Tag: Smoking

Jan 22 2013

The California Flap: January 22, 2013

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The California Legislature is in session.

Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s is here.

Some important deadlines to remember:

  • January 25, 2013: Deadline to send bill ideas to the California Legislative Counsel for drafting.
  • February 22, 2013: Deadline to introduce bills.

Each member of the Assembly and State Senate are allowed to introduce up to 40 bills in this two year legislative session.

On to the morning’s California headlines:

  • California engineers question high-speed rail oversight – As California prepares to embark on its largest public works project in decades, a union that represents state engineers is questioning whether all the construction work will be thoroughly scrutinized.Contractors submitted bids this week to design and build the first 30-mile stretch of track for the $68 billion high-speed rail system, which eventually is designed to link Northern and Southern California by trains traveling up to 220 mph. The contract they sign is expected to be for up to $1.8 billion to build the initial segment in the Central Valley.The documents outlining the requirements for the bids say the independent contractor that would design and build the first phase of the project would hire the inspectors charged with testing the work on that segment, running from Madera to Fresno. The inspections would then be submitted to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.Critics, including lawmakers and a state engineers union, say the arrangement could present a conflict…
  • CalPERS nears a record $260 billion in assets – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to top a record $260 billion in assets, the market value it held before the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of its wealth.The largest U.S. public pension, with half of its money in publicly traded equities, was worth $253.2 billion on Thursday, or about 97% of the pre-recession high set in October 2007. The fund returned 13% in 2012, about the same gain as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.”A lot of the improvements in portfolio returns is simply reflective of the return of the market,” Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear said. “But there is still an important lesson there, which is that when the crisis was full on, we didn’t drastically reduce our equity exposure.”
  • Tobacco tax hike eyed for 2014 state ballot – Get ready for another round of tobacco tax wars, California initiative style.And count three big reasons for a do-over of the electoral skirmish in 2014: the relatively low level of the existing tax, the narrow margin of the vote in 2012, and the fact that it may now be a fight not over bureaucracy and research but rather college tuition.”I think the right measure, going to the right revenue source is going to be the magic combination,” says Democratic strategist Jason Kinney. “And that’s why I think so many people are looking at it.”
  • Jerry Brown’s budget is a boon to California’s unions – Gov. Jerry Brown continues to pose as an iconoclast who is willing to make the tough choices necessary to keep California afloat, but the budget he released recently is more evidence that he remains the cat’s paw for the state’s public-sector unions.“I want to advance the progressive agenda,” Brown said at the press conference unveiling his supposedly balanced budget, “but consistent with the amount of money people made available … I respect and embrace my role of saying ‘no.’”But he certainly has said yes to union demands. The budget is the culmination of Brown’s campaign to convince Californians to raise taxes on themselves. They complied by approving Proposition 30 to help the school kids, yet Brown has played games with that money — earmarking some of it for union pay hikes as a payback for all that help during the Nov. 6 campaign, according to GOP leaders.
  • California death penalty: Will state follow Arizona, which has resumed executions after a long hiatus? – When Arizona prison officials injected condemned rapist and murderer Richard Stokley with a single, fatal drug dose last month, it marked the state’s sixth execution of the year in the nation’s second busiest death chamber.Now that California voters in November narrowly preserved the death penalty, Arizona’s path could foreshadow the future for this state, where not a single one of the 729 death row inmates have marched to execution in seven years.As in California, interminable legal tangles once shut down Arizona’s death penalty system as the state executed only one inmate, who volunteered to die, from 2001 to 2010. But Arizona emerged from numerous court battles that removed all of the legal roadblocks that remain in California.The result has been 11 executions since October 2010, nearly the number California has carried out since it restored the death penalty in 1978. Significantly, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, often the last word for death penalty appeals in the …
  • Plenty of green carpool stickers remain available in California – Green stickers for plug-in hybrids: 9,022. Limit: 40,000. Expire: Jan. 1, 2015 White stickers for electric vehicles and those running on alternative fuels: 21,770. Limit: None. Expire: Jan. 1, 2015. Yellow stickers for hybrids: 85,000. Ended July 1, 2011.
  • Brown seeks to reshape California’s community colleges – With a slate of bold and controversial budget proposals, Gov. Jerry Brown has placed a renewed focus on the state’s struggling community colleges, the world’s largest system of two-year schools that are often overshadowed by the University of California and Cal State systems.The governor’s recommendations are aimed at keeping community colleges affordable, keeping classes accessible and moving students faster through the system to allow them to graduate or transfer to a four-year university at higher rates. Brown’s spending plan must clear the Legislature, and some college officials have vowed to oppose — or at least try to modify — some portions.
  • Medicare Pricing Delay is Political Win for Amgen, Drug Maker – Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the “fiscal cliff” bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs.The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.
  • Dan Walters: Public debts cloud future for California cities – The tendency among local officials – much like their brethren in the state Capitol – is to make financial commitments with little thought to long-term consequences.That’s how our governments dug themselves into deep budget holes – spending revenue windfalls on new services, giving employees big pension and health care benefits retroactively, and borrowing for grandiose projects without economic viability.Three of California’s cities rode that path into bankruptcy. While one, Vallejo, has emerged, two others, Stockton and San Bernardino, are still ruminating over which creditors will take haircuts.Stockton’s situation is especially egregious because it committed all of those fiscal sins. Its biggest debt is money it borrowed to pay its pension obligations, a double whammy.

