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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.

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Poll #s tanking, Props. 45 and 46 go on offense

As the Field Poll shows Proposition 46 all but done for and Proposition 45 struggling, backers of both those controversial, health-related measures went on the offensive Thursday by filing official complaints against their foes and challenging a big insurance company’s spending.

Prop. 46 author Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed in 2003 by a drugged driver, filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the No on 46 committee violated state laws that require disclosure of major funders.

Insurance companies have contributed $42.8 million of the $56.5 million given to the No on 46 campaign, Pack says, and state law requires campaign committees to describe in descending order their major donors. Yet the No on 46 campaign committee is officially known as “No on 46 – Patients, Providers and Healthcare Insurers to Contain Health Costs.”

“How dare the insurance industry claim the mantle of ‘patients’ after blocking life-saving patient safety reforms for decades,” Pack said in a news release. “No on 46’s misleading attack ads, funded by mostly insurance industry money, pretend that they are a public campaign for patients. California’s TV and radio stations have a duty to the public to take these ads down until voters are told the insurance industry is really behind No on 46.”

Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice cases; require random drug tests for doctors; and force doctors to use an existing prescription database to weed out drug abusers.

The campaign for it is being run by Consumer Watchdog, a lawyer-funded nonprofit advocacy group that’s also behind Proposition 45, which would give the state insurance commissioner power to reject health-insurance rate hikes.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court filed his own FPPC complaint Thursday arguing the No on 45 campaign’s name and radio ads don’t identify “health insurance companies” – the source of the $37.5 million to the campaign – as a major donor. But several insurers are listed by name, including Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and Blue Shield of California.

My read: This is a small-ball attempt to further publicize insurers’ role in the campaigns, a role that’s already been widely reported. Court said it himself in today’s story, describing why he believes Prop. 46 isn’t a lost cause despite cratering poll numbers among likely voters: “All we have to do is tell them that it’s the insurance companies on the opposing side lying to them.”

Court, California Nurses Association members and other Prop. 45 supporters will be rallying at 1:30 p.m. Thursday outside Blue Shield’s headquarters on San Francisco’s Beale Street to deliver 22,000 petition signatures decrying the insurer’s purchase of a costly luxury skybox at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Blue Shield’s decision to spend money on the skybox underscores the need for Prop. 45, they argue, so the insurance commissioner can reject excessive rate hikes that then pay for such luxuries.

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Blue Shield criticized for Levi’s Stadium skybox

The campaign for a ballot measure to let the state insurance commissioner veto health insurance rate hikes is pointing to Blue Shield of California’s pricey luxury skybox at the new Levis’s Stadium as a sign that insurers’ spending is out of control.

Levi's Stadium luxury suiteConsumer Watchdog and the Yes on 45 campaign sent a letter Tuesday to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate “Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status” and crack down on its spending.

The letter cites a San Francisco Chronicle article which said suites of the type that Blue Shield got at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home are “priced at between $250,000 and $400,000 a year and require a 10- or 20-year commitment. That puts the price at anywhere from $2.5 million to $8 million.”

“We urge you to investigate Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status and use your authority to impose a ‘charitable trust’ on Blue Shield’s assets and block any additional wasteful spending that robs taxpayers and average California patients of their financial health,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote to Harris.

Proposition 45 “will ensure that companies like Blue Shield are not increasing premium charges to patients to fund excessive executive compensation, lavish entertainment and excessive reserves,” Court wrote. “Under current law, the California Department of Insurance does not yet have the authority to block excessive rate increases that funded Blue Shield’s skybox. Before November, only you have the power to protect California taxpayers.”

Neither the No on Prop 45 campaign, known as Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, nor Blue Shield of California answered e-mails seeking comment Tuesday. Blue Shield spokesman Sean Barry told the Chronicle over the weekend that the luxury box’s primary purpose “is to interact social with some of our larger membership groups,” and it won’t be available to executives for “their personal use.”

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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.