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Barriers to Care Persist Despite Massive Expansion of Medi-Cal

As said before in the California Political News and Views, Medi-Cal in California now has given out 12 million health care cards. At the same time we have a major doctor shortage, hospitals are closing and the availability of needed specialists is almost non-existent. The card is as valuable as a W.T. Grant credit card (anybody remember that out of business retailer?)

“Many of the clinic’s patients come from the communities just south of LA’s central core, where incomes are low and many people live in crowded conditions. The area suffers a severe shortage of primary care doctors and dentists and is considered medically underserved by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

On a rainy Thursday afternoon as Core prepares for an afternoon clinic, he learns that one woman he’d planned to see that day just passed away after battling kidney cancer.

“She should have seen an oncologist right away,” Core said.”

Obama and Jerry Brown lied, and people died. No surprise.

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Barriers to Care Persist Despite Expansion of Medi-Cal

By Robin Urevich, HealthyCal, 4/6/15

The Affordable Care Act, with its promise of health care for most Americans, represents a welcome step forward for physicians who have cared for the uninsured.

Michael Core, a primary care doctor at The USC Eisner Clinic, treats some of the city’s poorest people in a spare no-frills office just south of downtown Los Angeles. Core says it’s great that his previously uninsured patients have access to a range of specialists that they never did before—at least on paper.

Many of them are part of the ACA’s huge expansion of the state’s Medi-Cal program. State officials say the increase in recipients—3 million new enrollees in 2014— hasn’t affected the quality of service they receive, but both patients and physicians report potentially dangerous long waits for specialty care.

Many of the newly insured are baffled by insurance and have trouble navigating the health care system. Core now spends much of his time deciphering his patients’ paperwork and helping them cut through insurance company red tape.

Many of the clinic’s patients come from the communities just south of LA’s central core, where incomes are low and many people live in crowded conditions. The area suffers a severe shortage of primary care doctors and dentists and is considered medically underserved by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

On a rainy Thursday afternoon as Core prepares for an afternoon clinic, he learns that one woman he’d planned to see that day just passed away after battling kidney cancer.

“She should have seen an oncologist right away,” Core said.

Instead, she saw the specialist months after her diagnosis, delaying chemotherapy that should have begun within weeks.

Her managed care plan, LA Care, had denied her referrals to some of the specialty care she needed. Core’s patient was also repeatedly denied medication for potentially fatal blood clots because the insurer said a pulmonologist should have written the prescription, not Core, the primary care physician.

“Authorizations would come super late, so she’d go a week or two without blood thinner,” Core said. “You’re trying to coordinate care, and then you’re getting denied.”

“A story like that is absolutely unacceptable,” said John Wallace, LA Care’s interim CEO. “There are a lot of safeguards to make sure things don’t deteriorate. The health plan can be their advocate. What you find in the Medi-Cal population is that people are disenfranchised. They don’t know that regulations are in place to help them.”

It’s impossible to know if Core’s patient would have survived or lived longer had she gotten the care she needed on time.

“But it doesn’t help the perception,” Core said. “Someone has a terminal disease, and you don’t seem to be getting help, but barriers. The system is designed to provide barriers.”

Some 70 percent of Medi-Cal beneficiaries are enrolled in managed care plans. In exchange for a per person payment from the state, the plans are required to offer medically necessary care to all of their members. Medi-Cal beneficiaries who are not in managed care are in what’s called fee for service Medi-Cal in which the state reimburses physicians directly.

Two managed care plans serve Los Angeles County. LA Care is a non-profit overseen by the county Board of Supervisors and contracts with commercial plans to cover  nearly two thirds of beneficiaries. Health Net, a commercial plan, insures the rest.

But Core and other physicians report that some of their sickest patients can’t get timely specialty appointments, or have trouble obtaining the medications they’re prescribed.

The obstacles are particularly irksome to Core, who chose family medicine to offer quality health care to poor people.

Growing up poor in East Los Angeles, he was especially sensitive to the divide between rich and poor.

“I’d see the disparities on TV, and wonder, why isn’t my life like that?” he said. Then his family moved to the suburbs, and he saw first-hand that middle class people enjoyed better opportunities than those in his old neighborhood. The class divide loomed even larger when he was accepted to Yale University as an undergrad.

“It didn’t feel right,” he said, “that I could advance socially and economically and my friends couldn’t.”

He figured he’d do his part to close the gap as a family doctor in an area where physicians and especially Latino physicians are in short supply.

On this day, his first patient is 65-year-old Wassell Grissom, who wears a plaid fisherman’s cap and comes in with a sheaf of papers and an oxygen tank attached to a walker. Grissom has lung disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hepatitis C, from which he thinks he’s recovered with new medication, and perhaps a cold.

Core listens to his lungs, which sound pretty good, except for a crackle, which may be the cold he’s developing.

