Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 2, 2013
California opens online enrollment for small business health care

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Add this to the list of Cyber Monday shopping possibilities: California small businesses can now self-enroll through the state health insurance exchange's online marketplace.

On Monday, Covered California launched the new function to allow owners of businesses with up to 50 employees to sign up for health care through the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, with coverage beginning Jan. 1.

In a statement, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said more than 1,500 small business owners already have explored their options since Oct. 1 — with some registering, checking eligibility or working with certified agents to obtain quotes.

California's latest launch contrasts sharply with the troubled rollout of the federally-run Healthcare.gov, the exchange for residents of three-dozen other states without state exchanges. On the eve of Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama announced a one-year delay for small-business signups through Healthcare.gov.

California's system now allows business owners to submit online applications at Coveredca.com and initiate electronic open enrollment for their employees.

Businesses may qualify for a federal tax credit, for example, if they have fewer than 25 full-time-equivalent employees, pay employees an average of less than $50,000 annually, and contribute at least one-half toward their employees' premium costs.

"The tax credits available to small business through Covered California make quality coverage more affordable," Lee said. "For example, a beauty shop with 10 full-time employees and total wages of $250,000 that purchases insurance through Covered California's SHOP may be eligible for a $35,000 tax credit in 2014.

"We know that the tax credit is meaningful for a lot of small business that have been struggling to obtain quality, affordable coverage for their employees."

SHOP's participating insurers are Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Chinese Community Health Plan, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

PHOTO: Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee speaks to the media in May 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

December 2, 2013
Phillip Ung to leave California Common Cause

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One of the capitol's most active political ethics and campaign-finance watchdogs is leaving his post as policy advocate at California Common Cause at year's end.

Beginning Jan. 1, Phillip Ung will become the director of public affairs at California Forward, leading the organization's Capitol efforts and "making sure their reform agenda is successful throughout the state," Ung told The Bee.

Ung's time at Common Cause coincided with major campaign finance and political ethics issues in the state. Common Cause was among the leading critics of nonprofit organizations' involvement in the political process.

Last year, the group spotted an $11 million contribution from a shadowy nonprofit opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative and supporting a measure that sought to weaken the political power of labor unions.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission in October announced a settlement with the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership for their participation in the network operated by the conservative Koch brothers.

Ung said he was proud of his participation in exposing "a lot of the inside 'dirty politics' in Sacramento," from special-interest junkets to the influence they exert through gifts to lawmakers. He also served as a spokesman for last year's Proposition 28, which revamped the state's term-limits law.

"There is still a lot of work to be done as it relates to California ethics," Ung said Monday. "I hope that the media and voters continue their work in exposing special- interest influence here in the state Capitol."

Ung began working for Common Cause in 2011, coming over from the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

PHOTO: Phillip Ung is the policy advocate for California Common Cause, a nonpartisan good government organization. He announced Monday, Dec. 2 that he is leaving the group at the end of the year. Photo provided by Ung.

December 2, 2013
Tony Strickland preparing another congressional run - in new district

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While many people were recovering from the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Tony Strickland was getting into position to succeed veteran Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, in the 25th Congressional District.

Early last month, Strickland said he believed McKeon needed to decide what he was going to do amid speculation that the 75-year-old would retire rather than seek a 12th term in Congress.

Strickland's filing Friday came after Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, announced plans to avenge Stickland's loss to freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the 26th Congressional District.

Strickland was among Gorell's early supporters, after making it clear he would seek McKeon's seat should he retire.

The 25th district is listed as "safe" by the Rothenberg Political Report-Roll Call.


25th Congressional District
(Click on map for registration information.)

Democrat Lee Rogers, who lost by nine points to McKeon in 2012, is running again.

This weekend, the Simi Valley podiatrist was readying his second challenge of McKeon, calling out the congressman for introducing a resolution nearly 15 years ago to stop a quarry in the Soledad Canyon area and apparently receiving little support.

PHOTO: Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, speaks about current status of the budget vote before the Senate took action again on the budget in February 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

December 2, 2013
AM Alert: Pay raises take effect

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Just in time for the holidays, California lawmakers have received a raise after years of reductions by the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

Also taking effect Sunday was the resignation of now-former state Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands. Gov. Jerry Brown has 14 days to call a special election to fill the vacancy in the Inland Empire seat.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, CalTech Director Carlos Ramos, and state Sen. Alex Padilla will join tech leaders this morning at a conference on technology and government. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Secretary of State's Office.

VIDEO: The snow's flying, and Dan Walters says Jerry Brown is running for re-election.

Casino groundbreaking: Gov. Jerry Brown will be at today's groundbreaking for the new Hawaiian Gardens Casino. The administration says the project is expected to create hundreds of jobs. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.

Menora lighting: Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez, D-Los Angeles, will be among those attending the 20th Annual Chanukah Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., with live music, children's games, and Chanukah gelt.


PHOTO: Gus Demas, fiscal officer of the California Assembly, addresses the California Citizens Compensation Commission in June shortly before the panel voted to grant a five percent raise for the state's 120 lawmakers and 12 constitutional officers. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer



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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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