Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 4, 2013
Californians divided on health care reform


Californians fracture along partisan lines when asked about federal health care reform, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll finds.

While 60 percent of California Democrats reported a favorable view of the law, only 13 percent of Republicans hold that view, against a resounding 80 percent who rejected it. Independents were more mixed, with 40 percent approving, 51 percent disapproving and nine percent saying they didn't know.

The sum of those results: Californians are evenly divided on the sweeping new reordering of American health care, with an identical 44 percent supporting and backing it, according to the poll.

Those who don't have health insurance, the main demographic targeted by the law, also appeared more likely to be supportive: 50 percent of Californians lacking insurance support the law against 43 percent saying they viewed it unfavorably. Those with insurance registered an even 43-43 split.

In sharp contrast to Republican-led states that have resisted the new law, refusing to expand Medicaid or declining to set up their own health insurance exchanges, deeply Democratic California has enthusiastically forged ahead in laying the groundwork.

That has meant, among other things, that California's health insurance enrollment rates have outstripped the woeful signup numbers on the federal exchange and some state exchanges. Residents of the state are largely aware of the state exchange, named Covered California: 68 percent affirmed that a California marketplace exists, against 14 percent who said there is not a state exchange and 18 percent who said they didn't know.

PHOTO: A Sacramento State student looks at a pamphlet with information on Covered California on Thusrday, October 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

December 4, 2013
California lawmaker seeks investigation of Republican health care website


Adding his voice to a rising chorus of criticism, a Democratic assemblyman called on Wednesday for a legislative investigation of a health care website created by California Republicans.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, became the latest California Democrat to assail a website he says Assembly Republicans created to amplify critiques of the law, rather than help Californians enroll in insurance via Covered California, the state's newly operational exchange. Gomez has sent the Assembly Rules Committee a letter asking them to investigate.

In a statement released earlier Wednesday, California Democratic Party Chair John Burton said the website demonstrated "Republicans in California have no qualms about following their national Party's lead when it comes to spreading misinformation about the Affordable Care Act."

A click on the site's "I don't have insurance" tab - much larger than a small box linking to the Covered California site that was not initially on the main page - leads to information about IRS penalties for consumers who don't obtain coverage. The main page displays links to articles about people losing their health insurance or their doctors.

December 4, 2013
Stan Dixon leaves California forestry board after 14-plus years


Stan Dixon, the longest-serving member of the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, left the panel Wednesday as his term expired.

Dixon, a former Ferndale mayor and Humboldt County supervisor, was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 1999. He continued serving under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown.

An Assembly resolution presented at Wednesday's board meeting praised Dixon for his "valuable leadership" and "superb ability to work with a diverse group of people in order to forge solutions to the challenges faced by the board."

Dixon and other forestry board members were thrust into the spotlight after the 2011 state budget, with Brown's support, included a $150 fire-prevention fee in rural areas. The legislation put the forestry board in charge of crafting the regulations to carry out the controversial charge.

Dixon strongly opposed the fee, blaming "the greedy Legislature" for demanding the money.

"The way this thing came down was totally wrong," he said in January 2012, when he was one of two no votes against the board's proposed regulations. Opponents have gone to court to overturn the fee.

Dixon did not seek reappointment to the board, according to the governor's office. Brown has yet to name a replacement for Dixon.

Editor's note: This post was updated to reflect information from the governor's office.

PHOTO: Stan Dixon, a member of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, receives an Assembly resolution Wednesday commemorating his service from Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata. Photo provided by State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection

December 4, 2013
Nancy Skinner preparing workplace protection bill for unpaid interns

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for skinner.JPGAssemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, announced Tuesday that she plans to introduce a bill in January protecting unpaid interns from workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment.

The legislation aims to close a gap in workplace protections for those who do not receive wages. Both California and federal laws on the subject currently extend only to those considered paid employees.

The issue gained national attention this fall when a federal court in New York ruled that an intern could not sue her former employer for sexual harassment because she had not been compensated for her work.

In June, Oregon became the first state to pass legislation protecting unpaid interns from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner D-Berkeley during the first day of session at the Capitol. on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 . The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

December 4, 2013
Neel Kashkari puts personal wealth at less than $5 million

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is laying the groundwork for a campaign for governor next year, said Wednesday that his personal assets total less than $5 million and that he cannot self-fund a campaign.