But most of the visit is taken up with untangling Grissom’s insurance troubles.

Grissom, whose managed care plan is Health Net, has come to the clinic because he ran out of medications and can’t get his prescriptions filled. He’s also having trouble getting all of the oxygen tanks he needs.

“The pharmacy only gave me a few pills because the doctor wasn’t registered through the insurance plan. Another problem, I’m on so many medications. The insurance company only allows four to six medications at a time each month. I have to get all my meds. At least I get my choice [of which medications to purchase],” Grissom said.

Core began practicing medicine just a few years before President Obama’s first term, when the Affordable Care Act was conceived, and although he backs the reforms, he says they don’t go far enough.

Many doctors won’t accept Medi-Cal patients at all, or do so selectively because Medi-Cal payments to California physicians are among the lowest in the country, while the costs of doing business are among the highest.

What’s more, physicians are in short supply altogether, and in rural areas or poor neighborhoods like those in South LA they’re even scarcer.

Just 32 physicians practice in zip codes 90011 and 90037, which include the communities just south of the Eisner clinic, according to Medical Board of California data. By contrast, 834 doctors are listed in zip codes 90049 and 90024, which include the wealthy communities of Pacific Palisades and Brentwood.

Still, Medi-Cal managed care plans like Health Net and LA Care report that their physician networks are sufficient to serve their patient loads in every region of the county.

So-called provider network reports for both plans for the third quarter of 2014 show compliance with state standards, which require that a single physician’s patient load not exceed 2,000 people.

But those reports provide little solace to patients whose assigned doctors can’t give them appointments for more than a month, or to those who might be seeking care from physicians who are out of business altogether or who no longer accept Medi-Cal.

A check of LA Care’s primary care doctors in the 90011 and 90037 zip codes shows that of 16 physicians’ offices contacted, two are no longer in business. One number was disconnected and the other rang up a skilled nursing facility whose medical staff didn’t include the doctor that LA Care listed.

Three medical offices couldn’t offer adult appointments for three weeks or more, even though state standards and the plans’ contract with the Department of Health Care Services require that non-emergency primary care appointments be available within ten working days.

Of 21 specialty care physicians’ offices contacted in the area, five in the LA Care directory were no longer in business, or were no longer located in the area. Two didn’t accept Medi-Cal patients at all.

All but one of those who said they did accept Medi-Cal, however, could book an appointment within 15 working days, meeting the state’s standard of care.

“First and foremost, the information should be up to date,” Wallace said, adding that it’s not easy to update because thousands of providers are changing addresses and affiliations. “We put a lot of resources into keeping data accurate.” Wallace also noted that a member who wanted to change doctors would go to the plan’s member services department, and wouldn’t necessarily need the published provider directory.

Medi-Cal is heading for a crisis, with a huge increase in enrollment in recent years, Leah Newkirk said in an email. Newkirk is the vice president of the San Francisco-based California Academy of Family Physicians. The organization has collected 70 responses from family doctors to a survey on Medi-Cal access. Most of them noted difficulties in getting specialty care for their patients, especially neurologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, rheumatologists, pain management specialists, orthopedists, and referrals for imaging or drugs

“Most respondents describe patients being shuttled in and out of the system as primary care physicians scramble to find a specialist who will accept a Medi-Cal patient,” wrote CAFP’s Abhinaya Narayanan in a summary of the results.

State regulators do not believe the crisis that Newkirk cites exists. Sarah Brooks, Chief of the Managed Care Quality and Monitoring Division at the Department of Health Care Services said the huge increase in Medi-Cal beneficiaries has not affected the quality of their care.

But LA Care’s Wallace argued that the influx of members has indeed required some adjustment in his network. Medi-Cal members used to be primarily moms and kids, but now adults with complicated conditions are entering the system.

“We have lots of work going forward to refine our delivery model now that we have the new membership,” Wallace said.

Still, Medi-Cal beneficiaries’ problems with access to health care have caught the ear of legislators, regulators and advocates.

The state legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee has ordered the state auditor to investigate the adequacy of Medi-Cal managed care networks, as well as the state’s oversight of the plans, and the governor has signed legislation to tighten managed care regulation, including for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

In his office near the end of his day, Core says he’d like to get the insurance companies out of the business of medicine altogether. “We just need single payer,” he said.

Still, Core argued that even if all the obstacles to care were removed, there still wouldn’t be enough physicians to serve all of California’s patients, especially those who depend on public

 

CA Following Massachusetts Model When It Comes To Voters & Voting?

New statistics show a big jump in “no party preference” voters in California while registration in both major political parties has declined. While this change in voter registration mirrors some national trends, California may be heading boldly in the direction of another thickly populated blue state – Massachusetts.

In California the recent report from the Secretary of State shows Democrats make up 43.1 percent of the registered voters, Republicans 27.9 percent, while independent registration gained more than two full percentage points to 23.5 percent or a nearly 12 percent overall gain.

