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The Fate of the Senate Supermajority?

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Oct 20, 2014 at 11:43:30 AM PDT

Two seats get big attention

by Brian Leubitz

The media thrives on big statements, but shades of gray are everywhere. And that is true for the Senate elections here in California. So, with that, here is a "big statement" quote from former FPPC chair (and SoS candidate) Dan Schnur:

"If Republicans can win both of those seats, it will be seen as their first step back toward political relevance in California," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "But if Democrats get the supermajority back, it's difficult to see California becoming a two-party state again any time in the near future." (LA Times)

To be clear, these two races are very worthy of attention. They are getting very expensive, as both sides look to grab an advantage. And, in terms of the supermajority, this is where the ballgame will be decided. But, is the supermajority really that important? Are there a lot of supermajority measures that will get taken up next year? It seems unlikely, and with the budget only requiring a majority, taxes are the only instance where you would really need it.

And if the GOP can pull off a win in one or two of these districts, does that really mean they are on the road back? Yes a lot of money will be spent in those two districts, but there is little to draw casual voters to these elections. The Presidency isn't up this year, and the governor's race is a snoozer. Will a GOP win say anything about the future, or will it say more about the electorate of the past?

If the Republicans aren't able to win at least one, it would certainly present a dark picture for the future. Their two candidates, Andy Vidak and Janet Nguyen, are fairly strong in favorable electoral conditions. If they can't win now, when will they win? This is where I tend to agree with the drastic part of Schur's quote. The GOP, and more importantly their financial backers, will have to look at massive change if they can't win these two seats this November.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Consumer Federation: Prop 46 Opponents Are Privacy Hypocrites

by: Open Thread

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 16:56:45 PM PDT

(A nice follow-up to my article about this subject recently from our friends at the Consumer Federation.   - promoted by Brian Leubitz)

by Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California

Health care industry-funded ads sounding the Prop 46 privacy alarm flunk the straight face test.

The ads allege Prop 46 sets up a secret medical record database that will be vulnerable to hacking. Not only is this absolutely false, it's galling when you consider that the hospitals and insurance companies funding the ads have exposed millions of their own patient records through their negligence.

Prop 46 creates no new patient database. It does put to better use a database that has been in place for 17 years. The CURES database (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System) has never been breached. It is a database of prescriptions for Schedule II, III and IV narcotics. It is encrypted and stored on a server behind the Department of Justice's firewall. Access is tightly restricted to licensed prescribers, pharmacists and law enforcement.

Overprescribing of prescription narcotics is a national epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control cited 475,000 emergency room visits and 36,000 deaths from prescription narcotic overdoses in a recent year, at a price tag of $72 billion in avoidable health care expenditures.

A big contributor to this epidemic is doctor shopping by drug abusers who go from one physician to the next, getting multiple prescriptions for the same narcotic. CURES is a powerful tool to halt doctor shopping.

But the CURES database is only effective if physicians check it before filling a prescription.

Prop 46 is named the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act in memory of two children who were killed on the sidewalk of their Danville neighborhood by a drugged driver who had been prescribed thousands of painkillers from multiple doctors at the same hospital. These doctors failed to check the CURES database to see whether their colleagues had already written the patient an identical prescription.

It's estimated that only 8 percent of California doctors check the database before writing a prescription for a controlled substance. New York and Virginia recently required mandatory checks of their CURES-type databases, reducing doctor shopping in those states by 75 percent and 73 percent respectively.

Proposition 46 will require California doctors to follow suit and check the database before they first prescribe to a patient a Schedule II or III drug such as cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, OxyContin, anabolic steroids or codeine.

Requiring the check is a life-saving improvement to the law, and a far cry from the new "secret" and insecure database that No on 46 ads claim the measure would create.

The hospital and insurance companies behind the No on 46 ads have a lot of nerve to assume the mantle of privacy protectors. The perfect security record of CURES stands in stark contrast to the failure of these health care corporations to safeguard their own patient records.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, from January 2013 through June 2014, hospitals and insurers including No on 46 funders exposed more than 1.5 million California patient records in data breaches.

