With Senator Boxer's term expiring in 2016, now is the time to talk about the future. With all the time required to build a strong campaign in California, prospective candidates are anxious for word, not wanting to step on any toes before making any moves. But, the chatter is that a decision could come soon:
Sources close to Boxer, 74, say the outspoken liberal senator will decide over the holidays whether to seek reelection in 2016 and will announce her plans shortly after the new year. Few of her friends believe she will run for a fifth term. Boxer has stopped raising money and is not taking steps to assemble a campaign. With Republicans taking over the Senate, she is about to relinquish her chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.(Politico)
The article goes on to point out the parade of candidates, but you can probably guess at the names. Harris, Newsom, Garcetti, Villaraigosa, and a slew of Congressional Democrats. Plus, there is always the discussion of whether Tom Steyer wants to put his millions on a candidacy of his own.
With the Democratic lean of the state, a Republican challenge would have to be something of the superstar variety, one that wouldn't require vast support of the Republican crazy-base. I'm not sure who that would be, but with an open seat, you would have to expect at least some sort of well funded Republican.
But, until Sen. Boxer says something, one would have to expect at least Democrats to lay low. After an announcement, who knows?
Below the fold you will find the full list of committee chairs. All in all, given the big number of committees, most Democratic legislators who aren't in leadership get a chair. I think the exceptions were Lorena Gonzalez, who is the vice-chair of the Local Government committee with Republican Brian Maienschein getting the chair, and Nora Campos, who is on rules. And Rob Bonta has two chairs, keeping PERS and getting the Health Committee this year.
New term limits mean more changes now, more stability later
by Brian Leubitz
With the new term limits structure amendments of a few years ago, Sacramento is seeing a lot of change. Lots and lots and lots of change. In the Legislature convening today, 72 of the 120 legislators have less than two years of experience at the state level. That's a staggeringly high number, and rather frightening for the institutional memory of both chambers. If you look at the new leadership team in the Assembly, you'll find freshmen legislators David Chiu, Evan Low (Both pictured to the right), Jim Cooper and Miguel Santiago all in prominent positions.
"When the voters approved term limits they voted to limit the amount of experience the Legislature had," said former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles. "Institutional memory is found outside of the building and the staff, which is not the best thing for democracy."
*** **** ***
In the past, new members looked to their veteran colleagues to ease an initiation process that Kathy Dresslar, who was chief of staff to former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, likened to a "drink from the fire hose." As term limits force those more seasoned members from the Legislature, Dresslar said, newer members are increasingly taking their cues from staff or from lobbyists.
"The new legislators today are still learning from the former members, but the former members are more likely to be lobbyists here in town," Dresslar said. "So that perspective is passed down from the former members' clients." (SacBee)
Not to say that there aren't great staff in the Legislature, but they weren't elected to anything. And certainly the lobbyists that are crawling all over Sacramento were never elected. And for the next few years, staff and lobbyists will have an outsized role in governance.
But, all that being said, we have the opportunity for something of a "Pax Sacramento" where a Legislature will, for the most part, remain consistent for the better part of a decade. The new term limits allow for twelve year terms in either chamber, and those 72 members will be joined by another big class in 2016. After that, the changes will dwindle to a trickle for the better part of a decade. Now, that isn't to say that all will go swimmingly, but the merry go-round will certainly decrease. I tend to be a bit skeptical that stability alone can create real change.
But with strong Democratic majorities for the foreseeable future, one could hold out hope for a functional Legislature.
With almost every vote counted across the state, it appears about 42 percent of the state's 17.8 million registered voters cast ballots. That shatters the previous low of 50.5 percent set in 2002, when Gov. Gray Davis won re-election over Republican businessman Bill Simon.(SF Chronicle)
It was something of a perfect storm here in California. No major statewide contests and nothing national to draw voters in combined with some rather boring statewide measures. But still, yikes.
It is hard to argue that California has made it hard to vote, but we could still make the process smoother. Same-day registration comes to mind first, but there are certainly several other measures that could be considered.
I suppose I'm preaching to the choir here, but come on people, democracy is a use it or lose it proposition.
Will join a block of young Brown-appointed justices
by Brian Leubitz
Governor Brown is making judicial appointments for the long-term. After appointing now Justices Liu and Cuéllar, he has appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General Leondra R. Kruger to replace Justice Joyce Kennard. Here's the quick bio:
Leondra R. Kruger, 38, of Washington, D.C., has served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel since 2013. She served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General from 2007 to 2013. While serving in that office, she argued 12 cases on behalf of the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court.
