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Dems gather in Oakland to mull ballot measures

The California Democratic Party’s Executive Board convenes this weekend in Oakland, where it will decide whether to endorse the propositions – including two costly, controversial ones – on November’s ballot.

Proposition 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject health-insurance premium hikes, and Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on punitive medical-malpractice damages. Opponents already have anted up tens of millions to fight the measures, and so pressure will be high as party delegates gather at Oakland’s Marriott convention center.

The votes are scheduled for Sunday. But the agenda includes various caucus and committee meetings Friday and Saturday, with speakers and visitors such as Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a candidate for state controller now embroiled in rival John Perez’ recount; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, a candidate for secretary of state; and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, now seeking a second term.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | No Comments »

Danville couple’s MICRA measure will be on ballot

A measure that would raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, put forth by a Danville couple whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, has qualified for November’s ballot.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office said the measure needed at least 555,236 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling, and it exceeded that threshold Thursday. Bob and Carmen Pack had announced in March that they had submitted 840,000 signatures.

“The patient safety protections in this ballot measure will save lives and protect families from dangerous, impaired and drug dealing doctors,” Bob Pack said in an statement issued Thursday. “Today, California voters have taken the first step in making sure that more families like mine don’t have to experience the pain of losing a child due to dangerous medicine. No family should suffer because a doctor recklessly prescribes pills to an addict, is a substance abuser, or commits repeated acts of medical negligence.”

The measure would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery – now fixed at $250,000 – for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

The measure is supported by trial attorneys, but is staunchly opposed by medical and business groups.

“We always knew this flawed measure was bad for the pocketbooks of everyday Californians, but the more they read the fine print, the more they realize it’s equally bad for their personal privacy,” Jim DeBoo, manager of the campaign against the measure, said in a statement issued Thursday. “If this measure passes, it will mandate a database that isn’t properly working and open the privacy floodgates to the sensitive personal medical data of millions of Californians with no increased security safeguards or funding. It’s a hacker’s dream – and a privacy nightmare.”

Opponents had about $31.9 million cash on hand as of March 31, while supporters had about $42,000.

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 24 Comments »

Signatures sent in for Medi-Cal funding measure

Health care providers and community groups have gathered and are submitting 1.3 million signatures to put a measure on November’s ballot that they say will provide stable funding for health care for children and, through Medi-Cal, for seniors and low-income residents.

“California voters will get the chance this fall to strengthen this critically important law, and improve access to quality affordable medical care for those who need it most,” California Hospital Association President and CEO C. Duane Dauner said in a news release.

The Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act of 2014 “will ensure California receives ongoing access to approximately $3 billion annually in federal matching funds,” Dauner said. “This is California’s fair share, money that would otherwise be left on the table in Washington, D.C.”

California’s hospitals for the past several years have taxed themselves to get access to the federal funds, but the budget-crunched state at times has diverted some of that money to its general fund. Last year’s SB 239, passed by the Legislature without any opposing votes and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, extended this fee through 2017 and specified how the money could be spent.

This measure would make that law permanent, and would require that “any changes in the program or to how the money is spent would have to be approved by voters first,” Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, noted in the release.

Patients aren’t assessed any fees, and there are no new or increased taxes.

“We don’t have a single voice of opposition – this is a win-win for everybody… and it doesn’t cost a dime to California taxpayers,” said Anne McLeod, the California Hospital Association’s senior vice president of health policy.

The money must be spent to provide health care services to children and, through Medi-Cal, to elderly and low-income Californians. Without the federal funds, money would have to come from privately insured patients; the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office finds the measure would save state taxpayers $500 million for children’s health coverage starting in 2016-17, growing to more than $1 billion per year by 2019-20.

Dauner said people with private insurance shouldn’t face higher rates to subsidize unpaid Medi-Cal bills if federal money is available to cover the cost. “The Act is a common-sense answer to helping people provide health care to those who need it most, at great benefit to California taxpayers.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Under: ballot measures, state budget | No Comments »

OK, Tim Draper is serious about ‘Six Californias’

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper has put another $1.2 million into his “Six Californias” proposed ballot measure to split the Golden State half a dozen ways, an idea so far out there that some have wondered whether it’s a publicity stunt, a subtle satire on the initiative process, or a mid-life crisis.

The Secretary of State’s office received notice of the contribution on the same day that a “One California” committee was rolled out to oppose Draper’s plan. So, game on!

Draper had put an initial $750,000 into his effort early last month, so his running total so far is $1.95 million; no other donor has given the campaign significant money. Draper has until July 18 to submit signatures from at least 807,615 registered voters in order to qualify the measure for November’s ballot.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 4 Comments »

‘OneCalifornia’ formed to oppose ‘Six Californias’

A bipartisan committee has been organized to oppose a Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” campaign to split the Golden State into six states.

