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Jan 31 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: January 31, 2012

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Mission San Diego

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Today is deadline day in the Capitol.

  • Local Redevelopment Agencies will take their last breaths today. The 2010 law axing the agencies, crafted as part of last year’s budget package, takes effect Feb. 1.
  • Bills introduced in 2011 must clear their house-of-origin today in order to stay alive for the remainder of the two-year session.
  • Candidates for state and federal office face a midnight deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The reports will cover cash raised and spent through Dec. 31, 2011.

On to today’s California headlines:

Three Strikes change falters ASSEMBLY: Bill for ballot proposal to soften law may get another try today.

Some state lawmakers want to ask voters to revise California’s Three Strikes law as a way to reduce prison sentences and save money on corrections, but they’re having a hard time getting the issue through the Legislature.

The Assembly on Monday failed to pass AB327, which would require that a defendant’s third strike be for a serious or violent felony. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, asked for the bill to be taken up again today, the deadline for each house to pass legislation introduced last year.

“This bill is necessary because the current Three Strikes law has led to many unjust sentences over the past 18 years that are not proportionate to the offense. As an advocate for fair and just society, this reality is quite troubling,” Davis said Monday.

Democratic supporters say the change is needed because many third-strike offenders have been sentenced to dozens of years in prison for petty theft and less serious offenses. Debate is split largely along partisan lines, with Republicans saying the bill dilutes the intent of the 1994 voter-approved law, which was intended to punish repeat offenders.

“This is a grave issue,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. “Three Strikes came to pass because repeat, unrehabilitated offenders were preying again and again and again upon our families, our children, the people of our community. And it has worked.”

California Assembly votes to outlaw smoking on hospital campuses

Californians may soon be adding hospital campuses to the list of smoke-free workplaces.

The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would expand current limits on smoking at hospitals to entire campuses. Existing law makes it illegal to smoke in buildings and areas adjacent to entrances. Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) argued that the legislation would not only encourage patients, visitors and employees to quit the habit but protect people against exposure to secondhand smoke.

The bill drew the ire of Republicans who said it was another example of California’s “nanny state” politics. Many hospitals, they said, have already voluntarily banned smoking.

Los Angeles judge blocks state budget cut to Medi-Cal providers

A Los Angeles federal judge has tentatively blocked Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts to doctors and other providers who treat low-income patients.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled today that the state cannot reduce payments by 10 percent to Medi-Cal doctors, dentists, ambulance services and other providers. The tentative decision comes after Snyder previously blocked cuts to hospital-based nursing units and some pharmacists.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers included the 10 percent cut in last year’s budget as a way to save $623 million. They won approval from the Obama administration in late October.

Plaintiffs such as the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association argued that the Medi-Cal cut would reduce access to patients as more providers opt out of the system. The state already pays among the lowest rates in the nation to those who treat low-income patients.


Republican Meg Whitman’s HP likes Democrats

An interesting factoid for the 2012 elections: HP, the Silicon Valley powerhouse run by Republican Meg Whitman, is busy bankrolling Democrats.

Financial disclosure documents on file with the state’s election officer show that of some $48,000 that HP gave directly to political candidates during the last quarter of 2011, about $46,000 went to 18 Democrats and one Republican.

The largest single donation, for $13,000, went to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only statewide official to receive a contribution from HP during the fourth-quarter filing period. Harris is not up for reelection this year.

Only one Republican contender, Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville, received a contribution — $2,000. 

The contributions were detailed in HP’s report on its major donations and independent expenditures.

The other recipients all were Democrats, and most received $1,500 or $2,000, with two reporting higher donations – South San Francisco Assemblyman Jerry Hill at $3,943 for a fundraising event and $3,900 for Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa.

Whitman, a billionaire and former top executive at ebay, ran for governor in November 2010 and was defeated by Democrat Jerry Brown, who won with a margin of nearly 9 percent of the vote, or 1.3 million votes.

Enjoy your morning!

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