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Efforts to roll back abortion laws start circulating

Supporters can start circulating petitions for two ballot referenda to overturn a pair of abortion-access laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Thursday.

Brown on Oct. 9 signed into law AB 154 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, so nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants with special training can perform abortion by aspiration — in which the uterus’ contents are suctioned out — which is the most common kind of first-trimester abortion. The Assembly passed the bill on a 50-25 vote in May, and the state Senate passed it on a 50-25 vote in August, with most Democrats and no Republicans voting for it.

Brown also that day signed AB 980 by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, which requires the repeal of any sections of the California Building Standards Code that treat primary-care clinics differently if they do abortions.

With dozens of new abortion restrictions enacted in other states this year, California stood alone in passing laws to increase access.

Bowen said Thursday that proponent Laurette Elsberry can start circulating petitions for her measures to roll back these new laws. The attorney general’s official titles and summaries for these measures are:

REFERENDUM TO OVERTURN LAW ALLOWING SPECIFIED LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TO PERFORM EARLY ABORTION PROCEDURES. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would permit a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or physician assistant with a valid license and training to perform specified early abortion procedures. (13-0029.)

REFERENDUM TO REIMPOSE DIFFERENT STANDARDS ON CLINICS PROVIDING ABORTION SERVICES THAN ON OTHER PRIMARY CARE CLINICS. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would repeal regulations that impose different building and licensing standards on clinics providing abortion services than on other primary care clinics. (13-0030.)

Elsberry – who voter registration records indicate is a 75-year-old Republican from Sacramento – has until Jan. 7 to gather and submit valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters for each measure.

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Under: Assembly, ballot measures, Jerry Brown | 4 Comments »

Danville dad’s MICRA initiative starts circulating

A Danville man whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 can start circulating his proposed ballot measure that would raise California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, the Secretary of State’s office said Thursday.

The start of petitioning moves the ball forward in what could be one of next year’s costliest ballot-measure battles.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the Attorney General’s office:

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING OF DOCTORS. MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE LAWSUITS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive test to the California Medical Board. Requires Board to suspend doctor pending investigation of positive test and take disciplinary action if doctor was impaired while on duty. Requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Requires health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Increases $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: State and local government costs associated with higher net medical malpractice costs, likely at least in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, potentially ranging to over one hundred million dollars annually. Potential net state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services that, while highly uncertain, potentially range from minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. (13-0016.)

Pack must collect valid signatures of 504,760 registered voters by March 24 in order to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee this summer to oppose the measure. The committee had banked at least $31.5 million by the end of August.

Bob and Carmen Pack will kick off the petition drive during a memorial gathering at 4 p.m. Sunday at Danville’s Sycamore Valley Elementary School and Park, marking the 10th anniversary of the deaths of their children, Troy, 10, and Alana, 7.

Posted on Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Under: ballot measures | 36 Comments »

Marijuana legalization ‘wiki’ measure proposed

A marijuana-legalization effort led by a San Jose cannabis collective’s founder submitted a proposed initiative Friday aimed at the November 2014 ballot.

The initiative is the first project of Americans for Policy Reform, a new nonprofit dedicated to grassroots legislative reform. The group for the past year has been gathering input from people within California’s marijuana movement and from others, using it to compile an “open source” document to legalize the drug.

“We started by soliciting input from roughly 1,000 members of the SaveCannabis.org forum,” Dave Hodges, founder of the forum and of San Jose’s All American Cannabis Collective, had said in August. “In addition to open meetings in San Jose and regular reports to the SaveCannabis.org forum, we created a Google document that literally anyone can see and contribute to. At each event, we requested specific input, and dozens of key advocates and legal advisers around the state provided recommendations and expertise.”

The group submitted the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014 to the state Attorney General’s office at 4:20 p.m. Friday, I’m told.

The AG must prepare an official title and summary; once that’s done, the Secretary of State’s office will clear the proponents to start circulating petitions to gather enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

“This is a breakthrough change for Californians and a serious issue for most. By using a public open source document, we were given great insight into what the real issues were and how to solve them,” Hodges said in a news release Friday. “It not only legalizes cannabis, but it also shows how it will be governed in an acceptable way that the majority of Californians can endorse.”

