San Diego, California
The California Legislature is in session but there are no floor sessions scheduled for today.
On to today’s California headlines:
As the state prepares to resume control of inmate medical care, it must find ways to reduce costs that are triple the national average, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said Thursday.
The federal receivership that has been in place since 2006 has greatly improved the medical care of state prison inmates but also has caused costs to soar, according to the report. California spends $16,000 per inmate for health care services, compared to an average of $5,000 in other states.
The analysis was released less than two weeks before the state and attorneys representing inmates must report to a federal judge with recommendations on when the receivership should end and whether it should maintain some oversight role.
The Legislature should create an independent board to monitor prison medical care to make sure conditions do not deteriorate once the state retakes control, the report said. It also recommends that the state experiment with contracting for medical services to cut costs.
The state should rely more on telemedicine so physicians in urban medical facilities can treat inmates without physically traveling to remote prisons. The analysis also found that the receivership has not been consistent in using management safeguards that are designed to hold down medical spending.
The receivership already is following many of the recommendations outlined in the report, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.
The receivership began emphasizing telemedicine a year ago, Kincaid said. She acknowledged that while medical staff in some prisons follow the receivership’s uniform policy for controlling medical costs, those in other prisons must do a better job.
The receiver, J. Clark Kelso, uses private contractors when they are cheaper, she said, but is limited by a prohibition in the state constitution on using a contractor if a state employee can do the job.
She disputed the report’s comparisons with costs in other states, contending that many others don’t count their administrative, information technology or contract costs in their accounting.
The leader of the state Senate announced Thursday that he wants to put a measure on the November 2014 ballot to amend California’s initiative system.
Speaking before the Sacramento Press Club (full disclosure: this reporter is the president of the club), Sen. Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the state’s initiative system is broken and one need look no further than last year’s budget negotiations for proof.
Last year, as Total Buzz readers will recall, the then newly elected governor (Jerry Brown) wanted to put on the ballot a tax increase, but Republican legislators wouldn’t put up the votes necessary to send it to the voters. Steinberg said that’s wrong – the minority party was stopping the will of an overwhelmingly elected governor, all because the rules said ballot measures required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
Steinberg said that’s not fair and he named three changes he plans to pursue:
- Allow the Legislature, on a majority vote, to place on statutory initiatives on the ballot. Statutory initiatives include measures to raise taxes. (Steinberg said he wouldn’t change the vote threshold for putting constitutional amendment initiatives on the ballot.)
- Implement an “indirect initiative” process. That’s where initiative proponents refer their proposal to the Legislature after they’ve gathered the requisite number of signatures rather than directly to the voters. Once the proposal is before the Legislature, lawmakers have the option of amending it. Steinberg said 10 other states have similar processes.
- Allow the Legislature, with the governor’s permission, to repeal a voter approved initiative after 10 years. Steinberg said 23 other states have similar rules.
“It sounds obvious, but needs and priorities change,” Steinberg said. California can no longer afford to be governed by voter approved initiatives that exist in perpetuity, like propositions 13 and 98, two budget related ballot measures that have deeply affected the state’s finances.
For decades, former Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury has been a stalwart Republican with a fondness for throwing his name around in political campaigns. Although he keeps a much lower public profile these days, Bradbury is at it again — this time with a surprising twist. He’s endorsing a Democrat, Oxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge in the three-candidate primary in the 19th Senate District that includes Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor.
Although the public announcement was made just today, Hodge tells me that Bradbury “has been a very strong supporter from early on. I know Mike and Mike knows me, and he knows that I have a history of bipartisan cooperation.”
Stoker took the news with grace when I informed him of the endorsement this morning. “Now that I know he has an interest in the 19th Senate District race,” he said, “Mike Bradbury will be one of the first people I go see the day after the primary.”
Ravel acknowledged that her proposal might be controversial with some free speech advocates and bloggers, while others question whether blogs are worth the attention of regulators.
Former state Sen. Steve Peace, now head of the California Independent Voter Project, says Republicans read Republican-oriented blogs and Democrats read those aligned with their party’s ideology. “I don’t think the blogs are very convincing,” Peace said at the conference. “They talk to people who already agree with them.”
Ravel said some bloggers have admitted to her that they have received undisclosed funding from partisan interests.
In 2009, Chip Hanlon, chief executive of the blog site Red County, announced that one of its writers had been let go after it was discovered the writer was taking payments from a consultant for gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner “for favorable coverage.” Although candidates must disclose their spending, the true source of the funding is hidden when payments are made to consultants, who then pay the bloggers.
Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters daily video: Will term-limits measure benefit politicians?