A few recent careless breaches by Prop 46 opponents include:

  • AHMC Hospitals, Alhambra, 2013: 729,000 patient records breached
  • Anthem Blue Cross, 2012-2013: 57,000 patient records exposed
  • Blue Shield of California, 2013: 18,000 patient and physician records posted online
  • Health Net, 2011: 1,900,000 patient records lost
  • Kaiser Permanente, 2009-2014: 74,000 patient records compromised
  • Sutter Health, 2011: 947,000 patient records exposed
  • No on 46 funders have also worked overtime to weaken patient privacy laws. This year the California Hospital Association pushed amendments to Assembly Bill 1755 that would have ended mandatory patient notification requirements and instead allowed each hospital to decide whether or not to inform patients when its records were negligently released. In 2012, the California Hospital Association supported amendments to AB 439 that would have eliminated the right of most patients to have their day in court when a health care provider exposed their personal records to strangers. The Consumer Federation of California and our privacy allies stopped both health care industry efforts to mug patient privacy rights.

    Hospitals and insurance companies should stop scaring voter about Prop 46, clean up their own negligent security practices, and respect California medical privacy laws.

    - See more at: http://consumercal.org/prop-46...

    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    The Wilderness Just Keeps Getting Bigger for the CRP

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 17:00:11 PM PDT

    Laguna Coast Wilderness Park 2010Oct31 14Statewide elections bring big challenges to Republican playbook

    by Brian Leubitz

    California Republicans really want to be like other Republicans. They want to win lots of elections and support some crazy, right-wing policies. But, it turns out in California, that's kind of a non-starter. In fact, the odds are so stacked against that craziness, that Republicans statewide are well behind out of the starting gate. From Jim Newton of the LA Times:

    Aaron McLear, senior advisor to the Kashkari campaign, pointed out to me last week that, for a Republican to win statewide, he or she needs to carry 95% of Republican voters, two-thirds of independents and about one-third of Democrats. That is, as he said, "tough, really tough." (Jim Newton / LAT)

    Much of this is demographics, as Newton discusses later in that article. I mean, how long can a party in California continue with nativist rhetoric. Heck, the former Minuteman leader (Asm. Tim Donnelly) was a serious Republican candidate for Governor this June. It is hard for a party to simultaneously take the Minutemen and Latinos seriously. You can't be both racist and support a diverse California.

    But it is clearly more than that for the CRP. It would be easy to just say that they should run a more moderate candidate. They've done that. Meg Whitman wasn't really of the right-wing, and neither is Neel Kashkari. But unless another Arnold Schwarzenegger comes along, with something exceptional (like say a huge movie career), the branding of the California Republican Party is like a lead anchor around his or her poll numbers. It is exceedingly difficult, in the modern media atmosphere, to transcend party identification. Even Meg Whitman, with all of her millions, couldn't accomplish the task.

    One candidate can't change lead a party from the wilderness, even if his name is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The California Republican Party is intent on becoming a regional party, and if that is going to change, it will take a long-term overhaul.

    Discuss :: (3 Comments)

    Oh, yeah, there are ballot measures

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Thu Oct 09, 2014 at 12:37:39 PM PDT

    ballot imageBallots are in the mail. I'm voting yes.

    by Brian Leubitz

    In case you missed it, the election started a few days ago. Ballots went in the mail early this week, and by the end of this weekend, millions of votes will already have been cast.

    So, how are you voting on those pesky ballot measures? NextTen has a helpful guide, California Choices, with information about the measures and who has taken a position on either side.

    But here's how I'm leaning as of right now. I probably won't actually cast my ballot for another week or two, but this is my general inclination right now: Yes. On all of them. So, a quick rundown:

    Prop 1: Water Bond: Yes
    This is far from perfect. I'd prefer more money in conservation as opposed to storage projects, and there are a lot of implementation details still to be decided. However, with the current drought, I think it is pretty clear that we need to be spending money on water infrastructure. This gets us one step along the way.

    Prop 2: Rainy Day Fund / Budget Stabilization: Yes

    A little bit of smoothing in our boom and bust budget is probably a good thing. This law requires a reduction in reserves by school districts, which makes some education folks a bit nervous. But, in theory, the state won't be making the massive cuts to education when the economy takes a bit of a hiccup. Again, some questions of how this will actually work are still to be ironed out, but this is generally worthy of a Yes vote.

    Prop 45: Health Insurance Rates: Yes

    Dave Jones is working hard to strengthen his office's ability to review health insurance rates. The opponents argue that the review could delay plans making it to the health care exchange. I have been reassured by Insurance Commissioner Jones that this will not be an issue, timely review is indeed possible. If all works right with this measure, health insurance plans will just have to show that they are spending their money wisely and on medical care. I'm leaning towards Yes.

