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.

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).

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.

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.

Members of Congress Slam Brown's Peripheral Tunnel Plan

Dan BacherBy Dan Bacher

On the banks of the Sacramento River less than a mile from the State Capitol on May 30, five Members of Congress from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region held a press conference to blast the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels and the lack of input afforded their constituents.

As the Representatives spoke, adult spring run Chinook salmon and American shad, fish whose very existence is threatened by the peripheral tunnels, migrated up the system to their spawning grounds. Meanwhile, juvenile fall run Chinook salmon, including 3 million released into the river by the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in May, made their way downriver to the ocean.

Garcetti, Backed by Tenant Groups, Wins L.A. Mayor's Race

By Randy Shaw

Eric Garcetti has won a 53%-46% victory in the Los Angeles mayor's race following a tough campaign against Wendy Greuel. Greuel sought to become the city's first female mayor, but was a bland candidate from the Valley who failed to energize women voters. Although the media framed the candidates as ideologically similar - the New York Times claimed they "did little to differentiate themselves on major issues like jobs and the city budget" - the city's big landlord and realtor groups backed Greuel, while tenant groups like the Coalition for Economic Survival supported Garcetti. Greuel pledged to decimate the city's vastly improved housing code enforcement program, while Garcetti has long backed tenants and affordable housing. I wrote on April 3 that Greuel faced an "uphill battle," and that New York City's Christine Quinn, another real estate-backed moderate woman candidate, had a greater chance of success. Quinn's chances still look good, particularly because she does not face an opponent as strong as Garcetti.

Paying the Debt of War

By Rev. Jim Conn

Some 53 percent of Americans say that the second Iraq war was a mistake. A recent Los Angeles Times article asked if the war brought change for the better. But no one asks what that war cost this country. The first trillion dollars we spent on it was only a down payment on what experts have estimated to be probably two trillion or more that we will spend over the next few decades to take care of America's wounded and maimed. Our taxes provide care for those veterans, but both parties regularly propose cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs as a quick fix to balance the federal budget.

Building Transportation Infrastructure in a Broken Political System

By Robert Cruickshank

Over at his blog, Alon Levy has an interesting post calling for more democracy in the planning and authorization of transportation infrastructure. Levy points to Switzerland as an example of a political system where transportation projects are routinely put to a referendum and the results are generally positive. He contrasts that with the California high speed rail project, which he argues was the product of a flawed political process:

I've begun to believe that California's original sin with its HSR project is that it refused to do the same. Prop 1A was a referendum for what was billed as one third of the cost, $10 billion. In reality it was $9 billion and $1 billion in extra funds for connecting local transit; in year of expenditure dollars the estimated budget then was $43 billion, so barely a fifth of the project's cost was voted on. The HSR Authority planned on getting the rest of the money from federal funding and private-sector funding. Prop 1A even required a 1:1 match from an external source, so confident the Authority was that it would get extra money.