Kashkari, who is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, said he has met with nearly 700 potential donors throughout the country. He said Brown is "going to have more resources than all the Republican candidates combined" but suggested some donors may be willing to contribute to improve the party's standing in a Democratic state.

"A lot of donors think that Jerry Brown is, if not impossible to beat, very hard to beat, but a lot of donors say we need to make the Republican Party the party of economic opportunity," Kashkari said in an interview.

Kashkari played a central role in implementing the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration. He said that if he runs he will do so to "shine a spotlight on the millions of people who are being left behind," focusing on poverty and education.

"I want the Republican Party to be the party that's really fighting for the poor, the party that's really fighting to give minority groups a fair chance," he said. "But again, the solution is not more welfare, the solution is not social programs, the solution is real economic opportunity, empowering people."

December 4, 2013
Ridley-Thomas win adds to California Assembly Democratic edge


It was a foregone conclusion that a special election for an open 54th Assembly district seat would fortify the Democratic majority in the Assembly. The only question was which candidate would emerge from an all-Democratic field.

Voters answered that question decisively on Tuesday, electing Sebastian Ridley-Thomas by a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff. Ridley-Thomas secured 60 percent of the vote.

Fittingly, Ridley-Thomas serves as an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, whose July departure from the Legislature after winning election to the city council ultimately opened up the 54th Assembly district. Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, slid over to the Senate after winning Price's old seat and in doing so vacated her old 54th district post.

After Ridley-Thomas is sworn in, the Legislature will be one seat short of full capacity after months of special elections, just in time for the 2014 legislative session to begin (Sen. Bill Emmerson recently made the surprise announcement he would step down). Democrats have cemented two-thirds majorities in both houses, allowing them to conduct business without any Republican votes.

The son of former state Sen. and Assemblyman and current Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas pulled in nearly $650,000 in campaign contributions over the course of 2013.

PHOTO: Sebastian Ridley-Thomas celebrates his win with his father Mark on December 3, 2013. By Leroy Hamilton for the Sebastian Ridley-Thomas for Assembly Campaign.

December 4, 2013
AM Alert: Chris Christie emerges as (very) early favorite in California


Those of you who subscribe to our Capitol Alert Insider app learned this last night, but: three years out from the next presidential election, California Republicans now who they like best at this point.

Predicting the outcome of elections well in advance is a losing game, of course - the 2012 Republican field's candidate-of-the-week leaderboard fluctuations prove that - but it seems fitting that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie represents, for now, the best choice for the California GOP.

Christie may be looked upon with unease by the tea party-inflected right, but that dynamic doesn't seem to be working against him in California. His status as the top choice of registered Republicans and Democrats alike emerges in a poll that shows a plurality of California Republicans simultaneously believing the tea party is a positive force and registering that the movement undermines the chances of Republican Congressional candidates. You can read more about California's perspective on the Republican field here.

VIDEO: Meanwhile, President Obama's numbers are on the wane in California - something Dan Walters says doesn't bode well for Democrats in 2014.

BONDING: The Assembly water bond tour continues today. Assemblymembers Brian Dahle, Mariko Yamada, Adam Gray and Anthony Rendon - chair of the working group and author of a $6.5 bond measure - will be in Redding today to discuss the proposal. Local voices will include representatives of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Third District Agricultural Association, the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority and the Sites Reservoir Joint Powers Authority. From 1:30 p.m. at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors chambers.

EMISSIONS MISSION: As California strives to reduce its emissions, low and zero-emission vehicles offer a crucial way to clear the air. But getting those cars on the road is only one part; ensuring there are sufficient public charging stations to make the vehicles viable also represents an obstacle, one that an Assembly Transportation Committee hearing will examine today.

Witnesses will include Denise Tyrrell of the California Public Utilities Commission, Analisa Bevan of the California Air Resources Board, Jim McGowan of the California Building Standards Commission and Jacob Lieb of the Southern California Association of Governments, in addition to representatives from
Southern California Edison, the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Starting at 10:30 a.m. in the Long Beach City Council chambers.

PRISON PRISM: It will be a Bay Area-dominated day at an Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment hearing in San Francisco today. Witnesses will include Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus, Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee of San Francisco Superior Court and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in New York on June 27, 2013. Associated Press/Julio Cortez.

December 4, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Obama's declining popularity could hurt California Dems

In the latest Field Poll, California voters expressed increasing disapproval of President Barack Obama's job performance. That could hurt Democrats' chances of maintaining legislative supermajorities in next year's election, Dan says.

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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