    Prop 46: Medical safety: medical negligence limits and drug testing: YES

    I've written about this measure several times. The caps on non-economic damages is unfair, provides cruel incentives, and doesn't do what it purports to do (lower insurance costs). Privacy concerns about the drug testing are valid, but surely we can come up safeguards. This measure is long overdue in California. Please, Vote YES ON 46.

    Prop 47: Criminal Sentencing: Yes

    Sentencing reform championed by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. It will reduce non-violent offenders in our prisons, reduce the ridiculous amount of money we spend on our prisons while allowing us to increase money for treatment programs. All of this makes sense, I'm voting Yes.

    Prop 48: Approve Tribal Gaming Compacts: Yes

    A referendum that is more about the relationships between various tribes than anything else. Some current gaming tribes are less than pleased about a new casino being opened up within Central Valley city borders and off a reservation. I don't love all the casinos opening up, but they are going to happen given the current state of the law. I can't see any reason why this one is really any worse. I guess I'll vote yes.

    Discuss :: (8 Comments)

    Brown Signs Bag Ban, Martins Beach Access Law, and Ends Gay/Trans Panic Defense

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 17:44:32 PM PDT

    SeaOttersdotComCalifornia becomes first state in the nation to ban plastic bags, but it could be headed to the ballot

    by Brian Leubitz

    Early next year, California will become the first state in the nation to bag plastic bags. Maybe:

    California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and other businesses on Tuesday.
    *** **** ***
    An industry group representing plastic-bag makers, called the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said Tuesday they plan to put a referendum on the ballot in 2016 to repeal the California ban.(WSJ)

    If the bag companies are able to referendum the bill, it would mean that the ban wouldn't go into effect until after the 2016 election. Given that the companies seem willing to pile money into a campaign, it seems something of a foregone conclusion that we will see an election on this one.

    In other big legislation news, tech mogul Vinod Khosla was dealt a blow in his attempt to close the road to Martins Beach, a surfer favorite. Khosla has been fighting for a couple of years to close the road, in courts and against the legislation that Gov. Brown signed on Tuesday. Basically the law requires negotiation with Khosla for a year, and then authorizes eminent domain of the road if the negotiations are fruitless.

    In other news, the LGBT community got a big victory with the Governor signing a bill that bans the use of the "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses.

    Simply put, gay panic is the notion that acts of violence are partly justifiable when a person's all-consuming hatred for LGBT people causes them to go berserk or act with "diminished capacity." It's a heinous defense tactic that banks on a judge or jury's own homophobia, apportioning some blame onto victims in order to get a murder charge downgraded to manslaughter. Leaning on a "heat of passion" line of thinking deliberately turns a trial into something out of a pulp novel. Gay panic benefits from anti-LGBT bias, and adds to it as well, by dredging up ancient stereotypes of gays as sexual predators who can't be trusted not to curb their appetites.
    *** **** ***
    But it's no longer a justifiable defense in Golden State courtrooms, since Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (an East Bay Democrat) has pushed a bill banning both gay panic and transgender panic as legal defenses through the legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2501 into law over the weekend, continuing to put the state at the forefront of LGBT rights. (SF Weekly)

    It is easy to overlook this bill, or think this is some historical relic. But this is real, and really offensive every time it is used. It is a big step forward for civil rights in California and across the country.

    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    Brown Signs Ban against Spying on Consumers Using Rent-to-own Computers

    by: consumercal

    Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 14:37:51 PM PDT

    Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill sponsored by the Consumer Federation of California to protect consumer privacy by restricting the use of spyware on rented computers.

    Thanks to Assembly Bill 2667 (Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica), consumers who rent a computer or similar electronic device in California will not fall victim to the use of invasive privacy technologies by the merchant or manufacturer who sold the item. The Assembly and state Senate each approved the bill without opposition.

    "Now that our legislation is signed, rent-to-own companies will no longer be able to use spyware to collect passwords and credit card and medical records, and to activate webcams on rented devices," said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. "Consumers in California will now be protected against this unwarranted information gathering that makes consumers more vulnerable to identity theft and other fraud."

    The need for safeguards to protect consumers against egregious privacy violations has been documented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). On March 10, 2014, the agency issued its Final Order Settling Charges that Aaron's Inc. Allowed Franchisees to Spy on Consumers via Rental Computers. The FTC had previously taken action against software manufacturer DesignWare LLC and seven rent-to-own companies, including Aaron's, on this issue.