    In fact, most public debt in California is in the form of pension promises whose dimensions depend on assumptions of pension fund earnings.

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May 07 2012

Yes on Prop 29 Goes After Dr. La Donna Porter

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No on Prop 29 spokesperson Dr. La Donna Porter

The Yes on California Proposition 29 are now making the doctor appearing in ads opposing the proposition an issue.

She’s the family physician in the doctor’s smock turning up in California’s living rooms on TV spots, declaring the tobacco tax measure on the June ballot a menace.

But now Dr. La Donna Porter is coming under fire from tobacco-control groups and other doctors who are convinced the tobacco doctor — a registered Republican who once campaigned on behalf of a toxic chemical — is in it for the money and is being paid by tobacco companies. Public records show that she’s struggling to save her home from foreclosure and lift herself financially from two personal bankruptcies.

But in an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Porter’s husband defiantly defended her, denying that his wife has been paid for her work against Proposition 29.

“We don’t know anybody in the tobacco industry,” said John Porter from the couple’s home in Wilton, 25 miles from Sacramento. “They haven’t offered any money. And I’ve been with her every step of the way.”

Porter said he was “disgusted” with what he calls a “character assassination” against his wife.

The proponents for the smoking tax, California Proposition 29 have made a misstep here. The physician in the ads is not really an issue, the way the smoking tax money is spent IS.

Here is the video of the ad:

Even if Dr. Porter had received compensation for her participation in the ads, so what? Physicians and dentists are paid all of the time for professional opinions and testimonials.

As long as they are disclosed any payments to Dr. Porter are irrelevant.

Remember folks this is a political ad.

If anything, this attack on the good doctor while mentioning her financial difficulties will elicit sympathy for her position. I wonder who the consultant for the Yes on 29 campaign is?

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Apr 30 2012

California Election 2012: No on Proposition 29 – Cigarette Taxes

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I, generally, like cigarette taxes since less people will smoke as a result. But, the Los Angeles Times in their editorial today is correct (they get it right once in a while).

What’s to like about taxes? Most people view them at best as a necessary evil to help pay for robust government services — a public benefit. But cigarette taxes are an anomaly. In their case, the tax itself is a public benefit. Proposition 29, which would place a $1 levy on each pack of cigarettes sold in California, would serve the common good by making cigarettes more expensive.

Economists have demonstrated conclusively that taxes on cigarettes are an effective tool for reducing smoking rates, which not only benefits the health of current and potential smokers but clears the air for people who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking, the single biggest cause of premature death in the United States, costs California taxpayers billions annually in medical care to treat people with tobacco-related diseases through Medi-Cal, Medicare and other public health programs. And California’s cigarette tax, at 87 cents per pack, is well below the national average of $1.46.

Voters also should be concerned about the lack of accountability under Proposition 29. The nine-member board of the new agency would comprise representatives from three University of California campuses and three of the state’s federally recognized cancer centers, as well as a physician from an academic medical center and two members from advocacy groups. It would have no one representing the public, no one to stand up for the idea that taxpayer money should be spent efficiently and fairly, to ensure that salaries aren’t exorbitant and that money doesn’t get sent out of state, among other things. Although there are rules preventing a board member from voting on a grant application from his or her own organization, there is too much opportunity for mutual hand-washing when it comes to awarding funds. This came up as a criticism of the stem-cell agency when, by 2010, nearly $1 billion had been granted to institutions with seats on the board. The tobacco research agency would be audited annually, but what would be the point? The state would be powerless to change the agency’s ways even if it found serious problems.

Tobacco companies are contributing more than $20 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 29, outspending the pro-tax campaign — which is supported by bicycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong — by more than 5 to 1. We couldn’t disagree more with their reasons for doing so, and it makes us uncomfortable to agree with them at all, but from our perspective, this initiative takes perfectly good tax money and misspends it; we’d rather see an alternative proposal that hikes the cigarette tax but spends the money more wisely. We recommend a no vote on Proposition 29.

The physician spokesperson in the ads fro the tobacco companies is partially correct. Here is the ad:

But, any increase in taxes should be on a federal level, so there is no bootlegging of cigarettes between the states. Plus, the funds raised should be accountable to a recognized and exisiting government health regulating body.

No on Proposition 29.

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Apr 06 2012

CA-Prop 29: Big Tobacco Comes in BIG to Defeat June Anti-Smoking Proposition

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No surprise here. The Big Tobacco companies are protecting their customer base.

If there was any uncertainty whether Big Tobacco — the nation’s leading makers of cigarettes — would let this June’s statewide campaign for a tax hike slip by without an all out war… the question was answered quite definitively late Thursday.

That’s when the campaign to defeat Proposition 29 reported almost $9 million in new contributions from the parent company of Philip Morris, USA and R.J. Reynolds.  Add that to the companies’ contribution earlier this year of $12 million, and the effort to kill a new $1-per pack tax on cigarettes is now sitting on a war chest of close to $21 million.

Prop 29, if passed by the voters two months from now, would earmark all of the new tax proceeds for cancer research.

There never was any doubt that the tobacoo companies would spend what it takes to defeat this measure. It is profit protection.

But, remains un-answered to me as how they will spin their campaign on television?

Without a doubt, the supporters of Proposition 29 will have a hard time matching the advertising budget.

However, the chances of passing this measure appear to be very good – at least until the television spots start appearing.

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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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