Measures draw ire of health insurance companies and doctors
by Brian Leubitz
The Field Poll has been doing a study of health care issues with the California Wellness Foundation, and today they released their numbers on the two health care related measures on the ballot. (Poll summary)
As you can see from the numbers to the right, the health insurance companies aren't that popular. As you can see if you look a bit higher to the right, they are starting to spend on advertising. Their basic argument is that Prop 45 has some issues with possibly conflicting with Covered California. You can find lots of reports on both sides, and it is still something of an open question. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says that his office can easily handle the rate review process in the allotted period of time, and if he is right, then there shouldn't be a problem. However, expect to see a lot of TV ads, mostly from the NO side.
On Prop 46, the malpractice limit is one of those issues that has split the Democratic party. Now, I have made my thoughts perfectly clear on MICRA, you can go back nearly five years when I wrote my first post on it, and I have further discussed it since. MICRA is great for malpractice insurance companies, because they get to keep hiking rates on doctors while their costs are controlled. But it is bad public policy.
Prop 46, though, has another element meant to curb substance abuse in doctors, and the terrible ramifications that has. That component has angered doctors and civil liberty groups, but has been popular with voters. All in all, the numbers are pretty healthy for the time being.
That being said, the opponents of Prop 46 have a lot of money, and will be using it this fall.
Prop 47, a sentencing reform measure, is good policy. However, it stands a decent shot of passage. There isn't any big money opposed to this yet, but there is still time, I suppose.
Candidates for Governor will face off on Sep 4 in LA
by Brian Leubitz
Neel Kashkari has been lobbying for a debate with Governor Brown for a while. It's the typical challenger stuff, claiming he was dodging, or chicken, yada, yada. But for a position as large as Governor of California, a debate is a worthwhile use of everybody's time. Once you strip away all the BS, hopefully we can have a productive conversation. And that conversation will happen on September 4 in Los Angeles.
Kashkari had challenged Brown to 10 debates, but until now, Brown had brushed off that proposition. Most polls show Brown leading Kashkari by about 20 points, and last month the governor told reporters he "hadn't made up (his) mind" as to whether or not he'd debate the former U.S. Treasury Department official.
But both Brown and Kashkari campaigns have now agreed to the September debate, which will be produced by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California. KQED's senior California politics and government editor, John Myers, will moderate the one-hour forum. Journalists from the Los Angeles Times and Telemundo will ask the candidates questions as well. (KQED / Scott Detrow)
Yes, Brown is leading, and it would take some sort of monumental change for Kashkari to get close to the Governor in the vote total. But this should be an interesting chance to hear two perspectives on the state. Brown has a strong record these last four years, but maybe Kashkari can at least try to drag his party into something approaching respectability over these last two and a half months.
A City Council veto override on Monday has set the scene for a showdown between local and national business interests vs. a labor-community coalition over San Diego's Earned Sick Day / Minimum Wage ordinance.
Following months of public hearings and invitations (mostly declined) for local businesses to hammer out a compromise, the city council passed an ordinance providing access to five earned sick days and setting a local minimum wage increasing to $11.50 over three years.
This action makes San Diego the largest city in the nation to raise the minimum wage.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer--said to be one of the bright new faces in the GOP-- then turned thumbs down on the bill on Friday, August 8th. Although the council was slated for vacation for the rest of the month, a special session was called by president Todd Gloria. The 6-2 vote upholding the ordinance surprised nobody.
It didn't take but a few hours before a well-financed Chamber of Commerce-led group announced it would be collecting signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance, hoping to suspend (until the June, 2016 elections) an increase in pay for an estimated 172,000 local workers, along with denying access to earned sick days to 279,000 individuals.
They have 30 days to gather at least 33,866 valid signatures; National Petition Management has been reportedly hired to do the dirty work. If they fail to make that threshold, the first stage of the wage hikes will go into effect in January with an increase for local minimum-wage workers from $9 an hour to $9.75.
Decline to Sign Campaign
Funded by national restaurant chains and some of California's biggest donors to Mitt Romney, the Chamber's "Small Business Coalition" (managed by the right-wing Revolvis political consultancy) is facing off against Raise Up San Diego, which has called for a citywide decline to sign campaign, simply called "Don't Sign It," to defeat the referendum against the ordinance.
This attempt at forcing a referendum will be the fourth big dollar effort at overturning council-enacted legislation in the last two years orchestrated by conservative business interests who've long been used to getting their way in local government.
