Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

August 8, 2013
Covered California delays offering 'embedded' dental plans

RP_COLUSA_DENTAL_WORK.JPGBoard members of the California Health Benefit Exchange voted Thursday to delay soliciting bids for medical plans that include pediatric dental care until next year.

Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, has said it will offer five stand-alone pediatric dental plans for 2014 as well as what's called a "bundled" plan in which insurers pair a stand-alone dental plan with a medical plan.

Critics have argued that Covered California should also offer so-called "embedded" pediatric dental plans that are included in medical plans.

But Leesa Tori, senior adviser for plan management, told the board at its special meeting that too many questions remain for the exchange to offer embedded pediatric dental plans before 2015.

August 8, 2013
Bill to let non-citizens work at California polls heads to governor

pollworkers.JPGA bill that would allow legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to serve as poll workers is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after passing its final vote Thursday.

After some partisan discussions, the Assembly agreed to technical amendments made in the Senate to Assembly Bill 817 by Democrat Rob Bonta of Alameda.

AB 817 would allow an election official to appoint up to five people who are not U.S. citizens to serve as poll workers at each precinct. The non-citizens would have to be lawful permanent residents who meet all the other requirements for being eligible to vote except for citizenship.

Bonta said the measure would increase language access for voters.

"There are nearly 3 million citizens who are fully eligible to vote and not English proficient," Bonta said.

"We have a shortage of multilingual poll workers in the state of California," he added. "There has to be language access at the polls."

Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto said she didn't buy into that logic.

"Let's keep in mind what poll workers can and cannot do," Olsen told fellow Assembly members during floor debate. "Poll workers cannot go into a voting booth with a voter, cannot read the ballot to the voter, cannot help them understand what they are voting on."

August 8, 2013
Auditor: California mismanaging federal voting funds

20121106_AOC_YoloVote_142w.JPGConfusing and inconsistent direction from the California Secretary of State's Office has led the state to misuse millions of federal dollars earmarked to improve voting systems, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Widespread allegations of uneven vote-counting practices accompanied the 2000 presidential election, which the U.S Supreme Court effectively decided. The Help America Vote Act, enacted two years later, allocated money for states to train poll workers and update their voting systems -- in some cases, counties continued to rely on punch-card systems.

California received more than $380 million, according to the auditor's report. But the state's methods for distributing that money were plagued by murky standards and a lack of clarity about whether counties could use new voting systems, State Auditor Elaine Howle's office found. At least $22 million went to new voting machinery, like touch-screens, that counties ended up mothballing.

"Some counties have collectively spent millions of federal HAVA funds on voting systems they cannot fully use," the report reads. "Under state law, counties cannot purchase new voting systems unless such systems have been approved by the secretary of state. However, different secretaries of state have reached different conclusions on the suitability of counties using certain voting systems."

The audit was requested by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state in 2014.

In an interview, spokeswoman Shannan Velayas argued that California has led the nation in tackling voting issues and pointed to a comprehensive review of voting regulations that current Secretary of State Debra Bowen called for when she took office in 2007.

August 8, 2013
California student test scores slip for first time in several years

By Phillip Reese

After years of steady increases, student test scores slipped slightly across California last year, a shift that education leaders blamed on budget cuts and changing curriculum standards.

About 51.2 percent of students performed at the proficient level or better on STAR math tests last year, down from 51.5 percent the prior year. Proficiency levels on language arts tests fell from 57.2 percent to 56.4 percent.

Previously, math test scores had increased for five straight years and language arts scores had increased for eight straight years.

State leaders tried to put a positive spin on the numbers, noting that far more students test proficient today than a decade ago.

"The big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a release.

August 8, 2013
AM Alert: How does technology affect California students?

20120426_PK_FORTUNE_0182.JPGHow does the Internet affect what California kids experience in school, from classroom learning to the hazards of cyberbullying? The answer gains importance given the technology-related standards running through the Common Core curriculum for which schools have been allocated $1 billion. Members of Congress, education officials and state lawmakers tackle the topic today during a Comcast-sponsored symposium at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Speakers include Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Marc Levine; Carlos Ramos, director of the California Department of Technology; U.S. Reps. Jerry McNerney and Doris Matsui; and Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Steve Ladd.

VIDEO: Judging by the hearings that the Legislature convenes, Dan Walters concludes the state's public safety priorities are crooked.

DELTA DOLLARS: Bay Delta Conservation Plan plan watchers got some economic answers with the release last week of a study trumpeting the project's potential economic upsides, although critics immediately assailed the report's methods and assumptions. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan's finance working group will review the findings at a 9 a.m. meeting at West Sacramento's Civic Center Galleria.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: A day after announcing that it had solidified agreements with insurance companies that will soon be offering health plans to Californians, the state's burgeoning new insurance marketplace will meet today to hammer out details on, among other things, dental benefits to be included in plans. Starting at 9 a.m. at the Fair Political Practices Commission building on J Street.

TORLAKSON ON TESTS: One of California's major benchmarks for students progress is the Standardized Testing and Reporting Standards, or STAR, tests kids take each year. Today State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will review how students performed on the 2013 version. Torlakson will provide a briefing at the California Department of Education building at 11 a.m.

MINORITY REPORT: The Assembly Select Committee on Status of Boys and Men of Color in California convenes from 1 to 4 p.m. today to discuss policy approaches focusing on young men of color in California. Those expected to testify include Daniel Zingale of The California Endowment; Brian Nelson from the Attorney General's office; Tim Rainey, director of the California Workforce Investment Board; and Eleanor Silva, associate director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Ahead of the hearing, state lawmakers on the committee will attend a breakfast at the Sheraton Grand along with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Campbell Mayor Evan Low, Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

TWITTER TALK: UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin recently made history as the first Muslim appointed as student regent-designate to the University of California Board of Regents. Saifuddin takes to the Twitter-verse this afternoon at the handle @She_Shares to talk about her plans. The live Twitter chat, produced by Sacramento's Dewey Square Group, will run from 3 to 3:30 p.m. at this link.

PHOTO: Kindergarten students reads book, including on the computer, at Fortune Charter School in Sacramento, Calif., April 26, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr..

August 8, 2013
Dan Walters: Assembly's priorities on public safety are puzzling

With California facing a U.S. Supreme Court directive to release more prisoners, the Assembly Public Safety Committee held a hearing on ... drones? Dan is confused.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


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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