The group says the proposed initiative would give Californians freedom to use, grow, transport and sell cannabis subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol. It will comply with recent Justice Department guidelines, clarify California’s medical marijuana law, generate millions in new tax revenue and save law enforcement resources while preventing distribution to minors; growing on public lands; profits from going to criminal enterprises; violence and firearm use in cultivation and distribution; and drugged driving, the group claims.

Posted on Friday, October 11th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, marijuana | 2 Comments »

PPIC: It’s time to reform the initiative process.

California voters want to see some changes in the initiative process to connect it with the Legislature, increase disclosure of campaign funders and re-engage citizens, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

“These reforms are likely to have an impact beyond the initiative process,” PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare, the report’s author, said in a news release. “They hold considerable promise for increasing citizen engagement, encouraging voter participation, and building trust in state government.”

The report, Reforming California’s Initiative Process, notes that in the decade since the gubernatorial recall election, voters have been asked to weigh in on 100 state ballot propositions, 68 of which were citizens’ initiatives.

There’s been a sense that the century-old initiative process has run amok, becoming a tool of the same sort of special interests it was supposed to sideline – in May, 55 percent of California adults polled by PPIC believed the process is controlled by special interests. Yet PPIC polls have found both broad support for the process as well as for improvements to it.

Californians like the idea of expanding the Legislature’s involvement in the initiative process, so long voters remain part of the decision-making. PPIC found overwhelming majorities favor having a period of time that an initiative sponsor and the legislature could meet to seek compromise before a measure goes to the ballot. Overwhelming majorities of Californians also support a system of review and revision for proposed initiatives to try to avoid legal issues and drafting errors.

One way to set up such a system would be to revive California’s indirect initiative, in which sponsors bring their initiatives to the legislature after the required number of signatures has been gathered, the report suggests.

There’s also strong support for increasing public disclosure of funding sources; holding televised debates for initiative campaigns; having initiatives be renewable by voters after a certain number of years; allowing more time for volunteer-only signature gatherers to qualify a measure for the ballot; and creating an independent citizens’ initiative commission.

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California voters already have approved ballot measures to create a top-two primary system and a citizens’ redistricting commission, to change term limits, and to allow budgets to be approved with a simple legislative majority.

“In the last five years, Californians have taken bold actions to reform their state government,” Baldassare said. “Initiative reform — if pursued thoughtfully — could result in a brighter future for the state.”

Posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
Under: ballot measures | 7 Comments »

Oil-extraction tax measure dies, but will return

A student-led campaign to put an oil-extraction tax ballot measure before California voters has failed – and is starting all over again with renewed vigor.

Monday was the signature-gathering deadline for the “California Modernization and Economic Development Act,” a measure conceived at UC-Berkeley that would’ve imposed a 9.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas extracted in the state. Petition circulation began April 25, but the proponents couldn’t hit their 504,760-signature mark.

But Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the student-led group that drafted the initiative, plans to resubmit a revised measure.

California oil wells“This summer has been busy for the CMED team,” said Aaron Thule, the campaign’s grassroots coordinator. “After a lot of hard work, we have built a signature gathering coalition for fall and winter that will be ready to activate and qualify this initiative come November.”

The tax would’ve raised an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. In its first decade, 60 percent of its revenue would’ve been split equally among K-12 education, community colleges, the California State University system and the University of California system; 22 percent would’ve gone to clean-energy projects and research; 15 percent would’ve gone to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; and 3 percent would’ve gone to state parks. After the first decade, 80 percent would’ve gone to education, 15 percent to counties and 5 percent to state parks.

The revised initiative will have a sliding scale tax of 2 percent to 8 percent, which the proponents say will protect small business owners and jobs while still bringing in about $1 billion per year.

The revised initiative also will change the revenue allocation: 50 percent would be put in a special 30-year endowment fund for education, which after three years would start paying out equally to K-12, community colleges, CSU and UC. The proponents predict that after 30 years of collecting interest, it would bring in as much as $3.5 billion per year for education.

Another 25 percent would provide families and businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper energy, and the final 25 percent would be put toward rolling back the gas tax increase enacted last July, to make gas more affordable for working-class Californians, the proponents say.

Working to qualify the measure by early spring will be the University of California Student Association, groups at San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, CSU Bakersfield and several community colleges. California College Democrats and California Young Democrats, both of which have endorsed an extraction tax for education and clean energy, are also lending support.

