How State GOP Can Get Out Of Wilderness

Republicans need better candidates and an agenda beyond kowtowing to Trump.

Barring something extraordinary, like, say, being caught on videotape dynamiting the Golden Gate Bridge, Gavin Newsom will be reelected as California governor in November.

And even if Newsom were to be jailed and convicted of such a nefarious assault on the Bay Area landmark, it is virtually certain he’d be succeeded by one or another of his fellow Democrats.

It’s been a decade and a half since a Republican won statewide office in California and more than a quarter of a century since the once-dominant GOP controlled either legislative chamber.

The ranks of Republican lawmakers in Sacramento are so shrunken that they have about as much say over legislation as the shrubbery growing outside the Capitol.

None of which is good for California.

Politicians and political parties need serious competition to hold them in check, keep them honest and avoid arrogance and overreach.

For our system of self-government to keep working, voters need to feel as though they have a voice and stake in the actions of their elected leaders.

Millions of Californians, who either identify as Republican or conservative, feel unheard and unseen in Sacramento, bobbing like red pinpoints in an ocean of blue. That alienation was a major impetus behind last year’s fruitless and extravagantly wasteful effort to recall Newsom and feeds the perpetual — if fanciful — talk of breaking off a chunk of rural California and creating a 51st state.

So what will it take for Republicans to regain relevancy and for California to once more benefit from a healthy and competitive two-party system?

The short answer is winning the governorship, not just electing more lawmakers to the Assembly and Senate, or to other statewide offices — though that would certainly help.

“In California, governor is an exceedingly powerful position,” said Marty Wilson, a former advisor to Pete Wilson and no relation to the ex-governor. “You’ve got a media platform. You make appointments. You can raise money for yourself as well as other candidates.”

Not least, a Republican chief executive could rebrand the party and improve its acrid image in the state.

Even before Donald Trump came along and warped the GOP into something resembling a zombie cult, the national Republican Party was seen in California as increasingly harsh, intolerant and beholden to its white Southern base. That guilt by association has hurt any candidate running statewide under the party banner.

Winning the governorship will require a different kind of Republican than most of those put forth over the last two decades — which is to say one capable of winning over more than a limited slice of the electorate.

California is a Democratic state, but not a flamingly liberal one. When Republicans got behind gubernatorial candidates who appealed to voters at or near the center — George Deukmejian, Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger — they succeeded. (Notably, the first time the politically moderate Schwarzenegger ran was in the 2003 recall election, a free-for-all of 135 candidates on a single ballot, avoiding a Republican primary he might well have lost.)

More often, the party has rallied behind gubernatorial hopefuls — the hapless Bill Simon Jr.,vapid John Cox,combustible Larry Elder — who excited the most ardently conservative Californians but were too inept or extreme for a majority of voters to swallow.

In theory, when — or if — things get bad enough under one-party Democratic rule, a meaningful number of voters will be amenable to giving Republicans another look. Call it the wreckage-and-ruin road to party redemption.

“A Democratic screw-up would open the door,” said Jack Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican National Committee staffer. But even then, he said, “It takes a quality Republican to walk through it…. Somebody who’s qualified, reasonable and pays attention to governance.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Newsom Rejects Claims His Homelessness Plan Isn’t Working

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday rejected claims by the sheriff of California’s most populous county that record spending on homelessness initiatives isn’t putting a dent in the problem of people living in the streets and the state isn’t held accountable for where the billions of dollars go.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized Newsom’s announcement this week that he would add $2 billion under his latest budget proposal to an existing $12 billion plan to reduce the number of homeless Californians.

“It’s going to the same homeless industrial complex, and there’s no accountability,” Villanueva said. “There’s no results that we’re seeing, there’s no vision. What is that success?”

Newsom shot back during a stop in the Los Angeles County city of Paramount. The governor pointed to legislation he signed last July that specifically requires cities and counties to follow strict accountability measures in order to receive state money to combat homelessness. Each local jurisdiction must submit an “action plan” by mid-2022 that includes data-driven goals. If the goals are met, the jurisdictions can qualify for additional resources.

