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State Senate OKs bill to curb ‘doctor shopping’

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 46 – which would’ve raised California’s 40-year-old cap on certain medical malpractice damage awards – in November, but a lesser-known part of that measure moved forward Thursday in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 28-11 to approve SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require California doctors to consult an already-existing state prescription database before prescribing addictive medicine to their patients. This was another part of Prop. 46, albeit less controversial than the medical malpractice segment. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

It’s a win for Bob Pack, the Prop. 46 proponent and Danville resident whose two children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver on Oct. 26, 2003. The motorist who hit Troy and Alana Pack, 10 and 7, had consumed alcohol, Vicodin and muscle relaxants before getting behind the wheel; Jimena Barreto in the weeks before the crash had received six Vicodin prescriptions from six different Kaiser Permanente doctors, who had failed to check into the injuries for which she claimed she needed the pills.

To prevent this kind of “doctor shopping” by abusers and addicts, SB 482 will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient, and annually if the treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. “Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic.”

Results are promising in other states with similar laws, and Consumer Watchdog estimates that a 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California – as experienced in New York – would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate | No Comments »

Draper: From ‘Six Californias’ to ‘Fix California’

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper has gone from “Six Californias” to “Fix California.”

The man who last year had proposed splitting the Golden State six ways – but failed to get the idea onto 2016’s ballot despite spending $5.2 million from his own pocket – issued a public engagement challenge Wednesday to crowdsource ideas for fixing California’s government.

“California-based businesses are on the cutting edge of technology – constantly pushing the envelope,” Draper said in a news release. “Most good ideas come through Californians innovating and collaborating with each other. We should be able to do the same with government, but unfortunately, our government is still stuck in the 1980’s. They can’t complete a project, like building a bridge or updating a computer system, without it being late, over budget, or even obsolete by the time of completion. That’s why we are launching the ‘Fix California Challenge.’”

Draper, 56, of Atherton, said he realizes “that not everyone was a fan of Six Californias.”

“But most people agreed that something needs to be done to fix the state. That’s why I’m asking Californians if they think they have a better idea,” he said. “If so, I want to hear it. If you have an idea that will transform government, bring it to me and maybe we can get it on the ballot.”

Draper said he’s looking for ideas that address:

    Transformation: Challenge the status quo by fundamentally transforming and modernizing California with a “fresh start” or an “entrepreneurial” mindset.
    Representation: Provide for better representation and engagement of citizens and accountability of leaders to the people they represent.
    Education: Improve incentives in education to achieve long-term economic prosperity and create a more educated workforce that is better prepared for the jobs of the future.
    Accountability: Incentivize governments to be accountable to their citizens and compete for customers.
    Opportunity: Create opportunities to improve the quality of life for hard-working Californians across key sectors such as housing, infrastructure, social safety net programs and the environment.
    Renewal: Clean up the failures and update methods of the last several decades that are preventing further success and progress.

Draper is running this “Fix California Challenge” through Innovate Your State, a nonprofit he founded that’s dedicated to educating and encouraging public participation to fundamentally improve government.

“As a venture capitalist I see innovation everywhere and invest in bold ideas everyday. We need to bridge the gap between innovation and government, and this requires a ‘Venture Governance’ approach where everyone’s ideas have a chance to be heard and backed if they’re good enough,” he said. “Similar to a business plan competition, we’re going to run a ‘government plan competition’ to find the best ideas and implementation strategies out there.”

No word on the status of Draper’s proposed television reality show about Silicon Valley startups.

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | No Comments »

Marijuana legalization measure filed in Sacramento

A group that couldn’t get enough signatures to put a marijuana legalization measure on 2014’s ballot has launched its effort to try again for 2016.

MCLR logoProponents of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act went to the Secretary of State’s office Monday to make their initial filing; they then headed for San Francisco to join the 4/20 celebration at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill.

The proposed measure – which was immediately forwarded to the state attorney general’s office to receive an official title and summary before proponents can start gathering petition signatures – is the product of Americans For Policy Reform’s “wiki-like” open-source process, which took input from thousands of California residents.

“We hope this broad-based coalition of support will encourage further cooperation,” AFPR director and measure proponent John Lee said in a news release “We urgently encourage other advocacy groups to join us at the table.”

The measure’s backers say it keep marijuana out of minors’ hands; prevent growing on public lands; deprive cartels, gangs and other criminal enterprises of the proceeds from sales; prevent drugged driving and other adverse health effects; clarify the state’s existing medical marijuana laws; and save the state millions in law enforcement costs while generating millions in tax revenues.

AFPR tried to put a measure on 2014’s ballot but couldn’t raise enough funds for its petition drive. They’ve made some modifications to the measure since, and held a fundraiser in Los Angeles earlier this month.

“We have worked hard to bring people together and create the best law possible for legalization in California,” proponent Dave Hodges, founder of San Jose’s All American Cannabis Club, said in the release. “MCLR creates a comprehensive set of regulations to allow all types of cannabis businesses to flourish, and will net California billions in tax revenues.”