    "Keystroke logs displayed usernames and passwords for access to email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions. Screenshots captured additional confidential details, including medical information, applications containing Social Security numbers, and bank and credit card statements. Webcams operating secretly inside computer users' homes took photographs of computer users and anyone else within view of the camera. These included images of minor children as well as individuals not fully clothed and engaged in intimate conduct," according to the FTC.

    "When consumers contract with rent-to-own retailers for a laptop or other electronic device, they are often unaware that these devices can contain invasive software," Assembly Member Bloom said when his bill went to the governor. "This bill protects consumers from having their personal information, including photographs, financial information and medical records, taken without their knowledge or consent."
    The rent-to-own industry is big business, with a reported $8.5 billion in revenues. The ranks of its customers more than doubled between 2003 and 2012, to 6 million. Four in 10 earn under $24,000 - part of a vast, vulnerable population whose immediate needs exceed their weekly paychecks. With AB 2667, Californians will be better protected in the privacy of their homes.

    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    Gov. Brown's Pen is Busy

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 10:24:12 AM PDT

    California State Capitol 2Governor is tearing through the stack of legislation on his desk

    by Brian Leubitz

    The Horseshoe is busy. Very busy. And it isn't just the governor and his legislative staff. Those folks who post his press releases on the website must be pulling all-nighters.

    If you check the Governor's official press release page, you will see a slew of signed and vetoed legislation. And that is just a fraction of what the bills that they are actually going through. The press releases from legislators, interest groups, and the governor are generally flying fast and furious.

    Perhaps to emphasize his middle of the road politics these days, the Governor has taken exactly that approach to new labor legislation. He signed legislation that will hold businesses liable for subcontractor's labor violations, but he also vetoed a bill that would have made it harder for BigAg to stall new contracts with farm laborers. Despite the latter bill being dubbed one of the CalChamber's top "JobKillers", the bill made it through the Legislature. That's usually quite the feat, but with Sen. Steinberg pushing it, shouldn't be too much of a surprise. In his veto message, Gov. Brown says he wants to view the whole process rather than nibbling at one side or the other.

    In another major piece of legislation, the governor vetoed a drone surveillance measure by Republican Asm. Jeff Gorell

    Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants to use drones for surveillance.
    *** **** ***
    The bill, AB 1327, would have required the government to secure a warrant from a judge before using surveillance drones except in cases of environmental emergencies such as oil or chemical spills. Three other states have placed a moratorium on drone use by state and local agencies. (LA Times)

    Given that the bill carried substantial support from both parties in the Legislature, one would expect to see a similar bill in the next session. Although, from the Governor's veto message, it may need to be defined on the basis of the federal and state constitutions without adding too much in the way of new privacy rights. It might be something of a threading the needle task for whomever takes up the task.

    Of course, that is just the start, to get a full record keeping, you can check out the Governor's Legislative Updates on his official press release page.


    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    LA Times Op-Ed: No on 46 Campaign "Jaw-Droppingly Deceptive"

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 16:18:42 PM PDT

    LA Times Editorial Board Member pens op-ed against deceptive campaign tactics by insurance funded No on 46 campaign

    by Brian Leubitz

    The members of the LA Times Editorial Board don't frequently go this far out on the limb against a ballot measure campaign. But check out this op-ed from a member of that board, Jon Healey, calling out the No on 46 campaign:

    Even by the political world's low standards of truthiness, a new commercial being aired by the No on Proposition 46 campaign is jaw-droppingly deceptive.
    *** **** ***
    Opponents are also trying to persuade voters that the measure would expose their personal health to more prying eyes. But that is, in a word, baloney. Proposition 46 increases the risk of medical data being hacked to the same degree that building a snowman increases the risk of low temperatures. Yet a new television commercial being run by the No on 46 campaign would have you believe that the measure would practically put your medical records up on EBay.
    *** **** ***
    The implication is that the proposition would either create or pump more personal information into a database that's less protected than other online repositories. None of that is true. (LA Times / Jon Healey)

    I support Prop 46 for a number of reasons. The cap on non-economic damages in MICRA has been devastating for patients across the state. It makes some patients "cheaper" by emphasizing concrete economic damages like lost income. Yes, an insurance company CEO would have brought home more definable money than a child, but does that really mean that only malpractice against the rich and established should give rise to a claim? It means that killing a patient is frequently cheaper than causing expensive long-term health consequences.