“So there is a new framework around accountability, new planning metrics that include county sheriffs,” Newsom said Wednesday. “And I look forward to the sheriff’s detailed strategy on how best to use the resources that he’s been provided as well.”

Before visiting LA County, Newsom helped clean up a homeless encampment along a San Diego freeway to highlight the budget proposal that he said would build on previous efforts to end homelessness. In 2021, the state invested $50 million in encampment removal and this year he has proposed increasing that figure tenfold to $500 million.

“These encampments in California are unacceptable. The dirty streets in the state are unacceptable,” he said. “We have to do more. We have to do better.”

Newsom said that in the past year the state put 50,000 people who were homeless into hotel rooms that were turned into temporary shelters. On top of that, some 8,000 people were moved into hotels converted into permanent housing facilities that offer services such as mental health care and job placement.

The governor’s proposal calls for an additional 55,000 more units, including tiny homes, to be made available to move people off the streets.

Villanueva, who’s running for reelection, has fashioned himself as a brash outsider. Last summer he veered outside his traditional jurisdiction and showed up at LA’s Venice Beach wearing a cowboy hat and promising a cleanup of homeless encampments. Villanueva has dubbed city and county leaders “architects” of the homeless problem and rejects taking a more measured approach.

Click here to read the full article at AP

More High-Speed Rail Money In Gavin Newsom’s CA budget. Here’s What It Would Do.

California’s high-speed rail would get about $4.2 billion toward finishing the central San Joaquin Valley portion in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state spending plan, which he unveiled Monday.

The budget describes the money going to the rail from Merced to Bakersfield as advanced work, while dollars would also go to advanced planning for the entire project.

Originally planned from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the rail project has been pared down to connecting the Central Valley without the larger city destinations on either end. In his first state of the state in 2019, Newsom said the project didn’t have the pathway to the longer route.

The project has been criticized, including from Democrats like Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who called for the state to redirect high-speed rail money to urban transportation projects.

In the budget plan presented this week, Newsom said new money was important for “getting those final appropriations and finish(ing) the job in the Central Valley.”

The 119-mile high-speed rail project has been under construction in Fresno, Madera, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties for seven years.

Proposition 1A in 2008 provided a total of more than $9.9 billion to help pay for development and construction of high-speed rail in California.

Ahead of his big announcement Monday, Newsom had previewed that his budget would include spending some of the anticipated surplus on infrastructure, something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they support. On Monday, he announced he wants to spend $9.1 billion on transportation.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

State Democrats Again Try for Universal Healthcare

Calling the Democrats’ new universal healthcare legislation “bold” is an understatement. It would be a life-changer for practically every Californian.

It also would require by far the largest state tax increase in history.

Some powerful opponents will call it “socialist.” But aren’t Social Security and Medicare socialist? And they’re among the most popular government programs in America.

Some supporters are hailing it as a California version of federal “Medicare for all.” But reallyit’s Medicare for nobody. Californians on Medicare would be shifted into the new state-run “CalCare.”

No more Medicare in the nation’s most populous state. Nor Medi-Cal, the California version of Medicaid insurance for poor people. And private healthcare insurance would essentially be out of business. Everyone would be transferred into CalCare.

As advertised by CalCare proponents, most Californians would be better off under the new state plan: “No premiums, copays or deductibles … or other out-of-pocket costs.”

But more benefits: “Including all primary and preventative care, hospital and outpatient services, prescription drugs, dental, vision, audiology [hearing aids], reproductive health services, maternity and newborn care, long-term services and … mental health and substance abuse treatment, laboratory and diagnostic services, ambulatory services and more.

“Patients will have freedom to choose doctors, hospitals and other providers … without worrying about whether a provider is ‘in-network.’ ”

Sounds like a late-night TV commercial for wonder pills.

The assumption is that Sacramento can manage such a massive endeavor. There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical.

“I look forward to hearing Democrats explain how they plan to successfully take over more than 10% of the state’s economy when in the last decade they’ve proven themselves incapable of simple things like building a railroad, providing clean drinking water, keeping the lights on and filling potholes,” says Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron of Valley Center in San Diego County.