“It’s hard to believe that California is the only state that practically gives away our energy – especially when, as a state, our schools and colleges continue to struggle and we have yet to provide adequate funding to meet our own renewable energy standards,” College Democrats President Erik Taylor said.

The UCSA, representing hundreds of thousands of UC students, plans to organize across several campuses. “Affordability and funding are critical issues at the UC and Prop 30 simply is not the solution in itself that we need,” UCSA President Kareem Aref. “Our campaigns for this year are designed to ensure a stable and long term funding stream for the UC.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, education, energy, taxes | 6 Comments »

Medical-negligence measure hits the streets

A Danville man whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 has been cleared to start circulating petitions for his proposed ballot measure to raise California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Monday said proponent Bob Pack has until Feb. 10, 2014 to gather valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot.

The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING OF DOCTORS. MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE LAWSUITS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive test to the California Medical Board. Requires Board to suspend doctor pending investigation of positive test and take disciplinary action if doctor was impaired while on duty. Requires health care practitioners to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Requires health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Increases $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: State and local government costs associated with higher medical malpractice costs, likely at least in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, potentially ranging to over one hundred million dollars annually. Potential state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services that, while highly uncertain, potentially range from relatively minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. (13-0011.)

Pack, supported by the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group, says his proposed ballot measure would prevent other families from suffering as his has. “It’s a simple and reasonable step forward that the Legislature should have taken decades ago,” Pack, 58, wrote in a July when announcing the measure.

But medical organizations staunchly oppose it.

“We see this initiative as a very stark, trial-lawyer-sponsored attempt to increase their ability for a payday,” Dr. Paul Phinney, the California Medical Association‘s president and CEO, said in July. “It will increase medical costs for everybody in the state without doing a thing to improve care. … We think policy now should be directed toward lowering health care costs, not increasing them to benefit trial lawyers.”

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network have created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee to oppose the measure. Those and other groups have loaded that committee with $31.5 million so far.

Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013
Under: ballot measures | 6 Comments »

Medical orgs put up $7.5m against MICRA measure

As predicted, California’s medical establishment is starting to put up big money to oppose a proposed ballot measure that would lift the cap on non-economic damages that can be awarded in medical-negligence lawsuits.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network recently created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee to oppose the measure.

That committee got its first big cash injection last week: $5 million from the California Medical Association. The California Hospitals Committee on Issues anted up Wednesday with $2.5 million.

Leading the charge for the ballot measure is Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003. Supported by the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group, Pack says his proposed ballot measure – by raising California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs – would prevent other families from suffering as his has.

The medical organizations see the proposed measure as “a very stark, trial-lawyer-sponsored attempt to increase their ability for a payday,” said Dr. Paul Phinney, the California Medical Association’s president and CEO. They say it will boost Californians’ medical costs without doing anything to improve care.

The proposed measure is awaiting an official title and summary from the state attorney general’s office before it can be cleared to start gathering petition signatures.

Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2013
Under: ballot measures | 7 Comments »

Measure seeks special protection for Bible speech

A proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt Bible-based speech from the constitution and state law’s existing restrictions – including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes – has been cleared to start circulating petitions.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Allan Esses, a pastor from Irvine, must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from registered voters by Dec. 2 in order to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot.

Here’s the state Attorney General’s official title and summary for the new proposed measure:

BIBLE-BASED SPEECH. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Exempts speech based on biblical authority from existing constitutional and statutory restrictions applicable to all other speech, including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes. Repeals constitutional provision denying protection to acts of religious expression inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially minor increased costs to state and local governments to resolve legal issues pertaining to the effect of the measure. (13-0003.)

Article 1, Section 4 of the state constitution says, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.”

Esses’ amendment would strike the second sentence in that section (“This liberty of conscience…”) and would add this section:

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that it is not a crime, hate crime or unlawful for a person to use any part of the Bible’s content as authority: and do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith. to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing., cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, marriage, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of a computer, electronic devise, telephone, cell phone or fax machine. These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.

Penal Code Section 302 criminalizes the intentional disruption of a religious gathering; Section 602.11 criminalizes blocking entry or exit from a health care facility (such as an abortion clinic), place of worship or school; and Section 11412 criminalizes making someone refrain from religious activity by means of a threat.

Esses failed to gather enough signatures for a similar measure in 2011.