As San Diego has faded from being a solidly Republican town to having a Democratic majority among registered voters, the business as usual crowd has turned to well-financed misinformation campaigns run by right wing spin-doctors.
And until now they've been on a winning streak, enabled by local media either owned by financiers of these campaigns or incapable of reporting on issues outside the framing provided by the Chamber of Commerce and their allies.
Told, Sold and Lied To
Over the past two years San Diegans have been told, sold and lied to about:
**requiring impact statements on big box store construction,
**reinstating a linkage fee (tied to affordable housing funding) suspended for nearly two decades on big construction projects,
**and creating a barrier between residential and industrial projects in the neighborhood with the highest asthma rate in the state
Each campaign has used numbers pulled out of a bodily orifice to create the impression that people's job's would be in danger. The last campaign even went so far as spread stories about the US Navy (a major local employer) pulling out of town.
The local daily newspaper is owned by "Papa" Doug Manchester, known for his financial support of right-wing causes. He was a backer for Dinesh D'Souza's smear-o-mentary, 2016: Obama's America.
The Sunday edition of UT-San Diego featured a "news" story giving opponents of the increase major play.
This time around, the Chamber types, hiding behind the 'money is free speech' notion, are out to claim they are the defenders of democracy. They are saying the referendum is needed since the City Council passed this ordinance without putting it up for a public vote.
It's Orwellian beyond Orwellian; Big Money is trying to play the pity card because the City Council did the job voters elected them to do. And they're claiming the "decline to sign' campaign is a plot by labor bullies to harass business.
The Raise Up San Diego coalition is taking a stand on this issue. Two-thirds of voters - 63%, according to a recent Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research poll - support the Earned Sick Days and Minimum Wage Ordinance.
When you have a local oligarchy capable of throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on the table everytime they see something they don't like, it becomes harder and harder to persuade people to vote in local elections.
Bond includes additional storage money from Governor's previous $6B proposal
by Brian Leubitz
It is a rare day in California when our Republicans are pushing for additional debt, but that is exactly what happened in the negotiations surrounding the water bond. The Legislature was pushing up against the deadline to replace the old, larger water bond on the ballot, everybody wanted to put a slimmer package on the ballot, and wanted it to pass. So, huzzah, here we are: a 2/3 majority for a bond package.
A slew of last minute changes wrought during a marathon negotiating session were key to winning support from Republican and Central Valley lawmakers who had threatened to block the bond unless it increased funding for reservoirs as the state struggles through a third devastating year of drought. The bill needed their support to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
*** **** ***
More than a third of the bond -- $2.7 billion -- is dedicated to construction of dams, reservoirs and other water storage solutions. Projects to protect and restore rivers, lakes and watersheds will get $1.5 billion, or close to 20 percent of the package.
The bond will also allocate $900 million to groundwater cleanup and sustainability, $810 million to drought preparedness, $725 million for water recycling, $520 million to cleanse some small communities' drinking water supply and $395 million for flood management.(SJ Merc)
This package could certainly be better, and we could do more to encourage conservation, but it has become clear that we need to overhaul our water infrastructure for several years now. And fortunately, this bond is "tunnel neutral" with no mention of the politically charged fight to route water around the Bay Delta.
So, if this passes, expect to see some more dam construction. Hopefully with more modern equipment than in this photo of the construction of Don Pedro Dam in 1924.
Contact Your Assemblymember to let them know you support clean elections
by Brian Leubitz
Disclosure can't cure all that ails our political system. The problems run way deeper than that. But, given the tools we have available under the system the Supreme Court has given us, it is the best we can do for now. SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, would make voters aware who is really paying for those ads they are seeing. Specifically, the measure would do the following:
Requires the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified for five seconds at the beginning of the ads, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, billboards, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, to third party ads for and against state and local candidates, and to issue advocacy advertisements. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
Tells voters where to find the details - Requires ads to list a website that prominently lists the ten largest funders and a link to all funders of $10,000 or more (for state races).
Proposed Follow-the-Money Disclosure will require organizations that spend or transfer politically-available funds to report the actual original corporate, union, or individual contributors - not misleading committee and non-profit names.
Now, with some labor organizations pulling their support, the future of the bill is in question. Today might be a good day to let your Assemblymember know how you feel about disclosure.
As we get closer to the end of the California legislative session, you see a lot more corporate types in fancy suits roaming in and around the Capitol. The goal? Stamp out worker-friendly bills. Near the top of their hit list this year is AB 1522, an effort authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to allow all California workers to earn a few desperately needed paid sick days on the job.