Even a major Democratic supporter, Assembly Health Committee Chairman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, has similar concerns.

“When you look at California, especially with COVID, clearly you see things that are not working very well,” Wood told me.

“I’ve always been supportive of healthcare for everyone,” the dentist added. “But I have serious and legitimate concerns about how an entity like this would be governed. I just worry whether we have the capacity to manage this.”

Wood cited as a glaring example of mismanagement the state Employment Development Department, which dished out several billion dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefits early during the pandemic, including to people in prison.

But state government is a mixed bag, Wood continued. He praised Covered California, which operates an expanded version of the federal Affordable Care Act, as “a model for the country.”

He also called federal Medicare “a well-run system.”

“Doctors and hospitals don’t like Medicare because the rates are lower,” Wood said. “But recipients on Medicare like it.”

And California would be leaving it.

Wood is ready to chuck current private insurance.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

California Is Swimming In Money. How Will Gavin Newsom Spend California’s Budget Surplus?

For the second year in a row, California’s budget is poised to avoid economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Gov. Gavin Newsom with a good problem: how to spend a projected $31 billion surplus.

By Monday, Newsom must unveil his proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which starts July 1. His proposal will kick off months of negotiations with lawmakers, who face a June 15 deadline to pass a budget.

Analysts predict the state’s highest earners will continue to prosper and pay high taxes, resulting in another big surplus. The budget Newsom signed last summer included a projected $80 billion surplus, which allowed lawmakers to provide COVID-19 relief and send stimulus checks to millions of Californians.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has recommended that lawmakers appropriate no more than $3 to $8 billion in new ongoing spending, and use the rest on one-time expenses that won’t force cuts in the future when there’s less cash available. The office also advocated for lawmakers to add to reserve accounts in anticipation of leaner budget years in the future.

Newsom has said he wants to use most of the extra money for one-time spending on areas including budget reserves, pension debt and the social safety net. He has also suggested more stimulus checks could be on the table.

“I think that’s the approach: fiscally disciplined, recognizing this is not a permanent state, recognizing the one-time nature of most of these dollars,” Newsom said in November.

MORE POLICE FUNDING

In November, after a spate of high-profile retail thefts, Newsom announced that his 2022 budget proposal will “substantially” increase funding for cities to crack down on organized retail crime.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who leads the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, said she thinks addressing retail theft makes sense, but wants to see specifics.

“We need to do something to deter those crimes and hold people accountable,” the Bell Gardens Democrat said. “I want to see the details and see that the funding is used effectively and not just padding departments.”

She said she also wants to see more money in the budget to change a culture of hazing in California prisons.

Last year, The Bee reported on two California State Prison-Sacramento officers who died after reporting harassment, hazing and corruption by their colleagues. One officer’s death was ruled a suicide. The other died of a fentanyl overdose. Since then, the state has moved to fire two officers and discipline 10 other employees at the prison.

Garcia also pointed to the case of a prisoner who was tortured and beheaded by his cellmate, which officers failed to report for hours.

“Breaking the law and being in jail shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Garcia said. “Being an officer shouldn’t be a death sentence either.”

MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS

Newsom intends to steer more money toward screenings for dyslexia and add more funding for early education, he told The Sacramento Bee in an interview last month. Newsom has dyslexia and wrote a book last year inspired by his struggle to read because of the condition.

He said his proposal will aim to help kids who “start behind.”

“We did a lot more last year than we did the prior year, and this year’s budget’s gonna see a hell of a lot more, forgive my language,” he said. He also said he wants to expand literacy programs through First 5, a state program for kids under 5.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

New Maps, New Building, New Bills Greet California Lawmakers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Monday to begin an eight-month session in an election year, shaded by uncertainty but buoyed by a second consecutive year of massive budget surpluses.

They hurried to introduce proposed legislation to be considered in coming months, while dodging protestors upset with pending coronavirus regulations. They face a busy first month, with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pending budget address and a month’s-end deadline to consider some legislation left over from last year.

