The California Legislature is not in session. Governor Brown continues to consider bills recently passed, signing some and vetoing others.
On to today’s headlines:
California could pose problem for Obama’s healthcare reform
For more than a year, as conservative states have battled President Obama’s sweeping healthcare law, California was supposed to be a model that showed the law’s promise.
But the state is emerging as one of the biggest headaches for the White House in its bid to help states bring millions of Americans into the healthcare system starting in 2014.
Though still outpacing much of the nation, cash-strapped California is cutting its healthcare safety net more aggressively than almost any other state, despite billions of dollars in special aid from Washington.
And state leaders are pressing the Obama administration for permission to place some of the toughest limits in the nation on government-subsidized healthcare, including a cap on how often people with Medicaid — the healthcare program for the poorest Americans — can go to the doctor.
A decision on some of California’s requests is expected this month. If approved, the limits could open the door to deep cutbacks nationwide.
“There are states that are bellwethers. California is one of them,” said Jane Perkins, legal director of the National Health Law Program. If the federal government approves California’s requests, other states are almost certain to seek similar treatment, setting off a “race to the bottom,” she said.
The stakes are unusually high for the Obama administration. “Health reform is badly in need of success stories, and early success in California could add decisive momentum,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading health policy center. “But if California bogs down, or if there is an implementation failure, it would be a huge negative for the whole implementation effort nationally.”
Jerry Brown rips Republicans, says Jarvis Group is their jockey
Still smarting from the Legislature’s defeat of his tax and jobs plan, Gov. Jerry Brown accused Republican lawmakers Wednesday of an “unconstitutional delegation of power,” saying they are controlled by the anti-tax group Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
“The Republicans in Sacramento have one jockey,” Brown said in a fiery speech to about 1,000 nurses at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.
In recent days, Brown has decried the GOP, rallied labor unions and called for “a war on unemployment” in an uncharacteristic spate of public appeals.
The public appearances – including three speeches in three days – are in sharp contrast to the low profile he kept after previous legislative failures, when budget talks with Republicans stalled in March and collapsed months later.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Brown went hiking.
The quiet approach, Democratic strategist Darry Sragow said, didn’t work.
“Now he’s trying something else,” Sragow said. “Plan B, or maybe Plan C, and that’s to engage, to be more confrontational and more visible, to call the question in public.”
The Democratic governor is likely to ask voters next year to raise taxes, and union support is expected to be critical.
Brown piled blame Wednesday on the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association for the Legislature’s defeat of his tax and jobs plan, saying some Republican senators told him they would like to vote for the measure but couldn’t because of the association’s political clout.
Now, after months of failed negotiations with Republicans, Brown said, “At least I know who to talk to.”
Even in this blue state, Democrats are fretting
California is a Democratic state. There is virtually no chance that the Republican presidential nominee will spend money to compete here next fall, let alone win California’s 55 electoral votes. But Obama’s standing is shaky, and that could be prompting lesser Democrats to rethink strategy.
“There are a lot of people who are gnashing their teeth,” Democratic consultant Andrew Acosta said, adding that candidates can’t count on Obama for much help. “You’re not going to have the same passion that you had in 2008.”
Rep. Joe Baca, a Democratic congressman from San Bernardino County, calls himself “Working Joe.” But he probably won’t sweat much in 2012. He decided to seek a safely Democratic seat, rather than take on Republican Jerry Lewis, who has been in Congress since 1978.
In the seat where Baca plans to run, Democrats hold a 20 percentage-point registration advantage, compared with a four-point edge in the district where Lewis likely will run.
Closer to home, Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, a Democrat from El Dorado Hills, thought about running for the congressional seat held by Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, and probably would have given him a fight. But she told me that she has opted to seek another Assembly term.
There were multiple reasons for her decision. Huber would have had difficulty raising money for a primary fight against Democrat Ami Bera, a well-funded physician who is seeking a rematch against Lungren.
There’s probably another reason. Obama’s unpopularity complicates any Democrat’s chances of winning in the 7th Congressional District, which includes eastern and southern Sacramento County.
Lawmakers depart, but bills remain for Brown to ponder
The lawmakers are out of town, the Capitol is quiet and the governor is back at his desk after a Vegas trip.
But as the lawmakers fled back to their districts, they deposited scores of bills on the desk of Gov. Brown, who has a month to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature. Since he actually reads the bills – not all governors do, believe it or not – and actually writes his own veto messages, he’ll be at his desk quite awhile.
Here are some thumbnail descriptions of what he’s looking at.
There’s SB 397, by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that would start to bring civic participation into the digital age, allowing Californians to securely register to vote online. While still necessary to leave the house on Election Day, it’s one less convenient excuse for not voting, especially for those pesky 18- to 24-year-olds who like to talk a big game about participation and engagement but can’t seem to back it up with action outside their Twitter accounts. Who knows: Maybe a text-in-your-vote proposal is just a few sessions away.
There’s more than one way to create a green economy, as suggested by Sen. Mark Leno, D- San Francisco, whose SB 676 allows hemp cultivation for industrial purposes. Not to be mistaken with marijuana, industrial hemp contains no more than 3/10 of 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s psychoactive, munchies-inducing compound. A sustainable crop mired in stigma for years, hemp is already used in plenty of healthy food, textile, and natural body care products on the market. Just ask the nearest hipster on the nutritional benefits of hemp milk. According to the bill, California is already home to 55 percent of the nation’s hemp product companies, part of a $400 million industry growing at a rate of $26 million per year.
Women make up more than half of California’s labor force, according to the Economic Development Department, and a batch of bills by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, Assemblymembers Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Roger Hernandez, D- West Covina, addresses one of the workplace’s greatest gender challenges: pregnancy. SB 222 by Evans would assure individual health insurance policies provide coverage for maternity services. Hernandez’s AB 210 would do the same for group policies. SB 299 by Evans prohibits an employer from refusing to maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan for an employee who takes pregnancy leave. And Lara’s SB 592 closes a gap in California law that failed to define employer “interference” with an employee’s ability to take pregnancy leave as an independent basis for liability. The bill would match California law to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) standard.