*** **** ***
Kruger was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 2007 and an associate at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP from 2004 to 2006. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court from 2003 to 2004 and to the Honorable David S. Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2002 to 2003. Kruger was an associate at Jenner and Block LLP from 2001 to 2002.
Beyond the CV details, the press release highlights some very impressive credentials for somebody under 40. Praise from solicitor generals under both Bush-43 and Obama is nothing to scoff at.
But it is interesting that Brown, in his fourth term, is picking for the long-haul on the Supreme Court. Justices Liu and Cuéllar are 44 and 42 respectively, meaning that with an additional retirement in the next four years, there could be a Brown-selected majority on the California Supreme Court for 30 years. Think about that, 30 years is several lifetimes in politics. But Brown is in the process of laying his fingerprints all over one branch of California government for those lifetimes.
It would be hard to argue that any of these picks were anything less than completely qualified for the job, while bringing additional diversity to the Court that already had a minority-majority. Kudos to the Governor for the pick, and congratulations to the future Justice Kruger.
Well, another election has come and gone. And once again, California was the break against a national wave election. Sure, there were a few disappointments, and a few races that are still in question. But California is still a state where the divisive values of the extreme right represented by the Republican party do not sell.
The close ones to watch at this point are in the House of Representatives, where three Democrats are fighting to maintain their seats. Ami Bera and Jim Costa are just barely behind their Republican opponents, and Julia Brownley has a slight lead. However, the trend after election day has been favorable for all of them. It isn't yet clear how they will turn out, but there is reason to be optimistic.
Turnout still makes elections, and you can see the state tilt back and forth like the rest of the country from mid-terms to presidential elections. But California still has demographics and tempermant that just don't suit right-wing extremism.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, the Republicans bombed at the box office, once again here in California. Jerry Brown made history by winning his fourth term in office, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and Dave Jones were re-elected, and Betty Yee, John Chiang, and Alex Padilla will join them in statewide office. Even on a day when turnout was again disappointing, Republicans couldn't really get into spitting distance of winning a state office. It is hard to argue that they are anything other than a regional party in California. Sure, they picked up legislative seats, but with our recent supermajority reforms at the ballot box, that carries less weight than it did before.
All that being said, we must continue to hold our politicians accountable. In a state where one party dominates, there can be a tendency to backslide to wherever the money flows. We must demand transparency and follow through.
The need for transparency is nothing new. In a state this big, there is always a tension between transparency and efficiency. But with the lack of action on the federal level, Sacramento must be a center of both action and inclusion.
In terms of turnout, well, don't hold out high hopes.
Despite a record number of registered voters in California, some analysts are predicting the total turnout for Tuesday's election could fall below 50 percent.
KNX 1070's Pete Demetriou reports about 17.8 million Californians are now registered to vote - more than for any other gubernatorial general election in state history. (KCBS)
This really is big news. For the first time in our history, a general election could result in a turnout of under 50%. Perhaps it is understandable, given the lack of hotly contested statewide races. However, there are still a litany of legislative and ballot measure races that are still up in the air.
This morning I did a bit of song-and-dance as I was passing out some election material at my local subway station. And even in San Francisco, where there is a hotly contested legislative race, there is still a sense of ambivalence. Whatever the reason, I hope a few more Californians take that extra few minutes tomorrow. Democracy has its share of problems, but those are only magnified when we don't vote.
Dems all carry leads in statewide races. Tom Torlakson is in a dogfight with Marshall Tuck
by Brian Leubitz
The final Field Poll came out today, and it had Democrats looking good in all of the partisan statewide races. As you can see from the table to the right, the Dems are all showing statistically significant leads. Add that to the Governor's 54-33 lead and all seems well in Democratic party land.
However, state superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson has quite the fight in front of him in the next few days. While it is a nonpartisan race, the California Democratic Party has endorsed SSPI Torlakson, and a lot of effort statewide is being directed towards his re-election. The efforts of so-called "school reformers" to get a charter school advocate in that position is just presenting a magnet to money on both sides of the issue.
The interesting thing is that despite all the money spent so far in the race, a rather large plurality of voters still doesn't have an opinion on the race. One has to suspect that many voters rely upon the signal that party preference provides, and just are not well versed enough to make a call without that information. It really complicates nonpartisan races, making field and other outreach that much more difficult.
