June 2013


Gov. Brown Signs Historic Medi-Cal Expansion with State Budget

Anthony WrightBy Anthony Wright

Yesterday, calling it a "big day for school kids, and a big day for Californians who don't have health care," Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2013-14 state budget along with 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.

For Marriage Equality, It Took a Movement

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

The Supreme Court's striking down DOMA and Prop 8 sent a powerful message about the ongoing power of grassroots movements to bring about social change. These rulings could not have come a decade ago. Then, even campaigns for domestic partnerships and civil unions were politically controversial. But the broader activist struggle for marriage equality brought the courts along, just as the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's brought legal rulings to support that struggle.

AB 880: "Walmart Loophole" Bill Faces Vote This Week

Steve SmithBy Steve Smith

When AB 880 comes up for a vote this week in the California Assembly, lawmakers will be given a rare (and dare we say golden) opportunity. California has the chance to lead the nation in ensuring that large corporations like Walmart pay their fair share of health care costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Because of what's known as the "Walmart Loophole," large corporations are able to skirt their responsibility by pushing workers onto taxpayer-funded Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Walmart's army of accountants knows exactly how to reduce the company's costs by violating the spirit of the ACA: just cut workers' hours and wages low enough, and taxpayers pick up the tab for health care - while Walmart gets off scot-free.

Responding to Climate Change: Praise for Obama, Pride in California

Sarah RoseBy Sarah Rose
California League of Conservation Voters

Like many Californians, I watched President Obama's announcement yesterday of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change with a great deal of pride in his leadership and in our state for leading the way on climate solutions. President Obama's plan begins to meet our moral obligation to protect future generations from climate change. The President's decision to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants is particularly important and is inspired in part by California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Currently, there are no limits on carbon pollution from our nation's power plants despite the fact that they are its number one source.

AB 889: California Must Act Now to Help Thousands with Debilitating Health Conditions

Dr. Wesley MizutaniBy Dr. Wesley Mizutani

Advances in modern medicine have precipitated a revolution in the treatment of chronic health conditions. Californians diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, are no longer given the expectation that the progressive disability will end in a wheelchair.

Californians will only reap the benefits of these scientific breakthroughs, however, if the state Senate takes common-sense action now to ensure that all patients can have access to the treatments their doctors think best.

Does Industry Have a Future in the Bay Area?

Zelda BronsteinBy Zelda Bronstein

In recent weeks a broad array of progressives has rallied opposition to Plan Bay Area, a state-mandated proposal to reduce the region's carbon emissions and still accommodate massive increases in jobs and population by encouraging dense infill development close to transit, i.e. Smart Growth. Drafted by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Plan Bay Area claims to "be taking equity into account." However, the plan's own assessment concedes that its implementation "could result in residential or business disruption or displacement of substantial numbers of existing population and housing," and that those who cannot pay the "higher prices resulting from increased demand" for new housing and commercial space will be forced out.

California Schools: New State, Federal Strategies Flawed, Familiar

Lisa SchiffBy Lisa Schiff

Almost as much has happened in the two weeks since public schools let out for the summer than in the entire second semester. In the first part of June, a revised version of federal education policy was introduced in the Senate and a California state budget has all but passed that includes dramatic funding changes for our state's schools.

Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

A terrible formula has taken hold:
warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

How Taxpayers Foot Walmart's Bills

Allison MannosBy Allison Mannos

Walmart's expansion strategy for Los Angeles and other urban areas has been to avoid public oversight by choosing real estate that doesn't require public review - and, where possible, to secure public subsidies, often with little public scrutiny.

Barred from Federal Programs, DREAMers May Qualify for Medi-Cal

Viji SundaramBy Viji Sundaram

For years, DREAMer Rodrigo Perea, 18, lived under a threatening cloud of deportation. Now, Perea has legal permission to live and work in the U.S. - but until recently he was still in the dark about the low-income health programs he qualifies for.

He's not alone. Thousands of immigrants, and even many health care advocates in California who work with young immigrants, are unaware that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may qualify for state-funded-only Medi-Cal, identical in every way to the full scope federal and state funded program that shares the name.

"Avalanche" of Lawsuits Hit DSC Over Bay Delta Plan

Dan BacherBy Dan Bacher

The North Coast Rivers Alliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Associations and Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe on Friday, June 14, filed a lawsuit against the Delta Plan approved recently by the Delta Stewardship Council.

Attorney Stephan C. Volker filed the litigation in the Sacramento County Superior Court, charging that the Delta Plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009 and the Public Trust Doctrine.

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.