    Yes, Prop 46 can be a bit confusing, but it has one clear underlining goal: improving patient safety. That is what the CURES requirement would do by decreasing prescription interactions, and that is what the drug testing requirement would do. Maybe you have quibbles about the means to the end goal, but the goal is clear: patient safety.

    Could CURES, the prescription database, use some work? Of course, but to blithely state that the government should not maintain any of records? Newsflash: the government already has a ton of personal data. They have your income tax records and social security records. We trust the government with that data, yet somehow hackers are going to focus their efforts on a prescription drug database?

    This is California, the home of innovation. We can build a database that makes patients safer and maintains their privacy. Are we really going to shy away from all computerization of our records, or should we only trust the insurance companies with our records?

    All of these objections are a way of making the issues fuzzy by the NO campaign. But Prop 46 would bring at least some semblance of hope to the families that have had to deal with the loss of a loved one to medical malpractice that things can get better. That's why California leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Candace Lightner, the founder of MADD, are supporting Prop 46.

    I recommend you see through the typical campaign insanity and vote YES on Prop 46.

    Discuss :: (2 Comments)

    Wouldn't Kashkari's world be amazing?

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Mon Sep 22, 2014 at 15:57:44 PM PDT

    IMG_9936 copyGOP candidate for governor pictures very different GOP than actually exists

    by Brian Leubitz

    Neel Kashkari made a big speech this weekend at the California Republican Party's convention. It was meant to do two things: shore up his base and project a vision of a moderate party that could face California's future challenges. In many ways, these goals are diametrically opposed to each other.

    It may have accomplished the base aspect, with convention goers seeming to be happy. Or at least they told the media that they were happy. Of course, it still wasn't enough for Controller candidate Ashley Swearingen to be convinced:

    Delegate Matt Kauble of Cerritos said he voted for Kashkari's tea party rival, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), in the June primary but was impressed by Kashkari's passion about relieving poverty and his desire to appeal to a multiracial audience.
    *** **** ***
    Ashley Swearengin, running for controller, told reporters Friday that she hadn't made up her mind between Kashkari and Brown because she hadn't yet had a chance to meet with the Republican. State party chairman Jim Brulte labeled her strategy "Felony stupid" in an email exchange with other party members. (LA Times)

    I must say, "felony stupid" is really an underused term. I think I'll add it to my daily conversational repertoire. At any rate, base consolidation is a question best answered by FlashReport and the similar outlets. But the question of whether he, and the CRP, can speak to the broader California electorate is a different beast. So that's where he comes up with this:

    "When they said we don't care about the poor, we don't care about minorities, they have no idea what they're talking about," Kashkari said.(LA Times)

    He backed all that up with historical connections, including the GOP's support of the Civil Rights Act. And that is partially true. The civil rights legislation of the 60s and 70s wouldn't have occured without the support of Northern Republicans. Except that most of those Republicans (see Chaffee, Lincoln) have left the GOP for the Democratic Party. And then there is the small matter of the now widely acknowledged Southern strategy.

    Wouldn't it be great if Kashkari's vision were actually true? I would love to live in a world where there was robust debate between two parties focused on how to best ensure that no American went to bed hungry or homeless. But that world is not this one. No matter how you try to dress up the Republican party, especially the California Republican party, it is still a right-wing organization with signed contracts of inflexibility.

    Maybe in another generation or so we could see two (or, preferably, more!) parties that can speak to the California electorate giving voters real options. But the CRP that Kashkari hopes to lead is not that one.

    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    Was (Is) Six Californias a Trojan Horse?

    by: steve.chessin

    Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 23:11:27 PM PDT

    ( - promoted by Brian Leubitz)

    [Even though I was planning to take a break from blogging for a while, something has been nagging me at the back of my mind about Six Californias. Since a brief email exchange I had with Mr. Draper indicates he may try again - which is why I have "Is" in the title - I decided I should post my concerns.]

    According to the story of the Trojan Horse, the Greek army wanted to invade Troy but couldn't breach Troy's well-defended walls. So they pretended to give up, and built a giant wooden horse as an appeasement gift. The Trojans saw the Greeks sail away, leaving the wooden horse just outside the walls, so in their joy at their apparent victory the Trojans opened their gates and brought the horse inside.