“It’s like the first day of school” was one of the conversational themes Republican Sen. Brian Jones said he heard, while the other was “we’re going to have some growing pains.”

Legislators are now temporarily housed in a new $424 million office building a few blocks from the Capitol while their old offices in the attached Annex are razed and replaced.

And lawmakers will run in new legislative districts in the June primary and November general elections after boundary lines were redrawn based on the 2020 census.

Across the Rotunda, the Assembly’s first session was marred by a faulty microphone system that helped delay the start for 35 minutes.

“I’m having flashbacks to my DJ days,” quipped Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin as he repeatedly tested whether the microphone was working.

Lawmakers milled about the floor wearing masks, some bearing political messages. Lawmakers handed out fist bumps and hugs while posing for long-arm selfies. Some huddled to discuss who was running for what seats in the redrawn districts.

Returning lawmakers immediately began unveiling new legislation they intend to seek in the new year.

Sen. Anthony Portantino proposed changing the way funding is doled out to K-12 schools with SB830, adding an estimated $3 billion to K-12 funding based on enrollment numbers rather than attendance numbers. California is one of six states that does not consider enrollment for its education funding, Portantino said, along with Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

Sen. Josh Newman introduced a proposal to change the state’s recall process, months after Gov. Gavin Newsom survived an effort to remove him in mid-term. Newman himself was recalled in 2018 before regaining his seat two years later.

Newman’s constitutional amendment, SCA6, would replace a recalled governor with the lieutenant governor. It would allow the governor to appoint replacements for other recalled constitutional officers, with legislative confirmation. A recalled state legislator would be replaced through a special election at a later date.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

What New California Laws Mean For The Workplace In 2022, From Warehouses To Pay Disputes

A first-in-the-nation law to regulate quotas in warehouses. A ban on nondisclosure agreements in workplace harassment and discrimination lawsuits. An easier pathway to becoming barbers and hairstylists.

California workers and businesses will have those laws and more to abide by as the new year rolls around.

Last year was “kind of a down year” when it comes to the number of significant labor laws getting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, said Ben Ebbink, a Sacramento-baed partner at a law firm Fisher Phillips representing employers.

Still, Ebbink noted several significant bills will affect employers and employees alike starting Jan. 1. Here’s what to know about the new laws:

WAGE THEFT

The government will be able to issue a felony charge against employers who intentionally steal workers’ wages of more than $950 for one employee or $2,350 for two or more employees. Such a charge could lead to up to three years in jail.

“We’re not talking about an inadvertent, clerical mistake but situations where employers know what they’re doing and are not intending to pay workers by the law,” Ebbink said. “I don’t see a lot of risk for the prosecutors running around hitting mom-and-pop stores for inadvertent violations.”

WORKPLACE SAFETY

California will also spike the amount of fines it could levy on the employers who don’t provide safe workplaces. Under Senate Bill 606, Cal-OSHA can impose a penalty for each employee affected by the violation of the state’s health and safety regulations if it is willful and “egregious.”

Cal-OSHA will also be able to issue an “enterprise-wide” citation, hitting all of the employer’s worksites, if the agency has evidence of a pattern of the same violation involving more than one of the facilities.

NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS

Meanwhile, the state will ban the use of nondisclosure settlement agreements on workplace harassment and discrimination cases. The law also prevents, with few exceptions, employers from offering severance agreements that block the displaced workers from talking about unlawful acts in the workplace.

MINIMUM WAGE

Under Senate Bill 639, no new employers may be permitted to pay workers with disabilities less than the state’s minimum wage, a practice that had been allowed in some circumstances to encourage employment. Existing employers paying subminimum wages have until Jan. 1, 2025, to increase the pay for their workers.

Speaking of the minimum wage, employers with 26 or more employees soon must pay their workers at least $15 an hour. Smaller employers will be required to pay their workers at least $14 an hour. Some cities and counties may have an even higher minimum wage.

WAREHOUSE, GARMENT, COSMETIC AND FOOD INDUSTRIES

Some laws will target specific industries.

