Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 30, 2014
Doug Ose takes aim at health care law, rips high-speed rail


Former Rep. Doug Ose said he would repeal and replace the federal health care overhaul with a system that rewards healthy behavior and "puts the decision-making between a patient and a doctor."

"Obamacare offers options to consumers that essentially say you're going to take this, or this, or this, or this, and within those four options some of the services are available and some of them aren't," Ose told The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Wednesday.

He said too many individuals and families are losing their preferred doctors and the law does not provide incentives for people to live healthy lifestyles. Premium pricing, for example, does not differentiate between regular smokers or people who are overweight.

"I think that's a fundamentally flawed approach," Ose said. "Why should those of us who have made the right decision of not smoking or taking care of ourselves subsidize bad physical or bad health behavior in others?"

Asked about smokers and unhealthy people who may not be able to afford the higher monthly costs, he said "maybe they should stop smoking so they can - instead of spending their money on $8 packs of cigarettes." Ose did applaud Democrats for insisting those with preexisting health conditions not be denied coverage.

The health care law has been a key wedge issue heading into the midterm elections, with Ose and fellow Republicans Igor Birman and Elizabeth Emken using President Barack Obama's signature legislative effort to attack freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

Bera maintains he would have done things differently, but now that the law has been upheld by the courts and provided insurance for millions, lawmakers should make targeted fixes rather than scrap the new system entirely.

In the interview, Ose cast himself as the best fit for the district, saying he is the only candidate who went to kindergarten there. He also noted his opposition to the state's $68 billion high-speed rail system that endeavors to link Northern and Southern California, calling it a "boondoggle" and promising to unravel federal funding for the project.

"I would go to the appropriators and say we don't need to spend any federal money on high-speed rail in California," Ose said. Instead, he suggested "literally buy(ing) everybody lifetime passes on the airlines, or the Greyhound bus."

PHOTO: Congressional candidate Doug Ose speaking at a the Arden Arcade Rotary Club luncheon at Ruth's Chris Steak House on March 18 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

April 30, 2014
VIDEO: Cheryl Brown gets hoppy ending at Capitol Frog Jump

Brown_wins_frog_jump.jpgMortified by a picture of herself from last year's event that appeared on the front page of The Sacramento Bee, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, trained for redemption at Wednesday's 40th annual Capitol Frog Jump.

"I embraced the frog," she said, filling her office with amphibian paraphernalia to get in the right mindset.

Wearing a lucky bejeweled frog pin, Brown got her hoppy ending as her competitor, Larry B 2.0, traveled 10 feet, 11 inches in three bounds for the day's longest leap.

Jumping up and down, a thrilled Brown accepted a sparkly green trophy, which she said she will display "front and center" in her office for everyone to see, and an invitation to the finals of the Jumping Frog Jubilee on May 18 at the Calaveras County Fair.

The Capitol's annual contest, hosted this year by Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, brings together lawmakers, legislative staffers and members of the media to "jockey" frogs to the longest (or shortest) jump. Other winners included Jack Zwald of Capitol Morning Report, for the longest media jump at 9 feet, 4.5 inches, and Sandy Runyan of Caltrans and Jesse Rodriguez of the Senate Republican communications team, who tied for the shortest jump at 3 feet, 4.5 inches.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, won the 40th annual Capitol Frog Jump on April 30, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

April 30, 2014
UC Riverside is best college value, according to Time

UC_Riverside_night.jpgWhat college offers the best bang for your buck?

High school seniors and their parents face that difficult question annually, but Time magazine may have found the surprising answer: University of California, Riverside.

The campus is often overshadowed by flashier UC peers like Berkeley and Los Angeles, but it scored highest in a simulation of President Barack Obama's proposed college ratings scorecard.

Announced last August to much controversy, the system would assess metrics such as graduation rate, tuition costs and percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federal low-income scholarship, to determine which schools offer the best value.

Several other UC campuses ranked in the top ten on Time's list, including San Diego at #2, Irvine at #4 and Davis at #6. California State University, Long Beach placed tenth. (For comparison, Stanford University, which was the most selective college in the country this year, was 46th.)

So far, UC President Janet Napolitano, whom Obama appointed to head the Department of Homeland Security, has been an outspoken critic of the proposed ratings system.