In most other countries, this isn't a controversial notion. 136 countries around the world have national laws that all workers to earn paid sick days. Most modern economies have made paid sick leave a basic workplace right because when workers are forced to go to a workplace when they're sick, everyone from consumers to workers to businesses is put at risk.
State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly cash report covering California's for July. Total revenues for the first month of Fiscal Year 2014-15 totaled $5.4 billion, beating estimates in the Budget Act by $231.9 million, or 4.5 percent.
"Even though July is usually a weak revenue collection month, the new fiscal year is off to a strong start," Chiang said. "While the State plans to borrow operating funds through revenue anticipation notes, the $2.8 billion needed solely for smoothing out the timing of revenues is at the lowest level since the 2006-07 fiscal year. If we can continue to reduce short- and long-term debts, we can continue to improve our fiscal condition."
Something of a trifecta occurred, with sales, corporate and income tax collections beating estimates and coming in higher than the prior year. Income tax collections for the month of July came in $244.9 million, or 6.4 percent, above estimates. Corporate taxes topped estimates by $38.1 million, or 13.5 percent. Sales taxes also beat estimates by $36 million, or 4.1 percent.
The State ended the last fiscal year on June 30 with a positive cash balance for the first time since June 30, 2007. That means the State had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.
To be clear, there is still a lot of work to be done on our economic recovery. We still have far too many long-term unemployed Californians as well as many of the new job development being in low-paying service sector jobs. And then there is the long-term question of revenue stability and what we do when Prop 30 sunsets in a few years.
All that being said, it is nice to have enough money to pay your bills.
Alameda County finally reported their raw signature count! According to Friday's update from the SoS, they had 51,366 raw signatures (a collection rate of 6.4%, the same as the state average), bringing the total raw signature count up to 1,134,746. We're still waiting for Amador, Inyo, and Trinity to report in, but with only 37,771 registered voters among them, I doubt they'll contribute more than 2500 signatures to the raw count.
Also in today's update are San Francisco's random sample results. They had a validity rate of 73.7%, bringing the overall validity rate back up to 66.8%. That gives a projection (as of today) of 758,010 valid signatures, not enough to qualify for a full count. (Throwing in my estimate of 2500 raw signatures from the remaining three counties only adds another 1670 signatures, still not enough to get a full count.)
In my previous report I discussed the concept of margin of error, so today I calculated it. If a county has a raw count of R, a sample size of S, and a projected validity rate of P (converting the percentage figure to a decimal fraction), then I calculated the margin of error in signatures as R*sqrt(P*(1-P)/S). (Of course, if S is the same as R, as it is for Alpine, Modoc, and Mono counties, the margin of error is zero.) For example, Kings County had 3,187 raw signatures, a sample size of 500, and a projected validity rate of 0.762. That means the margin of error on the projected 2,428 signatures is 61 signatures (about 2.5%).
For better or worse, Jerry Brown's water bond from yesterday is still the leading candidate to replace what is tentatively scheduled to be on the ballot as Prop 43. But a coalition, mainly culled from the environmental community, has another plan:
The coalition has identified priority projects that would improve water security for all Californians, ensure fiscal responsibility in allocating bond funds and eliminate the special interest investments that are driving up costs in the bond proposals put forward to date.
The proposal corrects two major deficiencies in other proposals, including the governor's just-released bond outline. First, it requires accountability and competitiveness for use of taxpayers' funds. In contrast, one-third of the governor's proposal would be handed over to unaccountable political appointees for distribution.
Second, the coalition proposal is truly neutral on the big tunnels that would remove water from the San Francisco Bay Delta. It does not include taxpayer subsidies proposed by the governor to buy water that would be diverted from rivers and streams to special interests.
Friends of the River, the League of Women Voters of California, Planning and Conservation League and Sierra Club California worked together to draft the alternative bond outline. The coalition's plan ensures that residents in all parts of the state would benefit proportionally from the bond. It addresses water quality and water availability in both urban and agricultural communities.
Now, the big stumbling block of any deal would be to get the couple of Republican votes to replace Prop 43. That is easier said than done, with Republicans wanting more money (in the $3B range) spent on storage than even the Governor is requesting ($2B-ish). This plan calls for $1B in storage, with a much heavier emphasis on conservation.
