter registration agency Wednesday but others are expected to follow suit, said Shannan Velayas, Bowen's spokeswoman.
"This is about making sure that all eligible Californians are offered the chance to register to vote," Velayas said Thursday.
A 1993 federal law requires states to designate their agencies and offices that provide public assistance or disability services as voter registration agencies, Velayas said.(SacBee)
I don't think there is any other comment to make other than, "good work all!"
Abel Maldonado Wildly Misses Mark in His Criticism of the Prison Realignment Policy
by Brian Leubitz
By any estimation, Governor Brown is in a tough spot politically and managerially with the issues surrounding the prisons. As Attorney General, he fought the federal courts on capacity and healthcare standards. As Governor, he's been forced to actually implement the reduction of population by those judges. And he's been fighting it all the way.
But, in realignment, he probably struck on the path of least resistance to state prison population. It allows a significant reduction in population without actually setting all of the prisoners free. But that's not what Abel Maldonado sees.
Maldonado, flanked by Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and Erin Runnion, whose daughter Samantha was kidnapped and murdered in a high-publicized 2002 crime, argued in favor of an as-yet-unwritten ballot measure that would repeal A.B. 109, the law creating the state's realignment policy, which Maldonado referred to as "early release."
"The legislature and more importantly, the governor, won't fix early release," said Maldonado, a former lieutenant governor and legislator who represented communities in Santa Barbara County.(Daily Bulletin)
Abel Maldonado simply sees it as "early release" and plans on running some sort of initiative to address the issue. How it will address the issue while maintaining compliance with the federal rulings is anybody's guess. It's hard to see the ToughOnCrime act to be anything other than posturing for the 2014 race for governor. And he's searching for Willie Horton. Desperately. Calitics diarist smoker1 pointed that out last week.
This week, Abel Maldonado held a news conference announcing a statewide effort to repeal the realignment program. Proof of the dangers of realignment: the heinous murder of Mary Beth Blaskey. Jerome Anthony Rogers has been arrested and charged with the murder. Rogers, 57, has a lengthy criminal record, but was last in prison in 2003.
Got it? The last time he was in prison was 2003 and Maldonado is using this case as an example of how realignment is failing. Realignment came last year, not 10 years ago. Why would Maldonado use a case that has nothing to do with realignment to promote an effort to repeal realignment? Because there is no such case within the realignment universe.
The thing about the California prison system is that there is a lot of shades of gray. Way more than 50, it turns out. There are some hardened criminals, some murderers, some rapists and the like, that will probably never be rehabilitated to the point that we'll want them on the streets. However, the total number in that category are a minuscule portion of an enormous system. The recidivism rate in our system was hovering around 70% for a while, dipping down to 65% in 2012. But considering that the national level is below 45%, there is still a ways to go.
But much of that increased rate is about parole violations. Increasing parole flexibility and working with former prisoners to increase the percentage of better outcomes could go a long way to reducing some of that recidivism. Some of that has already been happening in a few counties, but there is a lot more work to be done.
Realignment itself laid a heavy burden on counties, and this is where the changes haven't really been as successful as we would like. They were supposed to get reimbursed for much of that burden, and while they will see additional revenues from the state to pay for the increased expenditures, it seems unlikely that they will ever be made truly whole. However, Brown knows what he's doing. Counties should be held more directly responsible for the prison population. Allowing prosecutors to simply lock away a criminal and forget about them has a perverse effect on the extreme overcapacity at state prisons.
The entire law enforcement community has begun a process of working to improve efficiency. As prisons have passed higher education spending, this is a conversation long overdue. But these changes can't come overnight. But we can't allow our prison budget to overwhelm the general fund, and we can't build our way out of the prison crisis. We need to reduce the prison population, and that is done through hard work, funding education, including Brown's effort to increase resources for disadvantaged students, and reducing the population of reoffenders.