But one of the reasons the measure went nowhere in 2014 might be just as big an obstacle now. A larger Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform – chaired by Oaksterdam University executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones and including national groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project – had started collecting signatures for 2014 but then decided to hold off. The coalition now is moving forward with its own plans for 2016, with a far more extensive fundraising network as well as buy-in from many more established marijuana-related organizations.

Hodges in 2014 had said the coalition’s effort had sucked all of the fundraising air out of the room for his measure, making it impossible to bankroll a petition drive. He might find this year’s air to be just as thin.

UPDATE @ 4:38 p.m.: A marijuana legalization task force convened by the American Civil Liberties Union and chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will hold a digital town square on the issue at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at www.SafeAndSmartPolicy.org. The forum will focus on public safety, especially drugged driving, criminal justice, and environmental concerns; two more forums are planned for later this spring.

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, marijuana | 6 Comments »

AG seeks court’s OK to nix gay execution measure

Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that she’s seeking the California Supreme Court’s permission to refuse to prepare an official title and summary for a proposed ballot measure called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year, said it’s her “sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians.

Kamala Harris“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” she said. “Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act.’ If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

Alas, unlike those in many other states, California’s ballot initiative process doesn’t provide for pre-enactment constitutional review. But Harris is getting praise for trying to avoid enabling this odious idea – pitched by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin – from even being circulated as a petition for placement on next year’s ballot.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – who one assumes would be on McLaughlin’s “hit list” – said Harris is right to ask the court to let the state turn away “an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder.

“The proposal represents either the depth of bigotry and hatred or the height of sick publicity stunts — either way it should not be dignified by becoming an official part of the process Californians have to amend the state Constitution,” said Atkins, D-San Diego. “Having discussed options with Attorney General Harris, I know how seriously she takes her responsibility to the law and how seriously she takes her responsibility to protect the public’s safety. I urge the court to grant the Attorney General’s request and prevent the state’s initiative process from being abused in this egregious manner.”

The Human Rights Campaign hailed the legal action, too.

“This disgusting, barbaric measure should be stopped in its tracks, and once again Attorney General Harris has demonstrated leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “It is our sincere hope that the Supreme Court of California gives her the authority to prevent it from advancing.”

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, earlier Wednesday said McLaughlin’s proposed measure has inspired him to develop legislation to make signatures on ballot-measure petitions into public records.

“Voters must be informed when a petition they sign violates the United States Constitution,” said Rendon. “My proposal is simple: initiative signatures – particularly those that give permission to violate constitutional rights – shall be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

Even one of California’s most virulent anti-gay activists has shunned the proposed measure.

“This terrible ballot initiative doesn’t deserve any reporting, because advocating the killing of people who are not guilty of a contemporary capital crime, not guilty of threatening you with death yourself, and not pointing a rifle at you in war, is wrong in both the eyes of conservatives and liberals,” Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said Saturday.

Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, ballot measures, Kamala Harris | 3 Comments »

Proposed measure would require condoms in porn

All porn actors working in California would have to wear condoms, under a new proposed ballot measure that Secretary of State Alex Padilla has cleared to start circulating for signatures.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein believes condom use in pornography already is required under laws dealing with blood-borne pathogens, but the industry has largely ignored this and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has failed to enforce it.

He's here to helpSo he’s proposing a separate law that explicitly would require performers in adult films to wear condoms during intercourse; requires adult-film producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical exams related to sexually transmitted infections; require producers to get state health licenses at the start of filming and post the condom requirement at film sites.

Producers would be held liable for violations, as would certain distributors; performers, if they have a financial interest in the film that causes the violation; and talent agents who knowingly refer performers to producers who don’t comply.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office and state Finance Department estimate such a law could reduce state and local tax revenue by tens of millions of dollars per year as adult film production either leaves the state or is driven underground, and also could cost the state a few million dollars per year to administer.

In order to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot, Weinstein will have to collect signatures of 365,880 registered voters (5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in last year’s gubernatorial election) and submit them to county elections officials by Sept. 14.

Los Angeles voters in 2012 approved Measure B, requiring mandatory condom use in porn films; the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law in December. Nevada is considering such regulations, too.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | 6 Comments »

Ballot measure proposes all LGBT people be shot

Insane, the work of a bigoted asshat, or a miserably failed attempt at satire? You decide.

Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin last week submitted to the California Attorney General’s office a proposed ballot measure that would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Yes, you read that right.

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” the proposed measure reads.

McLaughlin’s “Sodomite Suppression Act” also would make distribution of “sodomistic propaganda” – which McLaughlin defines as “anything aimed at creating interest in or acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman” – punishable by a $1 million fine, up to 10 years in prison, and expulsion from California. And it would bar anyone “who is a sodomite, or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does” from holding public office or receiving public benefits – though that seems redundant, since the measure would ensure such people already are dead or in prison.

Finally, the proposed measure specifies that it “shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.”

The “hereunder” is a nice touch, sort of gives it a ring of legalese. Never mind that almost every part of this measure is blatantly unconstitutional – and, very likely, utterly insane.

