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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 »

Report: Death penalty continues to fade in U.S.

Though California voters rejected a ballot measure last month that would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty, a new report shows capital punishment continues to decline nationwide.

2012 executionsThe Death Penalty Information Center’s survey found only nine states carried out executions in 2012 – the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half of the states (29) now either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years.

The 43 executions carried out in the United States in 2012 was 56 percent less than the peak in 1999, and equal to last year’s total. The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second-lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976: 80 people were sentenced to death in 2012, representing a 74 percent decline since the 315 sentences rendered in 1996.

Many death penalty states with histories of high use had no new death sentences or no executions in 2012; for example, there were none in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the latter of which is second only to Texas in total executions since 1976,

“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” Richard Dieter, DPIC’s executive director and the report’s author, said in a news release. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

California’s Proposition 34, which would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without possibility of parole, won the support of only 48 percent of voters in November’s election. Elsewhere, Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal its death penalty.

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2012
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

Initiative to fund higher ed cleared for circulation

The proponent of a proposed ballot initiative that would hike various taxes to fund California’s public universities and community colleges has been cleared to start collecting petition signatures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Monday.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office:

TAXES TO FUND CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Imposes new taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel ($0.025 per gallon), alcohol ($0.05-$1.65 per gallon), and cigarettes ($0.0125 each); raises vehicle license fees by 0.5% of vehicle market value. Allocates new revenues 80% to University of California and California State University, 20% to California Community Colleges. Maintains state funding for higher education at or above 2009-2010 levels and student financial aid at or above 2010-2011 levels. Caps student tuition and systemwide fees at 2009-2010 levels. Creates joint commission to recommend cost efficiencies in higher education. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional state tax revenues from increases in various taxes of about $2.2 billion annually that would be dedicated to public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to replace lost tuition and fee revenues (due to lower student tuition and fee levels), unknown effect on total funding for public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to satisfy increased state spending requirements on public universities and colleges, unknown effects on other parts of the state budget and the state General Fund. (12-0015.)

Proponent Jesse Lucas – the California State University-Los Angeles Associated Students’ Legislative Affairs Committee Student-at-Large – must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from California registered voters by April 15 in order to qualify this for the ballot in November 2014.

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, education, taxes | 8 Comments »

Courage Campaign’s Koch/cokehead ad draws fire

The Courage Campaign’s new ad taking on the billionaire Koch brothers, who’ve sank money into the campaign for Proposition 32, is being panned by fellow progressives who are offended by the ad’s mocking and stereotyping of drug addicts.

Many of the comments on this ad’s YouTube page and on the Courage Campaign’s Facebook page are scathing – not in defense of the Koch brothers, but against the Courage Campaign’s characterization of “cokeheads.” Some examples:

“Please admit you’re in the wrong and take this video down. Not only is this extremely offensive to those of us who have experienced drug-addiction personally or know people who have, it’s effective in alienating a usually supportive demographic. This isn’t behavior I’d expect from a progressive org, do the right thing and take it down.”

…and…

Having had a brother who passed away from a drug addiction and living his stigmatization I am saddened by the destructive nature of this ad. I can joke with the best of folks, but as I taught my child it’s only funny when you are laughing with people, not at them.

The Courage Campaign responded last night:

Hey folks, thanks for your interest in our ad and your concern. Our goal in creating the Koch Brothers ad was (and is) to educate the public about who is behind Prop 32. To do that, we chose satire, and we stand by our ad as a piece of political satire. We pride ourselves on creating messages that cut through the noise and reach people who might not be aware of the critical issues at stake. We did know that some might have concerns about the use of the word “cokehead,” which is why we specifically included the text “Problems with drug or alcohol abuse? Visit AA.org.” in the ad.

We appreciate your feedback, and actually see it as an opportunity to educate the public about two important issues, Prop 32 and media portrayals of those struggling with drug abuse. We are not going to take down the ad, but we think this is a great opportunity to publicize studies, articles or other revealing investigations into the stigmatizing of addiction and recovery. Can you please share anything like that with us? You can post it here or email it to us at info@couragecampaign.org. Also, is there an organization that makes sense for us to collaborate with on this effort? Many of those who commented are connected to Students for A Sensible Drug Policy. The Courage community would appreciate learning more about your organization, and we’d love to partner with you in posting information in the coming weeks. Thanks again for your feedback. We’re always learning.

But the critics aren’t placated, and topday started a change.org petition urging the Courage Campaign to take down the video.

What do you think?

Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Under: ballot measures | 16 Comments »

Yes on Prop. 39 pulls ads as opposition fades

The Yes on Prop. 39 campaign sort of declared victory today, announcing it would pull its television and radio ads after hearing that the companies once opposing the measure will do so no longer.

Proposition 39 would close a loophole for multi-state companies, requiring them to pay taxes based on sales in California rather than allowing them to choose how they are taxed. The state would realize about $1 billion more per year in revenue if the measure passes. Thomas Steyer, founder and co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, has put up $21.9 million to bankroll the measure.

And it looks as if it worked. The committee backing Prop. 39 today said it has been informed by General Motors, International Paper and Kimberly-Clark that they won’t oppose the measure any further. Chrysler and Procter & Gamble, the two other companies that once were part of a coalition opposed to closing the loophole, also recently stated that they would not oppose Proposition 39.

The California Business Roundtable tracking poll‘s latest numbers show Prop. 39 now has 63.1 percent support, its highest level in two months.

Posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, taxes | 1 Comment »

Cal researchers map political info via social media

Cal Berkeley researchers have launched a new website to explore how political knowledge can be spread rapidly across big populations using social media – and their test subject is one of this election season’s hottest issues.

The project, from UC’s CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative, aims to develop a general-purpose system that can be used for a wide variety of issues, but for now it’s being tested on just one: Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike ballot measure.

Ken Goldberg, an engineering professor, said that “although the outcome of this vote has an enormous potential impact on students, alumni, teachers, parents and employers, many are not aware of Proposition 30. The California Proposition 30 Awareness Project aims to change that.”

Visitors to the website can learn about the ballot measure – a four-year, quarter-cent sales tax hike and a seven-year income tax hike for those making more than $250,000 per year – and receive a custom web link to share with whomever they please using email, Facebook or Twitter. They can return to the site later to see a unique graphic representation of their influence, and track their “influence score;” after the election, the website will list the 50 most influential people.

Influence is computed using a variant of the Kleinberg and Raghavan algorithm, where each visitor’s influence increases by one point for each person he or she recruits, by half a point for every person those people recruit, and so on. This model has been applied in many contexts with financial incentives, but researchers believe this is the first time it’s being tested with intangible rewards.

The researchers say the project and website emphasize awareness and are unbiased; the site includes links to the California Voters Guide and to campaigns on both sides of the issue. Visitors can also indicate their position for or against the proposition, and join an online discussion afterward.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Jerry Brown, Media, taxes | 2 Comments »