"I am deeply skeptical that there are criteria that can be developed that are in the end meaningful, because there will be so many exceptions, once you get down to it," she told the Washington Post in December. "It's not like -- you know, you're not buying a car or a boat."

PHOTO: Courtesy of University of California, Riverside

April 30, 2014
California livestock antibiotics bill shelved


An Assembly bill curtailing the use of antibiotics on livestock is done for the year.

Drug-resistant bacteria have become an increasing threat, and public health researchers say the widespread use of antibiotics has helped bacteria develop resistance. Assembly Bill 1437 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, sought to ensure farmers and ranchers give their animals antibiotics mainly to treat illnesses, rather than for preventive reasons.

Mullin has now pulled his measure, saying he lacked the votes to advance it.

"Rather than weaken our bill with amendments which would not address the problem, we opted to table our bill for this session," Mullin said in a press release.

Proponents of Mullin's bill argue that food producers lace feed and water with antibiotics to promote weight gain and compensate for cramped, unsanitary conditions associated with mass meat production.

Agriculture industry critics have countered that producers need the flexibility to treat sick animals and prevent disease outbreaks. Numerous agricultural associations opposed Mullin's bill, including the Agricultural Council of California and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Still alive is a less far-reaching bill by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that would put into California law voluntary federal guidelines recommending that farms stop using antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes like weight gain.

PHOTO: Branded cattle from Mark Beck Livestock wait for branding of about 600 75 day-old cattle at Steffan Ranch on Thursday October 24, 2013 in Lodi, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

April 30, 2014
Jerry Brown won't answer multiple choice voter guide questions

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's high public approval rating and relatively safe re-election prospects have allowed the Democratic governor to run the barest of races, with no pressure to pay for advertising, to put on public events, or to otherwise take on the grind of a traditional campaign.

But the dearth of competition is also affording Brown another luxury -- not pinning himself down on issues typically aired in an election year.

The third-term governor has refused to complete a survey of gubernatorial candidates filled out by every other candidate in the race except one. Brown's campaign told The Bee -- which created the survey for its voter guide -- that he would explain his position on various issues, but not fill out multiple choice questions.

So Brown will not mark a box saying whether high-speed rail, which he supports, is very important or only somewhat important to him. Nor will he say if the state needs to spend more money on reservoirs, dams and other water storage facilities, or if California's current level of taxation is more or less than it should be.

"Some subjects require more explanation (than) checking boxes," a spokesman, Dan Newman, said, calling the exercise "simplistic and reductive."

Thirteen other candidates for governor, including Brown's main Republican opponents, submitted the form. Besides Brown, only Akinyemi O. Agbede, a little-known Democrat, have failed to do so.

Republican Tim Donnelly, whose campaign filled in all but one question about social services, criticized Brown in a prepared statement for refusing to "answer questions on the issues for the people who elected him," while Republican Neel Kashkari's campaign said Kashkari has "demonstrated his commitment to transparency."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 30, 2014
California's workers compensation benefits among lowest

workers.JPGCalifornia workers who suffer permanent, job-related injuries and illnesses are entitled to workers compensation payments that are among the lowest in the nation, an exhaustive state-by-state comparison reveals.

The voluminous report on state (and Canadian province) workers compensation benefits was issued Wednesday by the Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions.

While the report covers all cash, medical and therapy benefits, the disparity between California and other states in "permanent partial" disabilities is particularly evident and could fuel the Capitol's perennial political jousting over workers compensation costs and benefits.

The debate almost always focuses on the "permanent partial" aspect of the multi-billion-dollar, employer-financed program because it is the most prevalent and cumulatively most expensive of the various benefits.

Roughly once a decade, the Legislature overhauls the multi-billion-dollar system, and it last occurred in 2012 as employers and labor unions combined forces. The 2012 bill raised cash benefits but tightened other aspects of the program enough to offset the cost of the benefit increase.

Even so, it set a $290 per week maximum (as of this year) for workers deemed to have "permanent partial" disabilities in California. The new report indicates that it's lower than those of all but two other states, Alabama and Rhode Island.

"Permanent partial" benefits are as high as $1,441.80 per week in Washington, D.C., and $1,419 in Iowa.

