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Jan 02 2013

The California Flap: January 2, 2013

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Mission San Diego

These are my links for December 28th through January 2nd:

  • California Primary Care Doctors Growing Scarce -Roughly 4 million additional Californians are expected to obtain health insurance by 2014 through the federal health law, an expansion that will likely exacerbate the state’s doctor shortage and could even squeeze primary care access in the Bay Area, experts say.Even without the Affordable Care Act, a worsening doctor shortage had been forecast as the state’s and nation’s population ages and grows, and as a generation of older doctors retires. But by mandating that individuals have insurance and expanding Medicaid, the law will extend coverage to an additional 30 million Americans and place a greater strain on the physician workforce, especially for primary care.Tags:

  • California gets federal approval to close Healthy Families -California will begin moving 860,000 lower-income children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal next month after receiving last-minute federal approval today, state health officials said.The shift comes despite a request from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to postpone the switch because he fears too many children will lose access to their medical providers.Many health care advocates fought the shift in June and felt that Healthy Families had served its beneficiaries better than Medi-Cal could. But Gov. Jerry Brown asked lawmakers to end Healthy Families as the state prepares for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in 2014, saying it would be more efficient and ultimately save money.

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  • 10 stories to watch in California politics for 2013 -Tags:
  • Brown plans extensive changes for school funding in 2013 -Gov. Jerry Brown will push this year to upend the way schools are funded in California, hoping to shift more money to poorer districts and end requirements that billions of dollars be spent on particular programs.Brown said he wants more of the state’s dollars to benefit low-income and non-English-speaking students, who typically are more expensive to educate.”The reality is, in some places students don’t enjoy the same opportunities that people have in other places,” the governor said in an interview. “This is a way to balance some of life’s chances.”

    He would also scale back — and possibly eliminate — dozens of rules that districts must abide by to receive billions in state dollars. Some of those requirements, such as a mandate to limit class size, have been suspended amid Sacramento’s recurrent budget problems but are set to resume by 2015.

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  • California Democrats signal they want to reform Proposition 13 -The third rail of California politics may not be as deadly as once thought.Three and a half decades after the passage of Proposition 13 shook the political landscape in California and sparked a taxpayer revolt across America, voters appear to be warming up to the idea of reforming the initiative as long as protections for homeowners stay intact.And the apparent sea change in public attitudes, combined with the two-thirds majorities Democrats now hold in both chambers of the Legislature, has emboldened some politicians to take aim at the iconic measure.

    “It is time for a fix, because Proposition 13 is broken,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who plans to introduce a bill next year aimed at forcing businesses to pay higher property taxes.

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  • Lawmakers in VIP loan program violated no rules, House panel says -The House Ethics Committee has found no rules violations by lawmakers who used a VIP loan program from Countrywide Financial Corp.The committee’s leaders said its investigation largely led to the same conclusions as the Senate Ethics Committee, which determined in 2009 that there was “no substantial credible evidence” that two of its members had broken rules by accepting loans through the special program.Although the House Ethics Committee likewise cleared members of that body, committee Chairwoman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and top Democrat Linda T. Sanchez of Lakewood said in a statement that there were serious concerns about some allegations against House staffers.

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  • New year means changes for California taxes, driving, light bulbs -State lawmakers laid down hundreds of new laws that will change how millions of Californians drive, shop and do business in 2013, but perhaps the most sweeping was imposed by voters themselves.Voters in November passed a state sales tax increase starting Jan. 1 and also retroactively hiked income taxes for upper-income earners to avoid deep cuts to education.Also, starting Jan. 1 Californians will pay more at the cash register for lumber products, cities will get limits on new red light cameras, gun owners will no longer be allowed to carry unloaded rifles and shotguns in public view and unauthorized immigrants will move a step closer to being able to obtain a driver’s license.

    Moreover, motorists will be able to drive and text using new voice-recognition technology, boat owners will have to chip in more to fight the invasive quagga mussel, and the CHP will issue “Silver Alerts” about missing senior citizen

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  • New California law: Texting on hands-free devices while driving will be legal Jan. 1 -The new California law prohibits texting while driving unless it’s done on an “electronic wireless communications device (that) is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication.” That appears to mean texting with the iPhone’s Siri or Android’s Google Now is OK, because the law allows drivers to touch a device to activate or deactivate it or to enter a telephone number.”This clarifies some of the gray areas in previous laws,” said spokesman Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety. But he said it’s preferable not to use cellphones while driving at all, as “research has shown that the conversation itself is dangerous due to inattention blindness and the brain’s tendency to move functions needed for driving over to the conversation.”Tags:

  • House Ethics Committee closes book on Countrywide loans -Closing the book a story that had caused some embarrassment for two local members of the Congress, the House Ethics Committee has concluded that no violations of law or standards of ethical conduct were violated by members who received so-called “Friends of Angelo” mortgages from Countrywide during the time Angelo Mozilo was chairman of the now-defunct lending institution.Retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of Santa Clarita, who now represents Simi Valley, were among the recipients of those loans. Both asserted that they not only did not receive special treatment, but were unaware that their loans were part of any special program initiated by Countrywide.The Ethics Committee’s report substantiates those assertions.