So, with all the big statewide races less than interesting, one would expect low turnout. And, according to PDI, a big election data company, that is exactly the case. Turnout is trailing far behind both 2010 and 2012. While exact turnout figures are still tough to call, I would expect turnout levels approaching our lower records for an election in a gubernatorial year.
But that just makes all the field work that much more important. Make sure your friends and family vote!
Measure would reform sentencing and focus on rehabilitation, rather than warehousing, of prisoners
by Brian Leubitz
Prop 47 has been lost a little bit in the shuffle between other measures. From local to statewide ballot measures and a few legislative races, Prop 47 doesn't have the huge TV aerial war that we have seen elsewhere.
But it could make a huge difference in how we spend our money on prisons through the CDCR. (That last R is supposed to stand for rehabilitation, but with Prop 47, California can put its money where its mouth has been for years. We have fallen sadly behind states like Kansas in how we handle our prisons. Prop 47 is one step along the way to the powerful reform our justice system still needs.
Presente.org has a new video up, and maybe if we all share it on Facebook, a few more California voters will see it and vote Yes. View and share!
Sugary beverage taxes are focus of big spending in Berkeley and San Francisco
by Brian Leubitz
If you are in the Bay Area, you won't be surprised to hear that the beverage association and its member companies have spent quite the hefty total on the two measures. But the number still may seem excessive:
Along Berkeley's main streets and in the underground subways here, advertisements blasting the proposed soda tax are everywhere. The American Beverage Association, the soda industry's lobbying group, has spent some $1.7 million dollars fighting the measure in Berkeley, and $7.7 million in San Francisco, according to campaign filings. (NPR)
All this being said, I voted Yes on SF's Prop E, our soda tax. It requires a 2/3 vote, as it is targeted for specific funding goals, and that is a big haul. But SF Supervisors Wiener and Mar have done their homework on the measure, and it could end being a tight vote. The Berkeley measure only requires a majority vote, so expect that race to get a lot of focus on election day. It may be the first such measure to pass. KQED's Forum had a fascinating debate on both measures:
John Oliver had a great segment on sugar, it's worth a watch in the video up top.
Openly gay Republican accused of sexual harassment
by Brian Leubitz
I've not really mentioned the burning wreck that is Carl DeMaio's 2014 Congressional campaign. But, boy is it in fire right now. Voice of San Diego has a full timeline of the various scandals with a very fitting opening sentence:
In 10 years covering San Diego politics, including the one where Bob Filner was mayor, I have never seen a more bizarre political scandal than the one surrounding Carl DeMaio's congressional campaign over the last few weeks. (VoSD)
The article follows the rather bizarre twists and turns of a plagiarism story turning into a sexual harassment story. Because it is two gay men, the media has been somewhat confused how to play this whole thing, with reactions landing all over the place. But, as a gay man myself, I can think of no reason why it should be handled differently than any other case. Sexual harassment is just never ok.
But the long and short of it is that after the plagiarism story, a staffer, Todd Bosnich, got the blame and was ultimately fired. But not immediately, as he stuck around a few days on the campaign. According to Bosnich, somewhere during his time on the campaign, he was rather aggressively harassed. I'll let you go to the original article for all the sordid details and the full timeline.
Well, the Voice of SD article would have been a complete timeline, except the latest scandal DeMaio got caught up in this week:
On Jan. 22, DeMaio sent an email to two members of his staff, campaign spokesperson Dave McCulloch and then-policy director Todd Bosnich (Bosnich has accused DeMaio of sexually harassing him and trying to buy his silence). The email's subject line is "Kate Lyon" and includes a photo of an overweight woman wearing a bra and eating what looks to be a Twinkie chicken nugget. (The woman in the photo is not Lyon.) Based on the email's metadata, it appears to be authentic.
Kate Lyon is the deputy campaign manager for Scott Peters, the 52nd District congressional representative whom DeMaio's challenging in the upcoming election. (CityBeat)
Stay Classy, Carl DeMaio.
This is definitely a swing district, and Scott Peters still has a tough race on his plate. But, in a city that is still recovering from a sexual harassment story involving its former mayor, more inappropriate behavior is not really a good asset in prospective public servants.
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.
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.
Statewide 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.
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.