Dramatic Day of Debate and Decision on Medi-Cal Expansion and the State Budget

Anthony WrightBy Anthony Wright

Saturday, the California Legislature passed historic legislation to expand Medi-Cal to over one million Californians, as well as key budget trailer bills that restore many dental services to over three million Californians and other key improvements in Medi-Cal.

The bills the Legislature passed included the major Medi-Cal expansion bills (AB1x1/SB1x1), and budget bills such as the main health trailer bill that includes the restorations to dental and other benefits (SB77/AB82), the reallocation of county safety-net dollars (SB80/AB85), and another to reinstitute the Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax to help fund health in the budget (SB78/AB83).

California HSR Clears Last Regulatory Hurdle, Groundbreaking Set for This Summer

By Robert Cruickshank

Congressional Republicans and others opposed to the California high speed rail project had been hoping the Surface Transportation Board would give them a big win and block construction of the HSR project this summer. But that won’t be happening. Instead the STB has ruled in favor of the California HSR project, granting the section from Merced to Fresno an exemption from STB approval rules.

Can Elites Convince Victims of Top-Down Policies to Blame Themselves?

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

In The Unwinding, New Yorker political writer George Packer argues that elite-driven economic policies have negatively "unwound" the lives of millions of Americans. This view is hardly uncommon, yet the June 9, 2013 Sunday New York Times Book Review found a reviewer - Republican and Times columnist David Brooks - to deny that the nation's elite have "failed." Brooks claims the elite "comes from the finest universities" and is the most "diverse" and "equal opportunity" elite in history - a defense of elite rule and polices that could come from a Jon Stewart parody.

State Budget Deal Undermines Voters on Climate Change

Sarah RoseBy Sarah Rose
California League of Conservation Voters

California voters expect our leaders to make timely investments in activities that fight climate change, create jobs, and improve the environment and public health. Each time the question of whether our state should invest in climate change solutions and a clean energy economy is put to a vote of the people, including Proposition 39, they overwhelmingly vote "yes." And yet today, our elected leaders have delayed the investment in the future that Californians have said they want. This is a particular insult to voters that the Governor used the passage of Prop 39 last November - which should have made our efforts to fight climate change more robust - as an excuse to borrow the revenue.

End Enterprise Zone Abuse: Support Gov. Brown's Good Jobs Proposal

By Steve Smith

You've probably seen the stories by now: Enterprise zone tax breaks, which are supposed to provide incentives for good jobs, are instead going to strip clubs and low-wage mega corporations like Walmart.

The current enterprise zone program is shrouded in secrecy, with virtually no accountability or transparency. Study after study shows the program is a massive failure, wasting $750 million a year without doing much of anything to create new jobs.

Twenty-Five Ideas for Mayor Garcetti

Peter DreierBy Peter Dreier

Eric Garcetti has enormous potential to be one of L.A.'s great mayors. He is young (just 42), full of energy, experienced in politics and government, passionate about L.A., brimming with policy ideas, compassionate toward the disadvantaged and a great communicator and explainer. I saw many of these traits up-close when I co-taught a course with him at Occidental College in 2000, and have watched him blossom as he joined the City Council and served as its president.

Now he faces the daunting challenges of running America's second-biggest, and most diverse, city.

Justice in California: Raising Victims' Voices

By Lizzie Buchen

Flipping through this year's proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims' rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU's dominance in the media and in Sacramento, a new survey reveals that the group does not represent the majority of crime victims - who they are, what they need, or how they think about public safety.

Bradley Manning is Guilty of "Aiding the Enemy" - if the Enemy is Democracy

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious - and revealing - is "aiding the enemy."

A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:

  • "Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government?"
  • "In that case, who is aiding the enemy - the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?"

When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can't stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head.

Bringing Worker Power to the State Capitol

Angie WeiBy Angie Wei

Legislative deadline weeks in the Capitol usually bring out all of the well-heeled suits representing a cacophony of corporate interests. Every industry's got a lobbyist (or several) moving a bill or killing a bill at this time of year. The "gate" - where lobbyists can request to see a Senator or Assemblymember on a particular measure - is usually bursting with pinstriped suits.

As in politics, Labor is generally outnumbered at the gate. I'd say that at deadline time, it's at least a 25-to-1 ratio of corporate-side vs. union-side representatives. But that was not so on Tuesday, May 28th.

Debating Obamacare: How About Them Apples?

By Anthony Wright

The white hot spotlight on health reform in California continues. For the New York Times Room For Debate, we at Health Access were pleased to contribute an essay, "Obamacare is Working in California" as part of a package answering the question, "Is Obamacare Too Complicated to Succeed?" Here's part of our answer:

In fact, the law is a huge step toward a simpler and more straightforward system. One of the new insurance exchanges under the ACA, Covered California, will offer standardized plans to finally allow consumers and small businesses to make apples-to-apples comparisons among health plans.

The law will also provide subsidies so low- and moderate-income families can pay only a percentage of their income, on a sliding scale. It's a revolutionary change; premiums now can be based on what you can afford, rather than how sick you are.

Using its purchasing power, Covered California has just announced negotiated rates with a broad selection of plans - and there's good news: the rates are lower than expected. This is partially because California explicitly gave its insurance marketplace the power to bargain for the best price and value.