Maldonado wants to simply revert back to the failed ToughOnCrime policies because that just might be an issue that scares voters. It's simplistic and cynical.
Cindy Chavez is running for Supervisor District 2 in Santa Clara County. In March, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors called a special election to fill the vacancy for Supervisor in District Two. The primary will be held June 4th. District 2 covers the downtown of San Jose, east side of San Jose, and southeast of downtown San Jose. It is one of the most ethnically diverse-and poorest-parts of Silicon Valley.
As a labor leader, Chavez considers helping working families to be among her core values. She received a meaningful education in public policy through her two terms on the San Jose City Council and as Vice Mayor. I sat down with Chavez to discuss her policy priorities and this race with the Calitics community.
Norma Torres Easily Wins Election to Senate, Next Up: Replacing Michael Rubio
by Brian Leubitz
Norma Torres, the current Assembly member from Pomona, yesterday won election to the Senate, defeating an overmatched Republican in the Top-2 race.
With all precincts reporting, the state Assemblywoman from Pomona got 59.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, according to figures on the secretary of state's website. Her Republican challenger, Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, got 40.6 percent.(AP)
The district, split between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, is heavily Democratic. She only narrowly was pushed to the second round of the special election, and easily had more resources to win the race.
The Senate's supermajority is intact, but the Assembly will have to wait for the eventual election of Lorena Gonzalez in San Diego's Assembly special election next week. Gonzalez, the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego Labor Council, is the heavy favorite in the Democratic leaning AD-80. Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda, a Republican turned Democrat, has received very little institutional support, and a similar grassroots response. Either way, a Democrat will take the AD-80 seat, and restore the Democrats 2/3 majority. However, a Gonzalez victory is the preferred outcome for Leadership and progressive activists.
The focus now shifts to replacing Chevron's Michael Rubio. Rubio left for Chevron a few months ago, and in a low turnout special election, anything can happen. The two strongest candidates are Democratic Supervisor Leticia Perez and former Congressional candidate Republican Andy Vidak. Vidak very narrowly lost to Rep. Costa in 2010, and is seen as a strong candidate. The Republicans see a chance to pick up a seat here, and will be spending what resources they have on the race.
An election date to replace Asm. Torres will be decided upon by Gov. Brown after Torres officially leaves the Assembly.
May revised budget assumes smaller surplus this FY, lowers estimates for next year
by Brian Leubitz
Well, the CalChannel stream is leaving something to be desired, but seems to have rebounded to some sense of consistency at the end after Gov. Brown was replaced by Ana Matosantos at the dais.
But, here is the big, headline takeaway: The administration doesn't think the surplus is really $4.5 billion, and it thinks it is money that was pushed forward for tax purposes. And that money is going to education.
The budget Brown proposes will assume revenue in the current fiscal year only $2.8 billion ahead of expectations, with revenue next fiscal year down $1.8 billion from Brown's January estimate, the sources said.
The proposed budget will include a $1.1 billion reserve. It would increase funding for Brown's effort to overhaul California's educational finance system by $240 million. In his education proposal, Brown will also propose $1 billion to implement English, math and other subject guidelines known as the Common Core Standards.(SacBee)
According to Matosantos, the additional funds dedicated for education are 103% of the surplus. Because previous budgets "borrowed" from previous Prop 98 requirements, the administration had very little choice as to where the money would end up. However, that he continues to plan to focus it on English learners and socioeconomic status is quite the source of controversy.
Brown's revised budget still includes his plan from January to revamp education funding, directing more money to low-income schools and giving districts more control over how to spend the state's money. The plan he released Tuesday would boost the money under local control by $240 million, to a total of $1.9 billion.
When fully implemented, it's projected that the new local-control funding formula will spend 80 cents of every dollar on base grants for every district; 16 cents in supplemental funding for every English learner, student from a low-income family, or foster child in a district; and four cents for those districts with a particularly high concentration of these students.