Remember, McLaughlin is an attorney: His State Bar of California record shows he earned an undergraduate degree from UC-Irvine and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law in Virginia – his professors must be SO proud – before being admitted to practice law in 1998.

Opponents have begun an online petition urging the State Bar to disbar McLaughlin.

“Advocating the murder of innocent citizens clearly demonstrates moral turpitude and abuse of the law,” the petition says. “It is disturbing and outrageous that a lawyer admitted to the California State Bar would disgrace the profession and the state. This immoral individual is unfit to practice law. He should be immediately be barred from practicing law in California.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office has no choice but to take it seriously, and begin the process of developing a title and summary under which McLaughlin can circulate petitions to place this on next year’s ballot.

Your tax dollars will pay for the time and effort it takes to do this. Unlike those in some arguably wiser states, California’s ballot-measure process doesn’t include any review to determine whether an idea is constitutionally plausible before it hits the streets.

But oh, to be a fly on the wall as McLaughlin goes out asking people to sign his petitions. It should be quite a sight to see.

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | 3 Comments »

Poll: Brown, Props 1 & 2 look good; 45 & 46 lagging

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election and the ballot measures he supports are looking good, while voters aren’t sure about two other, more contentious measures, according to the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll.

The survey, administered by the survey research firm YouGov from Oct. 3-17, sampled 1,273 California adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.65 percent for the full sample.

“The poll’s numbers reflect a California election that contains little in the way of political intrigue or public enthusiasm,” Hoover fellow Bill Whalen, a California politics expert who leads question development for the Golden State Poll, said in a news release. “However, there are signs of trouble on the horizon. The public isn’t sold on some contentious tax and social issues.”

Brown leads Republican challenger Neel Kashkari 48 percent to 31 percent among registered voters – a 17-point gap not unlike the average of four other recent polls. Yet Brown, seeking an unprecedented fourth term, doesn’t achieve majority support in this poll.

43 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election said strengthening California’s economy should be the governor’s top priority next year; 17 percent said balancing the state’s budget should be the top priority; 16 percent said improving the state’s public education system should be the top priority; 10 percent reducing the state’s long-term debt burden should take precedence; 7 percent said improving roads, bridges and public transportation is most important; and 6 percent said protecting the environment is most important.

Voters planning to cast ballots in this election are split on what to do with Proposition 30, Brown’s 2012 ballot measure that temporarily raised income taxes on the rich and increased sales taxes by a quarter-cent. The poll found 21 percent want it made permanent; 9 percent would extend it for six to 10 years beyond its scheduled expiration in 2018; 17 percent would extended it for one to five years; 17 percent would let it expire; and 29 percent would repeal it as soon as possible, while 8 percent weren’t sure.

Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, is supported by 52 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election and opposed by 22 percent, with 26 percent unsure.

Proposition 2, to beef up the state budget’s “rainy day” reserve fund, is supported by 47 percent and opposed by 19 percent, with 34 percent unsure.

Proposition 45, to grant the insurance commissioner authority to reject unreasonable health insurance rate hikes, is supported by 42 percent and opposed by 30 percent, with 29 percent unsure.

Proposition 46 – to raise the cap on non-economic medical malpractice lawsuit damages, require drug testing of doctors, and require use of a state database to avoid “doctor shopping” by drug abusers – is supported by 34 percent and opposed by 37 percent, with 30 percent unsure.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, polls | No Comments »

Tools you can use for the Nov. 4 election

As the election advertising reaches fever pitch, burning up your TV and clogging your mailbox, here are a few resources for cutting through the smoke:

Voters Edge, set up by MAPLight.org and the League of Women Voters California Education Fund, takes your home address and presents you with a virtual version of your ballot with click-throughs that not only informs you about the measures and candidates, but also provides a run-down of those measures’ and candidates’ biggest campaign donors.

California Choices, a collaborative effort by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Next 10 and UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, has updated its website to include guides to the six statewide ballot measures, as well as a page where you can compare endorsements from unions, nonprofits, parties and news organizations.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit California Voter Foundation’s guide is pretty easy to navigate. And, though you should’ve received it in the mail already, the state’s Official Voter Information Guide is available online as well.

Don’t forget: Next Monday, Oct. 20 is the last day to register to vote in this election. You can do so online, or pick up a paper voter registration application at your county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post office.

Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, voter registration | 3 Comments »

Pot advocates form 2016 initiative committee

A national marijuana advocacy group is filing papers with the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday to form a committee in support of a 2016 ballot measure for recreational legalization.

That measure is still coalescing, but the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project says it’ll be part of a coalition of activists, organizations and businesses supporting a plan they expect will resemble the MPP-financed initiative approved by Colorado in 2012. And they intend to start raising money immediately.

“Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities. It’s been ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible. Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.

“Marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and that’s how it needs to be treated,” Kampia added. “Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense.”

California activists have been watching Colorado’s and Washington state’s experiences with legalization, and have said they’ll tweak the Golden State’s ballot measure accordingly.

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, marijuana | No Comments »

New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, water | 1 Comment »