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CMA Capitol Insight: July 7, 2014



July 07, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Licensing & Regulatory Issues 

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




Closing in on a Tight Race


After months of campaigning, millions of dollars spent and more than 4 million ballots cast, only 481 votes separate Democrats John Perez and Betty Yee in the race for state controller.


Yee is currently clinging to the second spot, which would allow her to advance to a November runoff with Republican Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno. But Perez has asked for a recount of ballots in 15 counties, including Los Angeles.


The idea is that if ballots are recounted in the counties where Perez fared best, he could pick up enough votes to overcome Yee in the race for second place. The Democratic winner would instantly become a front-runner in the fall campaign.


If Perez gains ground, Yee could counter by asking for a recount in other counties. But there’s a catch: the loser of the race must agree to pay for any county recount if the results do not turn in their favor. That puts Yee at a distinct disadvantage as political overtime continues.


Throughout the race, Perez, the former Assembly speaker, held a dominant fundraising advantage over Yee, who currently serves as a member of the Board of Equalization. That advantage continues now. Perez has more than $800,000 in a campaign account that he can tap for the recount effort. Yee’s funds are essentially tapped.


“Never in California history has the vote difference between two candidates for statewide office been so narrow,” said Pérez in a written statement. “It is therefore of the utmost importance that an additional, carefully conducted review of the ballots be undertaken to ensure that every vote is counted, as intended.”


MICRA Ballot Measure Is Prop. 46


While the June election moves into the next phase of overtime, the drive toward the November ballot is moving full steam ahead. Numbers have been assigned to the ballot measures on the fall ballot. California Medical Association (CMA) members will take special notice of Proposition 46, the effort by trial lawyers to raise the MICRA cap, which would drastically drive up the cost of health care.


The “No on 46” campaign is officially in full swing, with a website, Twitter feed and Facebook page aimed at helping to defeat the measure. Meanwhile, the coalition against the measure continues to grow, with labor and civil rights groups joining the efforts to beat back this costly initiative.


The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC) and the California NAACP have lent their voices to the No on 46 campaign, broadening the group of state leaders working to beat back Proposition 46, a measure that according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office would increase health care costs by “hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”


“This initiative will cost state and local governments hundreds of millions dollars and raise health costs for everyone,” said Robbie Hunter, SBCTC President. “That hurts job creation and will negatively impact California’s future.”


Alice Huffman, President of the California NAACP, said Prop 46 “is terribly flawed and will reduce access to quality health care for underserved communities. At a time when we’re working hard to cover as many Californians as possible under the ACA, Proposition 46 takes us in the wrong direction. Proposition 46 will disproportionately hurt minority communities. It’s bad medicine for California.”


Another Ballot Battle


As some groups gird for battle in November, lawmakers are frantically trying to qualify a water bond proposal for the November ballot. We’ve mentioned before in this space that water would be the big summer fight, and it appears that the diverse political groups involved in the water fight are closing in on a solution.


Legislative leaders had originally conceived of a bond that was as large as $10 billion, but Gov. Jerry Brown, who has made his mark as a tightwad when it comes to state finances, wanted a plan that was closer to $6 billion.


Lawmakers broke for their month-long summer recess before the July 4 holiday, but before they did, the Senate put forth a proposal much closer to the governor’s number. The issues remain the same: how much should be set aside for above-ground water storage? How much focus should be placed on regional solutions, water recycling and groundwater management? How much should be allocated to cleaning up drinking water supplies in poor communities, where clean water remains unreliable?


These issues are typically among the most vexing in all of California politics. But when lawmakers reconvene in August for the final month of the legislative session, they will be under a tight deadline to come up with a deal if they want to qualify a measure for the November ballot.

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