The concentration funds are only a small part of the total dollars, the governor's office says, but are vital to districts facing the biggest challenges. The May revision also strengthens the proposal's accountability measures to make sure the targeted, at-risk students benefit from the money. (Josh Richman / BANG)
There is still a sizable group within the Legislature who would prefer to simply dish out the additional funds to the schools. And school districts. And teachers. But, negotiations on the issue are still active, and given that the decision will be made entirely by Democrats, some sort of deal will be worked out with the Legislature and the Governor. It is hard to argue that some of our poorest schools don't need a bit of extra resources. But all schools will get at least some additional money under the May revised budget, and schools with additional needs will simply get a boost.
Now, I'll probably we watching this live online, but in case you can't, I'll make a few comments tomorrow. However, before we get the details of where the Governor is looking, a few points.
First, the so-called surplus is looking like it might end up in the $4.5 billion range. However, before we get any plans on how we can spend it, Prop 98's educational funding guarantees get precedence. We have already "borrowed" from Prop 98 guaranteed money, and much of that will have to be paid back to the schools. Not exactly the end of the world (in fact, more money for schools is a very, very good thing), but it leaves less flexibility than perhaps the Governor would prefer.
The Governor would like to leave much of that money as some sort of rainy day fund, but other interests are clamoring for the restoration of some of the worst cuts from the past few years. The judiciary has been especially hard hit, and social services budget are minuscule compared to the past. If the governor is going to be able to save some of that money, he'll have to negotiate some sort of compromise with the teachers and education advocates while also holding off on some of the critical spending priorities we are facing.
We'll get a lot more details when the May revised budget comes out tomorrow...
Right-leaning groups took on traditional Democratic power base with the help of "top-two" voting
by Brian Leubitz
Both Michael Allen and Betsy Butler faced difficult reelections in 2012. Butler decided to run in what was basically a new district when she opted for the progressive AD-50 seat. She did represent a small portion (less than 10%), but she certainly didn't carry the same incumbent advantage you typically expect. She defeated Torie Osborn and Richard Bloom in the primary, but with top-two she had to come back again to face Democratic Santa Monica mayor Bloom.
Meanwhile in Marin County, Michael Allen had to move from his Santa Rosa base to a Marin district due to the new districts. Like Butler, Allen, while an incumbent, was new to these voters. San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine was something of a grassroots champion. He was very involved with the state Democratic party, serving as eboard rep for the old AD-6, as well as the local party. However, he saw the writing on the wall after his second place finish, and started aggressively courting independent and Republican voters.
The CalBuzz team took a deep dive into how the two races went downhill for the two "incumbents," and the story is well worth a careful read and a tale on how typically conservative interest groups will look at influencing a new one-party Legislature.
We also know that we'll see lots more of this kind of thing in the future - in both Democratic and Republican races - as the top-two primary system encourages moderate candidates with guts and gumption to take on left- and right-wingers in hopes of getting into a run-off election where independent and other-party voters can provide the margin of victory.
What makes these two Assembly races particularly intriguing is the fact that both Republican and Democratic strategists were crucial in electing moderate-to-liberal Democrats who were perceived as less beholden to labor unions and thus more palatable to business interests.
There's also the fact that the California Chamber and Western Growers - after thumping Mr. Speaker Himself - appear to have tried to hide their involvement by working through shell vendors, sharing valuable data and personnel and failing to report their spending until they were exposed months later. (HT to Dan Morain for digging into this whole issue.)(CalBuzz)
I won't spend a long time going over their article, but rather implore you to read the whole thing, and maybe again a second time. While I won't rehash the viscous AD-50 race that was already well documented here, I happen to personally like Marc Levine. I've known him for several years through CDP and other events, and he ran a strong campaign. The IEs that supported him, however, were hardly paragons for progressive values. Maybe a bit more disclosure will blunt the impact of these IEs, but they are clearly here to stay.