CMA Capitol Insight: Sept. 16, 2014

September 16, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Licensing & Regulatory Issues 

CMA Capitol Insight is a biweekly column by veteran journalist Anthony York, reporting on the inner workings of the state Legislature.

The Usual Legislative Circus

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure that will require employers to offer at least three paid sick days for full-time employees. At a Sacramento signing ceremony where Brown was joined by the bill’s author, San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Brown called the proposal “the least we can do” for those at the bottom of the state’s economic ladder.

The deal to secure Brown’s signature was secured in the final hours of this year’s legislative session. Brown said he would sign the measure, but only if it exempted in-home health care workers from the new mandate.

Gonzalez opposed the change, but agreed to it when it became clear that the bill would have died without it.

Brown’s signature on the measure came under fire from GOP Gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari, who had a special delivery for the governor in Sacramento.

With the press in town, Kashkari delivered 6,500 paper grocery bags to Brown’s Capitol office. Why 6,500 paper grocery bags?

Paper grocery bags because in their one and only gubernatorial debate, which took place on Sept. 4, Brown indicated he would sign a bill on his desk that would phase out the use of single-use plastic bags in grocery and retail stores.

Kashkari said Brown should veto the proposal, citing the costs to consumers (who would have to use their own bags or buy a paper grocery bag for 10 cents), and its impact on plastic-bag manufacturers in the state.

So why 6,500? That’s the number of jobs that the electric-car manufacturer Tesla is expected to bring to Nevada when it opens its new battery-manufacturing facility.

After a fierce competition between states, including California, for the new facility, Tesla announced it was selecting Nevada as the site for its “gigafactory.” Brown said the company wanted millions in upfront cash and tax exemptions that would have been “unfair” to California taxpayers.

Nevada leaders didn’t seem to have any problem, however. They approved a generous tax exemption package for the company on a bipartisan vote – even calling a special session of the Legislature to jam the package through ASAP.

So it goes.

Kashkari said Brown has been too focused on trivial measures and has not dedicated enough of his governorship to addressing problems with the state’s economy and a recovery that is not bringing back middle class jobs, like the ones Tesla is promising to create, in the same numbers that they were lost in the Great Recession.

But Kashkari’s efforts to gain publicity seem to be having a limited effect. A new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll found that only 20 percent of California voters could identify the GOP gubernatorial nominee. The good news for Kashkari is that many more people – about 32 percent – say they will vote for Kashkari in November. But again, more bad news for the Republican nominee: 57 percent of those surveyed say they’ll vote for Brown.

MICRA Measure Support Plummets

Speaking of polls, a new Field Poll shows support is plummeting for the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MIRA) measure on the November ballot. The survey found Proposition 46 is now supported by just 34 percent of likely voters, while 37 percent oppose it. An aggressive, early radio and television campaign, funded by the California Medical Association (CMA) and other health care providers, has been massively effective in informing voters about the measure and showing how shallow the initial support for it was.

Also plummeting in the polls is Proposition 45, which would give the insurance commissioner broad new powers to regulate health insurance rates. The measure has been criticized from both the right and the left, with opponents saying it gives the state regulator too much power, while many Democrats fear the proposal could hamper the progress and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Boxer Stepping Out of the Ring?

And since it’s never too early to start thinking about the next election, some proverbial tongues were wagging in Washington and Sacramento this week amid rumors that Sen. Barbara Boxer would not seek reelection in 2016.

A Boxer spokesman denied the rumors earlier this month, but a look at the four-term Senator’s fundraising, which has been virtually nonexistent, suggests there may be something there.

If that happens, it would be the first domino in the coming generational shift of Democratic politics in the state. Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Brown are all more than 70 years old. Democrats have a strong bench of politically ambitious officials, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

If Boxer opts out of 2016, it will set off a scramble some time early next year for her spot. Brown, assuming he wins reelection in November, will be termed out in 2018, when the seat of the 81-year-old Feinstein will also be up.

Let the games begin…


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