Under Assembly Bill 701, companies must tell their warehouse workers of their quotas. Companies can’t use quotas to prevent workers from taking legally required meal, rest or bathroom breaks.

Companies must notify workers of their quota within 30 days of hiring, as well as of any discipline they may face from failing to meet the target. Workers who believe their quotas are unsafe can request 90 days of their work speed metrics and can sue employers to stop them from imposing the requirement.

Garment workers in the state must also now be paid hourly, instead of per piece produced, except in worksites covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Fashion brands would be held liable for labor law violations of their contractors.

Meanwhile, two new laws will affect the agriculture and food industry. Farmworkers are now designated as “essential workers,” giving them access to the state’s stockpile of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment. Food delivery platforms can’t retain any part of the tips given to their drivers.

Another new law will ease the requirement for Californians to be barbers or cosmetologists. Barbers and cosmetologists will only have to get 1,000 hours of training to get their license, compared to up to 1,600 hours beforehand.

Click here to read the full article at SacBee

Time to Cut Gas Taxes?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced earlier this month that energy prices in the U.S. rose 33 percent for the 12 months ending November.  In many regions of California, prices rose even higher.

In the L.A.-Long Beach-Anaheim region, energy prices jumped 35 percent. In the Inland Empire, prices shot up 36 percent.  And in the San Francisco area, prices climbed 25 percent for the 12-months ending October (the latest available data).  Analysts attribute much of the increase to the price of gas.

Californians now pay $4.67 per gallon at the pump, compared to an average of $3.32 for the rest of America. But what most Californians don’t realize is that their dollars aren’t all going to local gas station owners or far-flung oil companies. A whopping 67 cents of every gallon goes to state taxes and 18 cents to Federal taxes.  This prompted one California lawmaker to title his op-ed: “I’m a Democrat and it’s time for our government to stop making gas more expensive.”

Congressman Josh Harder (CA-10) from the Central Valley reminded his colleagues in Sacramento that the massive infrastructure bill passed last month was already going toward fixing roads and bridges.  The “kicker,” Harder wrote, is that “our families are getting taxed twice at the pump for a service — rebuilding our infrastructure — they’re only getting back once.”

He pointed out that state governments, soon to receive billions in federal infrastructure money, “shouldn’t fleece drivers to pay for roads and bridges the federal government is already paying to fix, especially as businesses are recovering from the pandemic. Instead, state lawmakers across the country should freeze and lower these gas taxes to put money back in the pockets of working families.”

Refreshing the memories of Sacramento lawmakers, the gas tax, Harder wrote, was expected to raise $5 billion annually when it was implemented in 2017. But along came a $31 billion budget surplus for 2022 and another $30 billion in federal dollars from the new bipartisan infrastructure law.  Awash in cash, you would think that lawmakers could afford a little generosity and offer some much-needed tax relief to Californians.

Click here to read the full article at the Pacific Research Institute

Did California Get Its Money’s Worth From $1.7 Billion COVID Test Contract?

The Valencia lab, a public-private venture between the state and PerkinElmer, processed only 1 to 8% of all Californians’ COVID tests in the first 10 months of the contract. And the lab was riddled with dozens of problems, according to an inspection report.

A patient sample that wasn’t processed for more than 30 days. A test used without proper validation of its accuracy. Patient results changed without notification. Safety and disinfection procedures called into question. 

These are just a few of the myriad problems at the Valencia Branch Laboratory, a public-private COVID-19 testing lab operated by PerkinElmer that the California Department of Public Health hired in a no-bid, $1.7 billion annual contract.

An inspection report released last month by the health department outlines major problems dating back further than a year ago, raising new questions about how the state is spending taxpayer dollars to combat the pandemic. The report shows the lab has routinely underperformed, failing to meet the contract’s goals for turnaround times and numbers of processed tests. But the state auto-renewed the year-long contract at the end of October.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials say the laboratory has been crucial to expanding the state’s testing capacity for schools and underserved communities. 