    Unbeknownst to the Trojans, the Greeks had left a small band of their best soldiers inside the horse. In the middle of the night, as the Trojans, exhausted from their day-long victory celebration, slept soundly, the Greeks left the horse via a trap door  and opened the gates so that the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back, could enter Troy and take the city.

    There's More... :: (2 Comments, 733 words in story)

    Alex Padilla Will Bring Innovation and Efficiency to the SoS Office

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 07:52:01 AM PDT

    The Honorable Alex PadillaEffective legislator will bring new energy to SoS office

    by Brian Leubitz

    I'm not as big of a critic of Debra Bowen's time in office as some others. To be clear, while the office could have done a better job in some areas, like Cal-Access and some other very important data tools, she has made a concerted effort to make the voting process transparent. That being said, maybe we need a different type of leader in that office now.

    With the recent news that Sen. Alex Padilla was leading Republican electoral neophyte Pete Peterson by a relatively slim 43-36 lead in the recent Field Poll. Of course, name ID on both candidates is very low, and much of those numbers are due to party ID alone. Peterson has a history in the think tank world that makes him appear pretty nonpartisan. And he probably would play most issues pretty straight down the middle. But, there are a few differences, and these differences tend to come up at the most important times.

    During the primary I endorsed Derek Cressman because he has a history of fighting the all-consuming power of money in politics. He had this to say of Sen. Padilla:

    As a lifelong champion for campaign finance reform and open government, I am proud to support Alex Padilla for Secretary of State. Alex will bring his energy, smarts and experience to work to get things done -- and he's a champion of the reforms that will make California elections more fair and just. (Derek Cressman on Alex Padilla's website)

    I know there is a bit of hand wringing out there, especially after that poll. But Sen. Padilla will work to make our elections fair and increase transparency. As a legislator, he has looked for ways to innovate, and he will continue to do so as Sec. of State.

    You can find out more about his campaign on his website here: www.padilla4sofs.com

    Discuss :: (0 Comments)

    Governor's Debate Gets Fiesty

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Fri Sep 05, 2014 at 08:18:10 AM PDT

    Governor and challenger spar in sole debate

    by Brian Leubitz

    Neel Kashkari had his big moment in the spotlight last night at the governor's debate. Jerry Brown remains the prohibitive favorite with a 19.5 point lead in the RCP polling average. At this point, it would take something of a disaster on multiple fronts for Kashkari to surge past Brown.

    But Brown is taking nothing for granted. His big war chest remains at the ready in case anything changes, and he is directly taking on his challenger. It began with a strong barb at Governor Brown from Kashkari:

    His 40 years in government has left them out of touch with the struggles of working families. He has declared a governor -- a california comeback. It is not only go we have the had the best schools in california. Today's schools are ranked 46th out of 50 states. We used to have a vibrant job market. Today it is 44th out of 50 states. (CSPAN transcript)

    And it just got more testy as it went along, closing with a nice summary by the Governor:

    Four years ago when i came to Sacramento the place was in a shambles. A majority of people in California now feel we are on the right track. Five years ago only 13% felt we were on the right track. We are taking care of water and workers compensation and created a rainy day fund. {Before I arrived...}We lost 1.4 million jobs. Since i have been elected almost 1.3 million have come back and that isn't by accident.

    And today's Field Poll confirms that topline number:

    Californians are taking a more positive view of the direction of the state than then did four years ago when near record proportions (80%) felt the state was seriously off on the wrong track. Currently, slightly more voters believe the state is moving in the right direction (43%) as feel it is off on the wrong track (41%).

    That is a big change. Yes, there is still work to do, but today California functions in a way it never did under Gov. Schwarzenegger. There are a lot of factors for that, but certainly Brown can claim a big chunk of that credit. He has made a difference in Sacramento, bringing competence and a steady firm hand on the tiller.

    Kashkari attempted to talk about his "middle class plan" at every opportunity, but fundamentally it is just more Arnold-esque hooey. Lower taxes, and the jobs will flow. Meanwhile back in the real world, Brown can point to what he has already done with Prop 30 in bringing financial stability to the state for the past few years.

    The whole debate is just under an hour, and worth a viewing (or two). You can watch it here or use the handy iframe to the right.

