The Legislature this week passed a controversial tax deal on “managed care organizations” that saves $1 billion in federal Medi-Cal funding by creating an elaborate give-and-take of levies on health insurers.
For months, Gov. Jerry Brown has been wrangling with many Republican legislators to get the vote done, rolling funding for the developmentally disabled into the conversation. That move angered many advocates and legislators, none more so than Sen. Joel Anderson, a longtime champion of DD funding. Anderson voted no on the MCO tax this week, but yes on a bill to provide $300 million for developmentally disabled funding, which has been severely cut in recent years.
“I objected from the fact that this community is a community that was used as a political pawn,” Anderson said of the MCO-DD mash-up. The governor “went to great lengths to deny these folks any kind of stability,” Anderson said.
The MCO measure required a two-thirds vote for passage, meaning at least one GOP senator and three Assembly Republicans needed to vote yes. While many voiced disapproval of the plan, Assemlymember Brian Maienschein was one who voted in favor.
“Collectively, we came up with something that’s really good,” Maienschein told the Los Angeles Times.
Assemblyman Brian Jones also gave the measure his approval, albeit with reservations.
“This may be one of the most difficult aye votes I have ever casted,” Jones told Capitol Public Radio.
Anderson said he voted no because the measure has “a lot of moving parts and for it to work correctly is a long shot.” He fears that it could ultimately lead to higher health insurance premiums for his constituents. He added that despite some analysis that the plan is tax neutral, how the law would be implemented leaves room for doubt.
“From my district perspective, yeah, we’re tired of paying taxes,” he said. “We’re done. We want to start seeing accountability in government.”
Democrats, however, were largely elated after the vote, even sending out a selfie or two, like this one of Speaker Toni Atkins, incoming speaker Anthony Rendon and the gov:
— Toni G. Atkins (@toniatkins) March 2, 2016
How Atkins Is Spending Her Last Days as Leader
The Assembly, with a heavy push from Atkins in her last days of leadership, passed a package of six new tobacco regulations that would put e-cigarettes in the same category as other tobacco products and raise the age to purchase and consume tobacco from 18 to 21. Atkins called it “an incredibly good day for California,” in remarks after the contentious vote, pointing out that tobacco causes health problems that impact all Californians.
“Studies have shown that Californians spend more than $9.8 billion treating the effects of tobacco use every year and $3.5 billion is billed directly to Medi-Cal. Raising the legal smoking age will help lower the number of young people who use tobacco, and that means healthier Californians and lower costs for taxpayers,” she said in a statement.
Atkins also saw her two bills dealing with human trafficking move forward this week, both passing out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
The first of those measures, AB 1730, would create “a safe place for child sex-trafficking victims to stay after being freed from their exploiters and provides them with trauma-informed, mental health services,” according to a statement. Right now, kids taken out of trafficking situations often find themselves in juvenile hall, or in foster care with limited services for dealing with the emotional trauma they’ve experienced. AB 1730 would help them receive the supportive services that many need.
The other bill, AB 1731, would create a Statewide Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force. That new entity would bring together social services and health providers with law enforcement and the courts to gather data and raise awareness.
“California’s three biggest metropolitan areas – San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego – are among the U.S.’s 13 areas of ‘high intensity’ child sex-trafficking exploitation,” said Atkins in a statement. “This vile act continues to persist, and we can’t be complacent. That’s why I’ve authored legislation aimed at helping state agencies battle human trafficking and providing the right kind of care to child victims.”
• Atkins did an exit interview with the L.A. Times, in which she called the speakership “an incredible ride.”
Block Knocks UC Davis Chancellor
Sen. Marty Block weighed in on a Capitol-region controversy this week after The Sacramento Bee reported that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi was bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year serving on outside boards for for-profit DeVry Education Group and textbook company John Wiley & Sons.
Block brought up the issue during a budget subcommittee meeting on Thursday.
“It’s become apparent in the last 24 hours that some of the CEOs of these campuses have more than one job and make a lot of money in other places,” Block said, according to the Bee. “If, in fact, they are making $500,000 on the side by sitting on six different corporate boards … that is important for the Legislature to know.”
It’s not the first time Block has had an issue with Katehi. She testified before his committee in 2011 after students were pepper-sprayed by campus police during a protest.
Block also spoke in Thursday’s meeting about the potential for San Diego State to take over Qualcomm Stadium if the Chargers leave, to expand the campus. “This presents in some of our minds a real opportunity” for San Diego State to “take over the property” he said. “And then on that property to perhaps build student housing.”
Golden State News
• California finally has an electronic database of voters that can be instantly updated, a development “more than a decade in coming,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla told the L.A. Times.
• California reservoirs are dumping water in a drought, reports KQED.
• The Sacramento Bee has a database showing gifts to politicians across the state. It shows Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez received tickets to Disneyland, Assemblyman Brian Jones got lodging at Pebble Beach and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber got several small food gifts, including a “rice box,” “lunch pail with fresh fruit” and a “box of oranges.” And the L.A. Times has a list of which lawmakers went to a lavish Maui conference last year.
• Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen wants the state to move to a nonpartisan primary process, reports KFBK.