Clearly, we need to do a lot more to conserve though, as we just got news that the odds of a good soak this winter coming from a strong El Niño have been reduced from a previous 80% estimate down to 65%:
The latest long-term forecast shows the chances of a wet El Niño weather pattern bringing drought relief to California starting this fall has decreased to about 65%, and if it does arrive it will probably be weaker than originally expected.
If an El Niño does develop, it should emerge by October and peak during late fall and early winter, according to the Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. (LA Times)
This latest worrying sign will not do anything to make Republicans support an even lower water storage number, but many of the ideas proposed in this package are worthy of a lot more discussion. Check out the full package over the flip.
Bond is about half as large as current package on November ballot, doesn't include peripheral canals
by Brian Leubitz
Sen. Lois Wolk has been working for a long time on getting a revised water bond package on the ballot to replace the current $11.75bn bond slated for this November. The legislators and the governor are worried, justifiably, that voters will be scared off by that number when considering authorizing additional debt. However, given the current drought, a strong consensus has emerged that we must do something.
But, of course, there are always stumbling blocks. Like, say, the concept of peripheral tunnels to bring water around the Bay Delta. Sen. Wolk outlines how she sees the three pillars of a deal:
"It has to be a reasonable bond. It has to have the support of the governor. It must be tunnel neutral, and he is very clear about that, and I support that strongly," said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta. (Capital Public Radio / Ben Adler)
As you can hear in Ben Adler's clip above, the governor is a lot bit gunshy of adding additional debt. In something of a reversal of roles, the Republican caucus is pushing for a higher funding level, arguing that $2B of storage funds are insufficient, favoring a $3B minimum.
But, if the Governor can gather the votes that he needs before next week's deadline, his plan is likely to be the basis of the bond. While there may be a few changes here and there, one has to suspect that the time pressure will push Republicans toward accepting any deal that can get through the hurdles.
My $6 billion plan provides for water use efficiency and recycling, effective groundwater management and added storage. It invests in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities and for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of our most important rivers and streams.
This water bond is tied to our comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the way for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods. It goes a long way to ensure clean drinking water, protect habitat and free up funding for local water projects.
It's a slow news day on the Six Californias signature verification front. (You can find my previous updates here, here, and here.) According to Tuesday's report from the SoS, a total of eight signatures were collected in Alpine County, of which five were valid (no duplicates), for a validity rate of 62.5%. Also, Yolo County apparently found an additional 27 raw signatures during its sampling process, bringing the total raw count to 1,083,380.
We're still waiting for the raw counts from Alameda, Amador, Inyo, and Trinity, but it may be they won't report until they finish their random sample. (This surprises me, because EC 9030(b) says they're supposed to report their raw totals to the SoS within eight days after receiving the petitions. But I guess there's no penalty for being late.)
In addition to the aforementioned Alpine County, we now have sampling reports from Kings (76.2% valid), Napa (66.0%), Shasta (69.0%), and Yolo (57.2%) counties. The overall validity rate is 66.7%, up very slightly from yesterday's 66.4%.
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari did a stunt spending a week homeless in Fresno looking for a job, then wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal. It turns out--shock!--that getting a job isn't as easy as asking for one, and--double shock!--relying on our patchwork safety net doesn't exactly deliver results or human dignity.
Kashkari supposedly spent six nights sleeping outdoors getting rousted off park benches by cops, and getting his meals from a homeless shelter during his supposedly fruitless job search. His upshot? That California is over-regulated and over-taxed, that he didn't need government programs, that all he needed was a job, and everything would have been just fine. No, really. He wrote that.
I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage?
No. I needed a job. Period. Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job. Even though my homeless trek was only for a week, with a defined endpoint, that statement became much more real for me. A job was the one thing that could have solved my food, housing and transportation problems.
California's record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state...
Any normal person would have come away from the experience saying, "Whoa, there but for the grace of god go I." Or perhaps "what the hell is wrong with the economy that no one will even hire me for $9/hour to sweep floors or wash dishes?" But not Republicans like Kashkari. They immediately assume that taxes and regulations must be to blame for all of it.
But Kashkari's experience would have been far more instructive if he had actually gotten a minimum wage job. It would have been far more interesting to have seen Kashkari's reaction to trying to find an apartment, decent food and workable transportation on $9 an hour. Methinks just "getting a job" wouldn't have really solved his problems.
Maybe that can be his next stunt. He could even learn from Democrats who have documented their own time "living the wage" that just having a job doesn't really cut it.
