California Insurance Commissioner Charging Rent for Second Residence to Taxpayers

Sky-high housing prices are the bane of many a California taxpayer, but embattled state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, at least, is getting some help.

Lara has charged taxpayers thousands of dollars since his January inauguration for renting a residence in Sacramento, state records show, in an unusual arrangement watchdogs say constitutes an ethical gray area at best — and at worst another political maelstrom for an official already under scrutiny.

POLITICO examined Lara’s travel expenditures and his reimbursements from the state in his first six months in the office. During those months, Lara charged taxpayers $14,160 in total for his apartment in Sacramento, travel costs and other per diem expenses associated with his position, according to the records.

Lara spokesperson Michael Soller defended the charges, saying they don’t violate state law, characterizing them as justified expenses, given travel and other demands associated with Lara’s new position. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico.com

New California Law: It’s no longer a crime to refuse to help a cop

A legal vestige from California’s Wild West days is no more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill striking down a law that makes it a crime to refuse a police officer’s request for help.

The California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a misdemeanor for any “able-bodied person 18 years of age or older” to refuse a police officer’s call for assistance in making an arrest.

Posse comitatus derives from medieval English common law, but saw widespread use in America’s early days, including as a tool of enforcement for the Fugitive Slave Act. …

Click here to read the full article from the Modesto Bee

California Wants To Pay For Your College

California will now provide free tuition for the first two years of community college for first-time students who attend full-time. California governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation to allow the California College Promise program to help cover 33,000 more students for a second year of tuition-free college. California’s 2019-2020 budget includes an additional $42.6 million to support the program.

“This is real help for students trying to improve their lives and build their future,” Newsom said. “No one can argue with the fact that the full cost of attending institutions of higher learning is still far too high — both in California and across the country. But by offering two years of community college tuition-free, California is taking a meaningful step toward chipping away at the cost of higher learning for students and their families.”

According to Newsom’s office, California’s community colleges are the largest system of higher education in the U.S., serving about two million students, or approximately 25% of the nation’s community college students. The California community college system includes 115 colleges and 78 educational centers, which awarded more than 160,000 degrees and 96,000 certificates in 2017-2018. …

Click here to read the full article from Forbes.com

The Disaster of ‘Medicare for All’

Stethoscope on a printed sheet of paper

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, recently made headlines for criticizing the “Medicare for all” proposal popular among Democratic presidential candidates. In an interview with Vice, Reid said that the proposal would be problematic in the 2020 election. “How are you going to get it passed?” he asked.

But Reid’s sensibility isn’t shared by the Democratic electorate. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out this week found that nearly two-thirds of Democratic primary voters would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who favors “Medicare for all” than one who wants to build on the Affordable Care Act.

This is a mistake. The high costs and low-quality care that accompany “Medicare for all” are unlikely to be popular with general election voters.

“Medicare for all” would reduce access to care, even as it mandates that all Americans submit to government-sponsored insurance coverage. It envisions paying doctors and hospitals at Medicare’s current rates, which are estimated to be about 40% lower than those paid by private insurance. Right now, nearly one-quarter of America’s rural hospitals are at high risk of closing due to financial problems. If hospitals like these are forced to take a 40% cut, many will be forced to close. Doctors, facing a similar pay cut, will likely retire early.

This would surely create a massive shortage.

Giving everyone ostensibly “free” health care would also lead to new demand for care. Combine hospital closures and physician retirements with increased demand, and “patients might face increased wait times and reduced access to care,” as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office puts it.

Just look at the extraordinary wait times in Canada, whose system bans private coverage for anything medically necessary and bears a close resemblance to “Medicare for all.” Patients wait a median of 19.8 weeks to receive treatment by a specialist after referral from a general practitioner. In 2018, the average Canadian family of four paid up to $13,311 in taxes for their supposedly “free” healthcare system.

Senator Reid isn’t the only prominent Democrat to express skepticism about “Medicare for all.” David Axelrod, former senior White House adviser for President Obama, recently argued that the plan wouldn’t pass even if Democrats take both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House.

“Americans don’t generally want to destroy the private health care system,” Axelrod said. Will Democrats heed the counsel of two of their more successful political hands? Only time will tell.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care (Encounter). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

A California Bill Has Uber and Lyft Running Scared

Ride-hail companies desperate to stop a proposed California law that would force them to treat workers as employees are suddenly offering to boost driver pay and benefits. And they’ve pledged $60 million to fund a state ballot measure aimed at keeping drivers from being classified as employees.

Uber and Lyft said on Wednesday that they’re willing to pay California drivers a minimum of “approximately” $21 per hour, including some expenses, though that pay rate would only apply while the drivers are on a trip. (More on that later.) They say they would provide drivers access to “robust new benefits,” like paid time off, sick leave, and a form of workers’ compensation. The companies also said they would “empower” drivers to “have a collective voice” and to “influence decisions about their work.” The proposal did not, notably, include the word “union”.

