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Feb 07 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: February 7, 2012

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Hearst Castle, San Simeone, California

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

On to today’s California headlines:

Competing California tax measures move ahead without Brown’s blessings

Gov. Jerry Brown had hoped that by now, he’d have the field all to himself in his appeal to voters for new taxes.

But Brown, whose plan would raise income taxes on those making $250,000 or more and hike the sales tax by a half cent, is feeling the heat from the left: two other groups who are seeking to place tax-hike initiatives on the November ballot made it clear Monday they are in the race for the long haul.

The campaign to raise taxes on millionaires, headed by the California Federation of Teachers, kicked off its signature-gathering campaign with rush-hour banner displays on highway overpasses throughout California. And wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger gave a full-throated defense of her separate tax-hike initiative at the California PTA’s state conference, promising she’d reach into her own deep pockets to ensure a win on behalf of schools.

“We’re going to get this on the ballot and we’re going to win, too,” Munger told reporters after addressing the PTA group, “because we’re prepared to not only get on the ballot but be sure it has a very strong campaign behind it.”

Another group with a tax-hike plan, Think Long, headed by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, recently backed off from its ballot measure plans, a relief to Brown.

While the governor has said he worries that more than one tax-hike initiative could doom them all because of potential confusion among voters, people from both campaigns said they

believe more than one tax hike can survive November.

California: AFSCME Picks Berman Over Sherman

Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.) has won the endorsement of a second major labor union in the last month for his primary battle with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman.

The California arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced it is backing Berman, who “has been a tireless advocate for the rights of public employees, defending workers’ rights in the courtroom as a labor lawyer and working to achieving collective bargaining rights for thousands of California public employees during his tenure in the state Legislature,” said Barbara Blake, an executive board member.

Initiative would make Legislature part time, slash its pay

A proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) probably won’t make her many friends among her colleagues. She wants to reduce the Legislature to part-time status and cut its pay from $95,000 annually to $1,500 a month.

Grove is one of the organizers of an initiative that was approved Monday to begin circulating petitions toward qualifying for the ballot. The constitutional amendment would limit regular legislative sessions to 30 days each January and 60 days starting each May. In odd-numbered years, the legislative sessions would be devoted to budget issues.

In addition to slashing lawmakers’ pay, the measure would limit employment while they are in office. State financial officials say it could cut lawmakers’ salaries, travel and living expenses and staff costs by tens of millions of dollars annually.

Feds block cuts to California’s Medi-Cal program

The state’s effort to make Medi-Cal recipients dig into their wallets for co-pays was blocked by the federal government Monday.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration will appeal the decision, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Department of Finance. Unless the decision is reversed, the state will need to shell out an additional $575 million in the next fiscal year, Palmer said.

The state wanted low-income residents using Medi-Cal to pay $5 for doctor visits, $3 for prescriptions and up to $200 for hospital visits.

But the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which had to approve the change because Medi-Cal is part of the federal MediCaid program, said the state’s plan would violate part of the Social Security Act.

“We recognize the needs of states to keep costs down and are supportive of the goal to promote cost-effective use of health care services,” said Brian Cook, a spokesman for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of Health & Human Services. “We are denying this amendment as it is inconsistent with statute.”

Enjoy your morning!

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