Former Senate candidate and HP CEO shows some signs of presidential interest
by Brian Leubitz
If you ask a bunch of Republicans who they think will be their presidential nominee, you will get, well, a bunch of different answers. And without that seemingly strong candidate to scare away others, a lot of prominent Republicans are looking into it and starting to hang out in Iowa and New Hampshire. Like, say, a former losing Senate candidate in California:
Fiorina slipped into the Granite State last week to promote her new political group, dubbed UP for "Unlocking Potential." Its mission is to engage women with new messages and combat the gaping gender gap that's hobbling Republicans in races up and down the ballot. In addition to headlining a breakfast last Thursday for more than 200 GOP activists in the business and political spheres, Fiorina attended a GOP gala the night before honoring Joe McQuaid, the conservative publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest and most influential newspaper.(US News)
Now, considering the current rumored field, it is hard to say that Fiorina is any less qualified than such notable statesmen as Rick Perry and Chris Christie. In fact, I think you could make a pretty strong case for her against most of the Republican field. But, in many ways that is damning with faint praise.
In 2010, Fiorina lost to Barbara Boxer by 10 points, 52-42. That was a 5 point swing from the drubbing that Bill Jones took in 2004, and she outperformed Meg Whitman who spent a lot more money. That being said, the campaign was never close to seriously threatening Sen. Boxer's position. California is clearly not the nation, but from the demon sheep ad to the "weather" ad, it is clear that Fiorina would be far from a leader we can believe in.
The thing that ultimately do her in is the fact that her place in the field is not really known. Is she a secret moderate playing a right-winger, or a right-winger playing as a moderate? If you look hard enough, you can find evidence of both. And in a primary dominated by the Tea Party, can she make a place for herself?
At least one thing is clear, 2016 will be an interesting campaign cycle.
The Secretary of State has begun posting the random sample updates for Tim Draper's initiative to divide the state into six Californias. You can find the most current update at http://www.sos.ca.gov/election... but I'll summarize today's for you.
According to the report, Draper turned in 1,038,836 raw signatures. He needs at least 807,615 of them to be valid for his measure to get on the ballot. That's 77.7% of his raw count. Keep that number in mind; we'll need it later.
First the SoS does (or rather, the counties do) a random sampling. Each county verifies 3% of the raw signatures at random (or 500, if greater, or all of them, if fewer) and projects from that a validity rate. If they project that he has at least 888,377 valid signatures (110% of the requirement, and 88.5% of the raw count), then the measure qualifies. If they project that he has fewer than 767,235 valid signatures (95% of the requirement; 73.9% of the raw count), then it doesn't qualify. If they project a number somewhere in between those two limits, they have to check every signature.
As of 1:24pm today, results are in from Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, and Sutter counties. In Sierra County, they checked all 208 signatures and found 159 (76.4%) to be valid. In each of the other counties they had to check 500 signatures. The validity rates were 67.4 (Solano), 64.6% (Sonoma), and 77.8% (Sutter)(*). Overall, out of 1,708 signatures checked, 1,208 were found to be valid, for an overall validity rate of 70.7%.
Now 1,708 is less than two-tenths of a percent of the signatures Draper collected, and it could be that he'll have a higher validity rate in the rest of the state. But if Sutter turns out to be his best county, Six Californias won't be on the ballot.
PAC received $11 million of anonymous money for Prop 30 and Prop 32.
by Brian Leubitz
It turns out that everything comes around in the end.
The political arm of the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) filed official termination papers on Monday, six months after agreeing to hand over $300,000 in campaign cash to state officials for accepting what turned out to be the largest anonymous donation to a political effort in California history. (KQED / John Myers)
If you don't remember exactly what happened, check the dark money tag. Long story short, a few payments, totaling over $10 million, were dropped into the SBAC accounts right before the November 2012 election to fight for Prop 32 (unions) and against Prop 30 (Brown's tax measure). Common Cause filed a complaint, and the FPPC eventually came down with the biggest fine ever.
Now, the fine would have worked out just fine if those meddling good government types hadn't gotten in the way of the profligate spending right before the election. That fine is just another cost of buying an election, if you have that kind of money. But, in the end, the problem was that the money played directly into the campaign message that the Prop 32 opponents (including me) had been stating for the past 6 months. While the SBAC was able to spend a lot of money right before the election, it could be argued that the earned media was just as valuable for the other side.
Closing down a PAC isn't really that big of a deal, because it isn't hard to open another one. If Joel Fox or his compatriots have any big plans, there is no doubt that a similar group will be up and running in a few days. Nonetheless, it does mark something of a turning of the page on the 2012 election.