Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 14, 2013
Opt-out efforts won't play in California, insurance chief says

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The chief of California's health insurance marketplace said he has no concerns about advertising campaigns designed to derail the federal health care law, arguing there is no "echo chamber" for such efforts in the Golden State.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee has been crisscrossing the state for roughly two dozen town hall meetings and said he has been heckled just once - by an individual speaking out against U.S. intervention in Syria.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board Monday, Lee said the policies behind the health care overhaul were embraced by officials from both major political parties. Political roots of the law involve former Republican governors Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, he said.

"The fight over it today I really think is not really about the underlining policies. It's the fight over not liking the president, Obama, and wanting to play for Congress," Lee said, adding that the law adheres to market solutions and provides consumer choice.

Lee was responding to a question about whether he fears conservative marketing campaigns urging potential consumers, particularly young, health people to "opt-out of the health care law would have any sway with Californians. Among the efforts is the now-viral online advertisement from a group with financial ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

"I don't think the Koch brothers are going to spend a dime on having ads run in California," Lee said.

PHOTO: Peter V. Lee in his office in Sacramento on Dec. 11. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

October 14, 2013
Covered Calif.: Doctor, hospital directory release premature

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Officials with the state's health insurance marketplace acknowledged prematurely releasing an online directory of doctors and hospitals on Tuesday, a week after opening enrollment for its version of the federal health care overhaul.

Covered California removed the directory within a day of release after discovering it was plagued by inaccuracies and sluggish performance. The search tool was designed to allow customers to determine whether their providers were included in health plans offered by the exchange.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board Monday, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the directory never should have been launched.

"Staff needs to do a better job of reining me in," Lee said. "I want to have great customer service and I push us to get stuff out there. But I and we need to be careful about not pushing too fast. That was an example of actually being out there too fast."

Lee said early criticism of the online federal marketplace and to a lesser degree the state exchange often fails to consider the rollout efforts involve implementing a massive system without what many in the private-sector would consider appropriate time for testing.

He described the directory as "best practice" in the corporate world and lamented that its late arrival and temporary removal were making news despite the state marketplace's comparatively smooth launch.

"Shame on us for stating that's how high of a bar we want to set up for ourselves for customer service," he said. "But if that's as bad as it gets, I am feeling pretty good."

The exchange anticipates reintroducing the directory within a week.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, speaks to members of the media during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 14, 2013
Jerry Brown finishes bills for the year, signing nearly 9 in 10

20110914_ha_jerry_brown_bills_31994.JPGGov. Jerry Brown was reviewing bills in the courtyard outside his Capitol office one day this month when, during a break, he lamented the time required by "these damn bills" and suggested his inclination to sign many more of them was waning.

The economy, global warming and water and high-speed rail infrastructure all demanded his attention, he said.

"Those are all big issues," Brown said, "and then on top of that you have the endless desire of the Legislature for more and more activities or interventions or spending or law."

As Brown looked over to a table where a stack of bills and his advisers were waiting, he remarked on the Legislature's "pent-up desire" and said, "Going forward, there could be more 'No's.'"

In the following days the Democratic governor would veto legislation to ban the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons and to make some drug crimes "wobblers." He vetoed 12 bills on Saturday, including a measure to extend the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims, and on Sunday he vetoed 18 more.

But for all his complaints about the deluge of legislation, by the time Brown finished acting on this year's legislation, he had accommodated the Democratic-controlled Legislature on all but about 11 percent of the bills it sent him.

The final count for the year, according to the governor's office: 800 regular session bills signed, 96 rejected.

Over the course of his career, the third-term governor has now signed more than 13,500 regular session bills.

After the final bills were dispatched on Sunday, Brown's press office posted a photograph on Twitter of Brown's desk. The chair was empty, a pen left behind.

"Festina Lente," the tweet said, or make haste slowly.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to sign a bill on Sept. 16, 2011, near his office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 14, 2013
AM Alert: Little Hoover report examines public higher education

AOC_CityCollege_052w.JPGBy the time you read this, Gov. Jerry Brown will have capped his pen and finished presiding over the transformation of bills into laws or failed legislation.

Until the Legislature reconvenes in January, we'll have to occupy ourselves with the implementation of those laws, Capitol fundraisers, state agencies and the occasional special election.Today, higher education takes the spotlight.

The Little Hoover Commission meets today to consider final release of a sweeping new report on public higher education in California. Twelve months in the making, the report looks at repercussions of declining state funding and calls on the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to construct a new framework incorporating new technology and boosting graduation numbers in the California State University system and at community colleges. The meeting starts at 11 a.m. at the Legislative Counsel's Office in Sacramento.

VIDEO: Despite the broad support for facilitating teacher firing, another dismissal bill has failed -- a clear sign, Dan Walters says, of dysfunction in Sacramento.

WHITHER PARKS? In other state-bureaucracy news, this week brings the Parks Forward initiative, introduced against the backdrop of Department of Parks and Recreation turmoil, particularly on the financial end. The group will be conducting meetings and gathering input throughout southern California this week, starting today in San Diego and ending up in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.

BROWN OUT (OF SACRAMENTO): His bill-signing duties discharged, the governor will be in Los Angeles this morning to attend the grand opening of a new exhibit on Anne Frank at the Museum of Tolerance. Things kick off at 11:30 a.m. (After all, he did say earlier this month that he wants to get a "real-world feel" of the state he governs.)

STEM CELLS: The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state entity tasked with regulating stem cell research, is co-hosting a major confab of industry types, academics and researchers in La Jolla over the next three days. Speaking will be Jonathan Thomas, chair of the governing board for the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee that governs the agency.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who turns 61 today.

PHOTO: A student looks over a textbook while waiting for class to begin on the first day of school at Sacramento City College on Aug. 24, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Payne.

October 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California teacher termination bill tanks

Once again, Dan says, California has failed to enact a law making it easier for school districts to ax bad teachers.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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