On Thursday, the companies announced that they had amassed a $60 million war chest to fund a 2020 state ballot measure. The measure would create an alternative classification for drivers, and it would provide some worker protections and a guaranteed minimum pay rate—but would not consider them employees. The delivery company DoorDash also contributed $30 million to the effort. …

Click here to read the full article from Wired.com

Kamala Harris Holds More Fundraising Events in California

U.S. Senator and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris is predictably going to the well of California Democratic donors to boost her war chest in her bid for president of the United States.

Trump Victory Spokesperson Samantha Zager reminds us of why Harris is a dangerous choice to lead the country:

“Whether she is flip-flopping on government-run healthcare, supporting rights for illegal immigrants over U.S. citizens, or downplaying her disastrous record as California Attorney General, it is obvious Kamala Harris is only interested in scoring political points for her presidential bid. As Harris sinks lower in the polls, voters are sending a clear message: they do not want a Kamala Harris presidency.”

Background:

  • Kamala Harris cosponsored Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-For-All legislation, only to later say she was “uncomfortable” with it.
  • Tulsi Gabbard called out Kamala Harris during the second Democrat debate for her record as California Attorney General.
  • During the first Democrat debates, Kamala Harris raised her hand when asked if she would offer health insurance to immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
  • Harris has plummeted in national polling recently.

California’s Controversial Gig Economy Bill

Presidential candidates are slowly starting to talk about the gig economy. Not in the vague way they express disdain for a business model that exploits workers. No, they’re starting to take sides, weighing in on one of the most consequential legislative battles taking place in the country: the fight over California bill AB 5.

The sweeping bill, backed by labor unions, would make it much harder for companies to classify employees as independent contractors, a common practice that has allowed businesses to skirt state and federal labor laws. The law would essentially rewrite the rules of the gig economy, and businesses of all kinds are panicking. lt’s why Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Postmates, and other well-known gig companies have launched aggressive lobbying and public relations campaigns to defeat the bill.

The bill passed the state Assembly earlier this summer and is now held up in the Senate as business groups beg for exceptions and compromises. In the past few weeks, 2020 contenders have stepped into the fray. …

Click here to read the full article from Vox.com

San Francisco the Perfect Host for Democratic National Committee Meeting

Democratic party delegates congregated in San Francisco this past weekend for their national committee summer meeting. As the Republican National Committee pointed out, they couldn’t have picked a better location:

“It’s only appropriate the Democrats chose San Francisco for their summer meeting this year. As the home to some of the most destructive ‘progressive’ policies in the nation, including higher taxes and government overregulation, this is the perfect opportunity for voters to see what they would be getting into with a Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren presidency.” – RNC Spokesperson Samantha Zager

Interesting reading on San Francisco:

  • According to the San Francisco Chronicle, as of May 2019, San Francisco saw the number of homeless people in the city rise by 17% since 2017, “despite creating hundreds of new shelter beds and spending more than $300 million annually on homelessness.”
  • According to the City-Journal, “San Francisco is the nation’s leader in property crime.” Many law enforcement officials believe this is due to Proposition 47, “which in 2014 downgraded possession of illegal narcotics for personal use and theft of anything under $950 in value from felonies to misdemeanors.”
  • San Francisco Gate explains that the “San Francisco housing market is so expensive that it’s driving people out in droves,” going on to explain that the “median home sale price is $1.6 million,” and “60% of tech workers say they can’t afford homes.”
  • Attributing to many of the city’s problems, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is the fact that “the city has so many rules and regulations that it has become nearly impossible to build anything.”

Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker Make Fundraising Stops in California

Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, both running for the up-for-grabs Democratic presidential nomination, made campaign stops in Los Angeles Wednesday.

Warren spoke about the corruption in government and rebuilding the middle class, while Booker, at a separate event, spoke on gun violence and social activism.

The Republican National Committee released the following response to the candidates’ appearance in California:

“While the socialist policies of Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren may play well with the coastal elite of Los Angeles, hardworking Californians know that they would only serve to harm the Golden State. Between government-run healthcare, promises of ‘free’ college, and flip-flops on criminal justice reform, Warren and Booker’s policies would cripple the middle class.”

For a little background:

Earthquake Early-Warning Sensors Being Expanded in California

An infusion of federal funding will help expand or strengthen the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake early-warning system around Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, Mammoth and Bishop.

The University of Nevada, Reno, which runs the seismic network in eastern California, will use $1 million from the USGS to upgrade obsolete seismic sensors in Death Valley and the Mammoth and Bishop areas. The funding also will boost seismic networks in the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas, where communications systems can be damaged in severe winters, said Graham Kent, director of the university’s Nevada Seismological Laboratory.

Eastern California and Nevada carry significant seismic risk. The Death Valley fault system, which stretches east of Bishop down to the southern reaches of Death Valley National Park, is capable of generating a quake of roughly magnitude 7.8, Kent said. The Las Vegas area would suffer damage if such a powerful quake occurred and the fault ruptured toward the southeast and toward the city, Kent said. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times