The report is available only by purchase here.

PHOTO: An injured worker is moved toward a waiting ambulance after an explosion was reported at a business in La Habra, Calif., Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The Orange County Register/Bruce Chambers.

April 30, 2014
California population continues slow growth, hits 38.3 million

BayArea.jpgCalifornia's population continued its relatively slow growth in 2013, adding 356,000 more residents, the state Department of Finance reported Wednesday.

The growth, just under 1 percent, brought the state's population to 38.3 million by the end of the year, an annual report from the department's demographic unit said.

The San Francisco Bay Area, whose economy has been booming, was the state's fastest growing region last year with three of the state's highest growth counties, led by Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley. Its 1.5 percent growth was closely followed by adjacent Alameda County.

However, the state's fastest growing cities tended to be in inland areas, led by McFarland in Kern County, whose population expanded by 8.9 percent last year - mostly inmates in local correctional facilities which have expanded to meet the state's program of reducing the state prison population.

Last year's overall population growth, driven largely by the state's having many more births than deaths, continued the slow pattern of the last decade. Immigration from other states and countries, once the major driver of growth, has dropped to near-zero.

PHOTO: The Transamerica tower, at left, dominates the skyline as the sun sets on the city of San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. The Bay Area was the state's fastest growing region last year. Associated Press/ Marcio Jose Sanchez.

April 30, 2014
AM Alert: Legislators hop to annual Capitol frog jump

From Congress to the Legislature to the governor's office, The Sacramento Bee's online voter guide is here to help you navigate the June primary election. Learn the candidates and issues, create a customized ballot, and share your picks on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail.

frog_jump_Cheryl_Brown.JPGHOP HOP HOORAY: Calling all amphibian whisperers: It's your time to shine!

Today marks the 40th annual Capitol Frog Jump, in which legislators, their staffers, the media and members of the public "jockey" frogs to hop the farthest (or the shortest). The event, hosted by state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, promotes the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in May.

Among those slated to compete are Assembly members Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino; Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; Steve Fox, D-Palmdale; and Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who will jockey the excellently named "Smooth Hoperator."

Sen. Berryhill's office said one competitor has promised to appear in full frog costume, complete with a princess hat and fly bow tie. Check out all the leaping action on the east lawn, near the trout pond, at 11:30 a.m.

VIDEO: The battles of Proposition 13 have been revived by a parcel tax bill, Dan Walters says.

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: A plan from state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to expand California's health care exchange to undocumented immigrants, one of Capitol Alert's bills to watch, gets its first hearing today before the Senate Health Committee, 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. Lara and immigration advocates will rally for the bill at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the building, where they will be met by the "CARE-van," which drove from San Diego to Sacramento drumming up support for the legislation.

SCHOOL STANDARDS: Calling it a "covert privately-backed Federal takeover of the State-run education system," opponents of Common Core will rally against the new K-12 education standards at 10 a.m. in Capitol Park near 12th and N streets. The event, organized by Democrats Against Common Core, Californians United Against Common Core and Eagle Forum of California, will feature Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly and State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Lydia Gutierrez. Donnelly has a bill allowing schools to opt out of Common Core that will be heard by the Assembly Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol.

SHE'LL BE BACK: The "Kid Governor," 8-year-old Celeste UmaƱa, returns to Sacramento to deliver her State of the State address calling for more investment in early childhood education. The rally at 12:30 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol, organized by Raising California Together, will also feature Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

AUTISM AWARENESS: Autism advocates, including the Special Seeds Network, will hear from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, during a rally to highlight Autism Awareness Month, 11:30 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

DOWN SOUTH: Gov. Jerry Brown, clearly preferring dogs, will skip the frog jump to attend the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills today. He participates in a panel on precision medicine at 2:45 p.m. at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, reluctantly holds her competitor in the annual frog jump competition at the Capitol on April 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 30, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Prop 13 battle returns with parcel tax bill

no_taxes.JPGA proposal to introduce differential parcel tax rates could renew fights over Proposition 13, California's landmark tax measure, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: The Sacramento "tea party" drew more than 5,000 protesters to the state Capitol on March 17, 2009 to oppose higher taxes in California and the Obama administration's national policies. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo


Capitol Alert Staff

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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

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

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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