“Although the Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, recent restrictions on the free exercise of religion have compelled the organization to submit clarifications of citizen’s First Amendment rights, similar to the need felt by some of the nation’s Founding Fathers to clarify in the Bill of Rights what they believed existed in the Constitution,” Esses had said of that earlier proposed measure in 2010. “What is particularly ironic and disturbing is the growing intolerance of so many people who preach tolerance. Increasingly, Christians are expected to violate our beliefs and conform our religious convictions to accommodate those who support positions that are clearly unbiblical.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
Under: ballot measures, Debra Bowen | 16 Comments »

Oil severance tax measure to start circulating

A proposed ballot measure to enact an oil severance tax, with most of the revenue spent on education, has received its official title and summary and is about to start circulating for petition signatures.

California oil wellsConceived by UC-Berkeley students, the California Modernization and Economic Development Act places a 9.5 percent tax on oil and gas extracted from California; supporters say it would bring about $2 billion of new revenue per year. Of that, about $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12 education, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Another $400 million or so would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy, and about $300 million would go to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the group behind the measure, has 150 days to collect 505,000 signatures in order to qualify it for the 2014 ballot. The group says it’ll do both grassroots organizing and fundraising for paid signature gathering.

California over recent decades has seen many legislative bills and ballot measures – either proposed, or unsuccessful with voters – to impose such a tax. More than 30 states have oil and gas severance taxes, but opponents say such a tax could reduce California’s oil production, costing jobs.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a Cal professor, endorsed the effort in February, saying using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The measure last week won support from state Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, whose SB 241 would impose an oil severance tax to fund education and parks in California. She said she supports any effort to let “California to collect on these vast and irreplaceable natural resource revenues that should fund one of the most important core services of government – education. It’s past time California ends the oil industry’s free ride and finally sets a solid revenue stream towards funding government’s education obligations.”

CMED campaign manager Jack Tibbets, a junior at Cal, said his staff will be working closely with Evans’ office. “Should the Senate fail to vote and pass SB 241, our campaign will work with public officials, donors, interest groups and students to produce an extraction tax for the 2014 ballot.”

Here’s the official title and summary issued today by the state Attorney General’s office:

TAX ON OIL AND NATURAL GAS. REVENUES TO EDUCATION, CLEAN ENERGY, COUNTY INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES, AND STATE PARKS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Imposes 9.5% tax on value of oil and natural gas extracted in California. During first ten years, allocates revenues: 60% to education for classroom instruction (split equally between UC, CSU, community colleges, and K-12 schools); 22% to clean energy projects and research; 15% to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; 3% to state parks. Thereafter, allocates 80% to education, 15% to counties, and 5% to state parks. Prohibits passing tax on to consumers through higher fuel prices.
Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state revenues from a new oil and gas severance tax of $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year initially (which could either grow or decline over time), to be spent on public schools, colleges, and universities; clean energy research and development; local infrastructure projects; and state parks. (13-0002.)

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, education, taxes | 13 Comments »

Maryland is about to abolish the death penalty

Maryland lawmakers today approved what California voters narrowly rejected a few months ago: abolition of the death penalty.

The Maryland House of Delegates voted 82-56 to replace that state’s death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole; the state Senate had approved the bill 27-20 last week. Gov. Martin O’Malley had introduced the repeal legislation and so there’s no question that he’ll sign it into law now; in doing so, he’ll make Maryland the sixth state in as many years to do away with capital punishment.

“State after state is deciding that the death penalty is simply not worth the risks and costs to retain,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said in a news release. “Maryland is the sixth state in recent years to choose this course, but it won’t be the last.”

California voters in November rejected Proposition 34, which like Maryland’s law would’ve replaced the death penalty with life without parole; 48 percent voted for it, 52 percent against.

The defeat came despite the elevated turnout brought by a presidential election and after supporters had reframed the issue in part as one of fiscal wisdom, arguing the tight-budgeted state can’t afford the tremendous cost of putting and keeping so many people on death row.

California now has 732 condemned inmates, but has executed only 13 since reinstating its death penalty in 1978; the last execution was in 2006. Prop. 34 would’ve commuted all currently condemned inmates’ sentences to life without parole.

Maryland has carried out five executions since 1976, but has only five inmates now on its death row. The new law won’t directly affect those five, leaving it up to O’Malley to decide whether their sentences should be commuted separately.

Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, State Prisons | 4 Comments »