It’s called “OneCalifornia.” (Of course it is.)

“Every day this measure marches its way toward the ballot, it damages the California brand as the nation’s economic powerhouse,” OneCalifornia co-foudner Joe Rodota, CEO of Forward Observer and former cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson, said in a news release issued Wednesday morning. “It has negative implications that could cost California’s businesses and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.”

Draper’s “Six Californias” has not yet qualified for November’s ballot; Draper insists it’s for real, and says he intends to submit nearly 800,000 signatures soon to accomplish that. So far, he’s the campaign’s only significant donor, but the $750,000 he has given it so far won’t go very far. Opponents are taking nothing for granted, however.

“This measure deserves to die a quick death,” OneCalifornia co-founder Steven Maviglio, a veteran Democratic communications and public affairs operative, said in the news release. “We’re calling in the cavalry now to make sure it does.”

“No one would be taking this proposal remotely seriously if there wasn’t a billionaire with unlimited check writing abilities behind it,” Maviglio said. “Hopefully Tim Draper is a smart enough businessman not to pour more money into a folly that damages our state’s image in the world economy – and which he admits is opposed by his fellow Silicon Valley residents.”

The OneCalifornia committee will announce co-chairs and other opposition efforts in the weeks ahead, the release vowed.

Spokeswoman Anna Morris said Wednesday morning she was seeking Draper’s comment. (Ed.note — see update below.)

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports Draper’s plan to split California – now 12th among the 50 states in per capita income – would create both the nation’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and its poorest (Central California). And Rodota last month said more than two-thirds of the University of California’s students might have to pay out-of-state tuition to attend campuses in other Californias.

Rodota noted Wednesday that Draper’s plan also might have many California businesses suddenly filing multiple state tax returns if they have operations and employees spread across several of the new states. Documenting and dividing the assets and liabilities of California into six pieces would cost billions of dollars and take decades, he said.

“That would be the greatest single misuse of time and money in the history of California,” Rodota said.

UPDATE @ 11:50 A.M.: “Defenders of the status quo want to highlight the negative possibilities, while I would rather highlight the potential that this initiative gives local communities across California,” Draper replied late Wednesday morning.

“Increased college and university tuition costs combined with impacted college admissions have already put a college education out of reach for many working families hurting our chances to grow the middle class,” he said. “It is my hope that a Six State solution allows for a reboot on many issues including the chance to tailor colleges to the local community. This could include the ability for the various colleges and universities to allow for the Six state residents to pay in-state tuition just as we allow for dreamers and visionaries who were brought to this state from other countries.”

“The time has come to start thinking about the potential to return power to local communities and stop thinking that every answer needs to come out of Sacramento,” he said.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 21 Comments »

Boxer supports Danville couple’s MICRA measure

A ballot measure to raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence lawsuit awards has gained a high-profile supporter: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Bob and Carmen Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, submitted 840,000 signatures a week ago to qualify their measure for November’s ballot.

Barbara Boxer“I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release issued Monday by the campaign supporting the mesaure.

“I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies,” Boxer continued. “That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve.”

The measure – supported by trial-lawyer groups – would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery, now fixed at $250,000, for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

Medical organizations oppose the measure. “A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said last week in a news release. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Danville couple’s MICRA measure files signatures

A Danville couple whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 submitted 840,000 signatures Monday to qualify a measure for November’s ballot that would raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs.

Bob and Carmen Pack, and the attorneys’ groups backing them, needed to gather 504,760 valid signatures from registered voters by today in order to get the measure on the ballot.

“The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act will save lives and prevent families across California from having to endure the tragedies ours have by creating accountability and transparency in medical care,” Bob Pack said in a news release. “Voters should have the right to enact the patient safety protections the legislature has denied them for decades, including protections from drug abusing, drug dealing, and dangerous doctors.”

The measure would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery – now fixed at $250,000 – for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

Medical organizations oppose the measure.

“A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said in a news release Monday. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

Opponents note California’s independent Legislative Analyst found the measure could increase state and local government health costs by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. “If this measure passes, it will cost taxpayers, health consumers and local governments across our state a significant amount of money,” said Central Valley Health Network CEO Cathy Frey.

Opponents had banked about $31.3 million by the start of this year to fight the measure, while proponents had banked about $375,000.

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

More out-of-state tuition with ‘Six Californias?’

More than two-thirds of the University of California’s students would have to pay out-of-state tuition if voters approved Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s proposed ballot measure to split California into six states, a political consultant says.