    Discuss :: (1 Comments)

    A Few Bills of Note: Plastic Bags, Accreditation, Uber

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 10:50:45 AM PDT

    (I'll be on KALW Your Call at 10AM on Tuesday morning to talk about the recent legislative session. - promoted by Brian Leubitz)

    Santa Monica Fourth of July Parade photo by  Lori NafshunAs legislative deadline draws near, bills aplenty

    by Brian Leubitz

    It's that time of year again. The season for quickie news stories proclaiming one new law or another. With the legislative deadline coming at the end of the month for bills to get out of the Legislature, we will be seeing plenty more in the next few days. In fact, I'll be on KALW's Your Call on Sept. 2 at 10AM to talk about a few of the noteworthy bills. But before we get there, let's take a look at a few already on the move.

    Senate Bill 270 by Senators Padilla, de León and Lara, passed off the California State Assembly Floor yesterday on a 44-29 vote, after falling three votes short of passage earlier this week.

    The bill now advances to the State Senate for final confirmation where it is expected to be taken up before the legislature adjourns on August 31.

    "The State Assembly spent a great deal of time debating the merits of this issue over the last several months, and especially this week," said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the bill's sponsor, Californians Against Waste. "In the end, it was the reports of overwhelming success of this policy at the local level that overcame the political attacks and misinformation from out-of-state plastic bag makers."

    Moving to community colleges, you may have heard a bit about the mess that was CCSF's accreditation process. Earlier this week, the accreditation commission had to acknowledge, after their attorneys failed to properly redact the information, that they did not take the recommendation of their site visit committee. That committee recommended probation, rather than the far more harsh "show cause" status. That set alarm bells off across the City and state, with the SF City Attorney suing the commission and a new law:

    A bill that seeks to make the accreditation system for California's 112 community colleges more transparent landed on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown this week after receiving unanimous support from the state Senate and Assembly.

    Brown has until Sept. 30 to veto or sign into law Assembly Bill 1942, which would require an accrediting agency to report accreditation decisions to the Legislature, such as last summer's vote by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to revoke City College of San Francisco's accreditation.(SF Examiner)

    One of the biggest complaints about the SF situation has been the fact that the commission has been so opaque. Few could actually understand the process, partially because they intentionally tried to make it that way. This bill, approved unanimously in both chambers, is a good step forward.

    Finally, on the "sharing economy" front, Uber and Lyft dropped their objections to AB 2293, Asm. Bonilla's insurance requirement bill. Bonilla dropped the requirement for drivers without paying customers to $200,000 from $500,000 while keeping the requirement at $1million when passengers are in the car. Without the objections from two sharing companies, the bill should sail through the Governor's office.

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    Assembly Passes Victim-Centered Sexual Assault Policy

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:26:05 AM PDT

    Kevin de Leon Oath of OfficeWould require unambigious affirmative consent

    by Brian Leubitz

    The Assembly passed Sen. Kevin de León's SB967 yesterday, requiring two-sided affirmative consent on college campuses.

    A bill doing so, SB967, passed the Assembly on a 52-16 vote Monday as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. It now heads back to the Senate for what is expected to be a final vote on amendments.

    The bill by state Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, changes the definition of consent for campuses investigating sexual assault cases by requiring "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity. That marks a shift from the popular sexual-assault prevention refrain, "no means no." (CBSLA)

    With rising awareness of sexual assaults across the country, this is a positive step forward. While opponents have tried to belittle this as something out of an awkward high school health class video, the truth is far from that. Sure, date rape drugs are already illegal, but in an environment like a college campus, information is key. You can't always get into the head of a college freshman, but this legislation makes that two-way disclosure a greater part of the conversation.  

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    Governor Signs Smartphone Theft Bill

    by: Brian Leubitz

    Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 14:52:19 PM PDT

    Leno bill requires anti-theft software

    by Brian Leubitz

    Gov. Brown signed Sen. Leno's SB 962 today addressing the growing epidemic of smartphone theft in California. SB 962 requires all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technological solutions to render the devices useless if stolen. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation prompting every consumer to enable a kill switch as the default setting during the initial setup of a new smartphone. Sen. Leno then went full Colbert in his assesment of the bill:

    "California has just put smartphone thieves on notice," said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. "Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities."

    On a more serious side, this bill, in some ways, is just legislating what has been happening already. However, many lower end phones may not have seen this feature for several years. It isn't any huge issue to add it at this point, but this makes it the law in the state.  And because this is California, phone makers will just end up making all phones comply with this law.

    This was quite a controversial bill, but ultimately, Leno and SF DA George Gascón built a coalition that could get this law passed. It is a big step in not only protecting property, but also encouraging public safety in general.

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