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  • Chevron moving 800 Bay Area jobs to Texas -Chevron Corp. will move up to 800 jobs – about a quarter of its current headquarters staff – from the Bay Area to Houston over the next two years but will remain based in San Ramon, the oil company told employees Thursday.The jobs – generally, technical positions dealing with information and advanced energy technologies – are all tied to Chevron’s worldwide oil exploration and production business, much of which is based in Houston. The company reported the shift in an e-mail to its employees Thursday.San Ramon will remain Chevron’s corporate headquarters, the company said. About 3,500 people work at Chevron’s office park on Bollinger Canyon Road. Another 3,000 Chevron employees work elsewhere in the Bay Area, most of them at the company’s refinery and technology center in Richmond.

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  • Some county judges change sentencing patterns -California’s new felon imprisonment law, which requires low-level offenders to serve their time in county jail rather than state prison, is beginning to reshape how some county judges hand down those sentences.A study by the Chief Probation Officers of California finds an increasing number of judges using split sentences, requiring offenders to spend part of their time in jail and the other part in a community program or under probation. Without a split sentence, the entire term is spent in jail and when offenders are released, there is no followup.From the time the new prison law took effect in October 2011 to June 2012, the probation officers group reports, 23% of all local prison sentences were split. That means an increase in the responsibilities of county probation offices, but a lighter load on jails.

    However, the organization says there is an inconsistent use of the sentencing tool among the state’s 58 counties. Judges in 18 counties deliver split sentences to more than half their felons, including Contra Costa and San Joaquin. On the other hand, only 5% of Los Angeles County felons, for example, are given split sentences.

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  • California health exchanges – ‘Mo Money’ -The Obama administration has a lot riding on California’s implementation of Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. How the state implements the new insurance exchanges, and whether or not it is done successfully, will be an important test of nationalized health care.But a state-run health exchange puts the burden onto the state and the expense ultimately on the taxpayers. The state loses the authority and flexibility needed to best meet the needs of its people… Which is why more than 30 states have told the Obama government that they will not create state-run health exchanges, leaving the Obama administration to build and operate online health insurance markets for more than 30 states. This is an unexpected problem, unanticipated by the federal government when Obamacare was passed in 2010.But this isn’t a problem for Democratically controlled California government, which will do just about anything for a federal grant.

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  • Tough Year Ahead for California Taxpayers and Wealth Producers -California’s Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the last election—voter-approved tax increases and a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy that can no longer block tax hikes.Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing and spending spree or will some semblance of a “moderate” Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it’s hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state’s public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.Given that backdrop, I offer some subdued predictions for the New Year.

    Prediction 1: Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislative leadership will continue to argue that the state government is on a bare-bones diet, and therefore continue to look for additional revenue to fund it regardless of mounting evidence of waste and excess.

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  • Murder and theft up in LA, but overall crime down again -With a few days left in the year, the number of murders in the city of Los Angeles has crept up and will likely surpass 300 for the first time since 2009. It’s not a big increase — so far LA’s homicide toll for 2012 is just three over last year’s — but it may reflect that overall crime numbers across the country are starting to tick back up after a decade of declining crime reports. Los Angeles crime as reported by the LAPD will be down about two percent, the tenth year of decline, the LA Times says. “The fact that Los Angeles has continued to decline, especially when several factors haven’t been as good as they could be — it’s remarkable, frankly,” said Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at UC Irvine. “I’m puzzled.”Tags:

  • Simi Valley businessman returns disputed $70,000 grant -A Simi Valley businessman has returned a $70,000 redevelopment grant to the city after months of speculation by a local Tea Party leader and others that it might have been improperly authorized.Used-car dealer Kelly Kolarek, who said he used the 2010 grant to renovate the site of his K&J Auto Exchange at 2430 Tapo St., gave a check to the city Wednesday, according to a news release he issued and an email from City Manager Laura Behjan to city officials.Denying there was anything improper about the grant, Kolarek said in the release that he returned the money primarily because “these funds will cause me huge adverse tax implications” with the approval of Proposition 30 in November. The measure raises taxes on those who make more than $250,000 annually, to help fund education.

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