But California’s two largest school districts — Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified — aren’t relying on the lab because it was unavailable when they needed it. 

A CalMatters analysis shows each test at the PerkinElmer Valencia lab costs the state more than three times the amount the Los Angeles Unified pays a Bay Area startup, SummerBio.

Already, the state has paid more than twice as much to PerkinElmer for 5.5 million tests as LA Unified’s total projected $350 million cost for the entire school year. The school year is less than half complete, but LA Unified already has administered 7.4 million COVID tests while never using the state’s PerkinElmer lab.

In the 10 months following its October 2020 opening, the lab processed between 1 and 8% of all COVID-19 tests administered in California each week, according to available data archived by CalMatters. During the first week of December, the lab processed roughly 8.5% of California’s tests, according to the most recently available data.

PerkinElmer, a global testing diagnostic company, did not respond to a request for comment about the cost of the testing and the reported problems at the lab.

“CDPH probably should have canceled (the contract) because honestly, there’s other vendors out there. They’re doing it for a lot less money more efficiently.”

STATE SEN. SCOTT WILK

State health department officials, in an unsigned statement in response to questions, said the PerkinElmer contract was renewed because of the potential for a winter surge and continued need for testing.

But the health department’s report, which was released eight months after officials indicated it would be completed, revealed that inspectors from the state’s Laboratory Field Services threatened sanctions for major deficiencies just 10 days before the contract was renewed.

The state public health department “probably should have canceled (the contract) because honestly, there’s other vendors out there. They’re doing it for a lot less money more efficiently,” Republican Senate minority leader Scott Wilk, who represents the area surrounding Valencia, told CalMatters. 

Wilk has been the most outspoken critic of the contract, repeatedly calling on the Newsom administration and the health department to halt the auto-renewal. Wilk said his office is working on a proposal to reform the no-bid contracting powers that the Legislature granted Newsom at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“I think there have been abuses there,” Wilk said. 

Public health experts and advocates say despite the lab’s troubles, it provides critical testing for smaller school districts, rural counties and underserved communities. Roughly 62% of tests processed at the lab are from communities of color, with about a third from the state’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, based on the California Healthy Place Index.

In Madera County, for instance, the lab allowed the county and its partners to ramp up testing in a speedier time frame. 

“Valencia has been a net positive for Madera County. Residents would have been at a significant disadvantage without the combination of the Valencia lab and state contracts like the one with OptumServe,” said Sara Bosse, Madera County’s public health director.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California Democrats Embrace Tough-On-Crime Rhetoric

“It is time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city … come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement … and less tolerant of all the bulls—t that has destroyed our city.”

“We need to … ensure that those who commit crime are held to account and that no one gets a free pass.”

“The need for a system that can … alert law enforcement to vehicles associated with violent crime, in real time, has never been more apparent.”

“Once we had the issue of a lot of folks coming to Melrose to do crime, we said, ‘We have to hit this with everything we have,’ so we put in some extra funding.”

“I will not wait out this holiday season and let these organized groups continue to believe they can prey on California shoppers and retailers with no repercussions.”

These Tuesday comments did not come from Fox News commentators or even California conservatives. They came from California Democrats — San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks, respectively — signaling a definitive shift in the party’s approach to crime ahead of the 2022 elections.

Case in point were the politicians’ Tuesday announcements:

The tough-on-crime rhetoric comes amid a sea of sobering statistics: Oakland police on Monday announced they’re investigating the 131st homicide of the year — the city’s highest total in a decade. And a Tuesday report from the Public Policy Institute of California found that homicides, aggravated assaults and violent and property crime rates in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco are all up in 2021 compared to last year.

Also cracking down on crime is the state Employment Development Department, which announced Tuesday that it has suspended payments on certain disability insurance claims and is subjecting medical and health providers to increased vetting to halt “a recent move by organized criminal elements to file false disability insurance claims.” The department, which has already confirmed paying at least $20 billion worth of fraudulent claims, said its actions would help prevent “further fraud” but could result in longer wait times for legitimate claimants.

This article originally appeared on CalMatters