That would cost them more than $2.5 billion per year, according to an analysis by Forward Observer, a Sacramento-based public-affairs strategy firm.

The analysis found the “Six Californias” measure would affect more than 109,000 students who suddenly would be attending a UC campus in other than the state in which they reside.

For example, if a student from Los Angeles attended UC Irvine just 50 miles away, the school would be free to charge an additional $22,878 in out-of-state “nonresident supplemental” tuition, Forward Observer concluded. UC Davis would have the largest percentage of students that would be forced to pay out-of-state tuition, at 78.1 percent; UCLA would have the lowest, at 55.1 percent.

“Jefferson California, a new state to be comprised of counties in the far north, would have not one campus in the University of California system if split off from the rest of the state as proposed,” Forward Observer CEO Joe Rodota noted in a news release. “Just how would a family from Redding or Chico feel about paying $36,000 in out-of-state tuition to send their son or daughter to UC Davis?”

“California needs serious solutions to difficult problems,” said Rodota, a former cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson. “Draper’s proposal may be provocative, but it isn’t a solution to anything.”

Draper, whom spokeswoman Anna Morris was “in back to back meeting appointments in LA” on Monday, has not yet responded.

UPDATE @ 9:52 A.M. TUESDAY: Morris got back to me moments ago with Draper’s comment. “That all depends on state compacts among the six,” Draper said. “Either there would be no change, or states would come up with cheaper and better solutions for their students.”

Meanwhile, West Sacramento Mayor Christoper Cabaldon suggests via Twitter that the new states could choose to join the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, so their students would pay only 150 percent of resident tuition in order to attend UC schools in other Californias. I’m sure that 50 percent increase over current tuition would sit well with everyone.

Posted on Monday, March 10th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

Draper puts $750k into ‘Six Californias’ measure

The venture capitalist who wants to break California into six states has put his money where his mouth is.

Well, some money, at least. Tim Draper of Atherton gave $750,000 to his “Six Californias” committee on Wednesday, according to a report filed Thursday with the Secretary of State’s office.

That’s not chump change for us ordinary folks, but it’s not a huge percentage of Draper’s sizable personal fortune. Nor is it nearly enough by itself to bankroll the paid petition circulation that would be needed to gather 808,000 signatures by mid-April in order to put the measure on this November’s ballot.

Nice down payment, though, especially given that when asked on Monday how much he was willing to spend on this, Draper had replied, “as little as possible.” He also had said he knew several other people who were eager to contribute to the measure, but he refused to name them; so far, Draper remains Six Californias’ only donor.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, campaign finance | 2 Comments »

GOP record of ‘Six Californias’ backer Tim Draper

Venture capitalist Tim Draper – the man behind a proposed ballot measure to split California into six states – seemed discomfited when a reporter at his news conference Monday cited his history of funding conservative causes, but it’s a well-documented history nonetheless.

Tim Draper“I don’t fit into either political party,” said Draper, a registered Republican. But a review of his political spending over the past decade shows a clear preference for GOP candidates and causes – and that’s since the $20 million he spent on his own unsuccessful school voucher initiative in 2000.

Now he’s pushing this “Six Californias” measure – or is he? He’s holding news conferences about it, but said Monday he’d like to spend “as little as possible” from his own pocket to put it on the ballot and support it; he also claimed to have others willing to bankroll the measure, but refused to name them. He wouldn’t say whether he’s aiming for this year’s ballot – which would require a herculean signature drive essentially by mid-April – or waiting for 2016.

Draper did say Monday that he had discussed the measure by phone at some point with Gov. Jerry Brown; asked whether Brown had expressed any support (or said it sounded crazy), Draper replied, “Gov. Brown is a very open-minded, creative guy… He’s governing a state that is ungovernable and I think he sees that.

Asked Tuesday what the governor thinks of Draper’s plan, Brown spokesman Evan Westrup replied that “while we generally do not comment on pending ballot measures, the proposal has serious practical challenges.”

Draper gave generously over the years to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s various campaigns and causes. Spokespeople for Schwarzenegger didn’t return emails Tuesday seeking his opinion of Draper’s new effort, and Schwarzenegger himself didn’t respond to a tweet asking the same.

IF this did really make it onto the ballot, and IF Californians could be convinced it was a good idea, what would the practical effects include? Well, for one thing, California’s monolithic 55 electoral votes – awarded “winner-take-all” to whichever presidential candidate wins the state’s popular vote – presumably would be split among the six new states, putting some of them within the GOP’s reach for the first time in more than 25 years.

See a list of Draper’s political contributions since 2003, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 7 Comments »