Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 25, 2013
CSU audit dings globe-trotting employee for suspect spending


An internal audit by the California State University reveals a pattern of questionable travel expenses by an employee in the university's risk management division, including a tour of a giraffe center in Kenya, excessive lodging costs at hotels in London and Tel Aviv and brief overnight stays in San Francisco, St. Louis and New York City that left no time for conducting business in those cities.

The university's Risk Management Authority, based at the Chancellor's Office in Long Beach, is responsible for assessing the liability of running educational programs around the world, said CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. Some international travel, he said, is a legitimate part of the job.

But the audit conducted in late 2012 and released on Wednesday uncovered travel expenses that "were often questionable in terms of their appropriateness and business necessity and did not always appear to have clear or demonstrable benefit to... the university," says a statement from CSU.

"Many of the ineligible or questionable expenditures have already been reimbursed by the employee, and the university is currently reviewing further appropriate action," the statement says.

The audit does not identify the employee. Uhlenkamp said the person remains on the CSU payroll. The university web site lists eight employees in the Risk Management Authority.

The audit says the employee incurred close to $159,000 in travel expenses during a 27-month period from July 2010 to September 2012. It does not say what portion of those expenses were inappropriate but points to several examples that were questionable or wasteful. Among them:

July 25, 2013
Census Bureau tool shows California's congressional contrasts

censusmap.pngCalifornia's 51st Congressional District, stretching along the state's border with Mexico, is nearly 70 percent Latino, its median household income is $38,528 a year, fewer than two-thirds of its residents have high school diplomas and just 13.2 percent are college graduates.

The 18th Congressional District lies 450 miles to the northwest, encompassing the San Francisco Peninsula and much of Silicon Valley. Fewer than 17 percent of its residents are Latino, they have median household incomes of $97,001 a year, 93.6 percent have high school diplomas and 57.3 percent have college degrees.

California is a land of great cultural, demographic and economic extremes and that extends to its 53 congressional districts as well, as a new Census Bureau interactive tool demonstrates.

Data about the characteristics of every congressional district in the nation - although not political data - are instantly available on the site, making comparisons easy. About the only similarities between the 51st CD and the 18th CD is that both have virtually the same size populations, 717,000 or so, and both are represented by Democrats, first-termer Juan Vargas in the 51st and 20-year veteran Anna Eshoo in the 18th.

July 25, 2013
Ballot measure filed to raise California's medical damages cap


The drive to lift California's cap on medical damages could be going to the ballot box.

A coalition that includes Consumer Watchdog and theConsumer Attorneys of California has been lobbying aggressively this year to change a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. They argue the current limit, put in place by the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, is outdated and insufficient to cover the prolonged affects of doctor negligence or botched medical procedure.

Now Consumer Watchdog is overseeing a proposed ballot measure filed by proponent Robert S. Pack, whose two children were killed by a driver impaired by prescription drugs given to him by irresponsible doctors, according to Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court.

"He sued Kaiser and found out that his kids' life was worth $250,000 each, simply because he was suing a doctor," Court said.

July 25, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Democratic supermajority in jeopardy

Even with votes still left to count in SD16, it looks as though Democrats' supermajority in the Senate is increasingly shaky, Dan says. Note that Dan refers to Democrats having 28 seats after the Vidak win. He's assuming that Dems will ultimately pick up the vacancy created by Curren Price going to the Los Angeles City Council.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

July 25, 2013
AM Alert: California's mental health services examined


A topic close to the heart of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg- mental health - is the focus of a significant amount of public agency activity today.

The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, created by voters in 2004 via Proposition 63, meets in San Francisco to discuss integrating mental health care -- in particular for substance abusers -- into a statewide health care regime. Experts expected to testify include Barbara Garcia, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health; Sandra Naylor Goodwin, president of the California Institute for Mental Health; and Deputy Chief Louise Rogers of the San Mateo County health system.

The California Health Facilities Financing Authority also meets to discuss how to disperse millions of dollars in grants to help counties bolster their mental health services. That comes courtesy of Steinberg-spearheaded budget legislation signed earlier this year that seeks to invest more money in community-based mental health services and crisis response teams.

VIDEO: Andy Vidak's victory in the 16th Senate district sets off some electoral dominoes, Dan Walters says.

FIELD POLL: The latest in a series of Field Polls is out, examining California's relationship with potential presidential contender Hillary Clinton. The analysis is up online, and you can take a look at the data here.

TALKING TAXES: Much of the discussion of California's taxes is framed in terms of the Golden State's tax rates relative to those of other states (we're looking at you, Rick Perry and Phil Mickelson). A talk today by Professor Darien Shanske of UC Davis will take a look at the fiscal issues particular to different states, including a deeper dive into local finances throughout California. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K Street.

STEM-CELL SCIENCE: The Independent Citizens Oversight Committee of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which has faced scrutiny over the process by which it awards grants, meets in Burlingame from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Among other topics, they'll examine their policy around compensating stem cell donors.

PHOTO: The exterior of the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center photographed Wednesday, September 30, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Carl Costas.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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