VotedMany observers predict it is only a matter of time before voters who do not declare affiliation with any political party will outnumber Republicans.

That’s the way it is in Massachusetts. In fact, unaffiliated voters outnumber both major parties combined in the Bay State. Independents make up 52.5 percent of the Massachusetts voter roll, Democrats 35.7 percent and Republicans 11.1 percent. Like Massachusetts, the majority of independent voters lean toward the Democrats assuring heavy majorities in the state house. The Massachusetts House has 125 Democrats, 35 Republicans; the Senate has 34 Democrats and 6 Republicans. No threat to supermajority there.

But the similarity ends at the executive office door. Over the past 25 years, only one Democrat has been elected governor of Massachusetts. Or to put it another way, over the past quarter of a century Republicans have won five of seven gubernatorial elections in Massachusetts. Democrat Deval Patrick just concluded his second term in office. Charles Baker, the fourth Republican governor to be elected over that time period, replaced him.

Is this a sign of hope for California Republicans that they might again capture the top statewide office? Could it be that voters want a check on a one-sided government?

No one will accuse Jerry Brown of being a Republican. However, a number of political observers have suggested Brown is the best Republicans could hope for to occupy the governor’s chair in this blue state.

The trend toward independent voters capturing a larger segment of the voting rolls will probably intensify when the already authorized Election Day registration kicks in. It is quite likely that a majority of those who register the day of the election will choose the No Party Preference label.

Further increasing the No Party Preference portion of the roll would be the effort to mandatorily register all eligible voters as proposed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez.

More than 27 percent of the eligible voters have not registered to vote in California. If a voter who had no interest in registering to vote is required to register the odds are many of those voters will choose to be classified as independents so the percentage of independent voters will grow.

However, it is not certain that the percentage of voters participating at an election will grow. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen. If voters who have no desire to register are added to the rolls automatically will many of them actually vote? The theory that participation will increase dramatically under this effort probably can be filed under the “You Can Lead a Horse to Water but You Can’t Make it Drink” philosophy.

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Judge in Immigration Case Questions Trust in Obama

Obama lied and people are dying in the Middle East. Barack lied and people are paying more for health care and getting much less. Obama has brought down the unemployment rate—but most of the newly employed are working temporary or part time work, under 30 hours a week so employers do not have to pay the exorbitant cost of ObamaCare.

Now Obama had a U.S. Attorney lie to a Federal Judge and got caught—again.

“The federal judge presiding over the Texas-led challenge to President Obama’s immigrant amnesty programs asked a Justice Department attorney Thursday, “Can I trust what the president says?”
It was a fair question from U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, after the Justice Department revealed earlier this month that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services had extended lawful presence rights from two to three years for 100,000 undocumented immigrants after telling the judge USCIS would not process any applications for such extensions until March 4.
“You were the one who said nothing would happen until March 4. I look like an idiot,” Hanen told federal attorney Kathleen Hartnett at a hearing on Thursday.”

Finally someone willing to tell the truth, Barack Obama and his Administration lie.

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Judge in Immigration Case Questions Trust in Obama

By SARAH FLORES AND CAMERON LANGFORD,  

Courthouse News,

 

3/20/15

 
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) – The federal judge presiding over the Texas-led challenge to President Obama’s immigrant amnesty programs asked a Justice Department attorney Thursday, “Can I trust what the president says?”
It was a fair question from U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, after the Justice Department revealed earlier this month that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services had extended lawful presence rights from two to three years for 100,000 undocumented immigrants after telling the judge USCIS would not process any applications for such extensions until March 4.
“You were the one who said nothing would happen until March 4. I look like an idiot,” Hanen told federal attorney Kathleen Hartnett at a hearing on Thursday.
Hartnett apologized to Hanen for any confusion and assured him the government strives for accuracy. “You can rely on the Justice Department,” she said.
Hanen issued an injunction against the Department of Homeland Security’s expanded amnesty programs on Feb. 16, putting the estimated 5 million immigrants who could qualify in limbo and drawing condemnation from immigrant advocates who claim he was handpicked for the case by the 26 Republican-led states who sued over the policies.
Hanen has been openly critical of Obama’s immigration policies.
The Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, and last November announced it would be modified to increase the number of people eligible.
The original DACA program allows immigrants who came to the United States as children, lived here since June 15, 2007, went to school, have not committed serious crimes, and are under 31 years of age to apply for legal status and federal work permits.
The administration expanded DACA in November 2014 by removing the age cap, pushing up the date on which immigrants must have lived in the United States to Jan. 1, 2010 and extending the legal status of those who qualify from two to three years.
In his speech announcing the November changes to DACA, Obama unveiled Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which would make some parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents eligible to apply for the right to live in the United States without fear of deportation and for federal work permits.
Following the Justice Department’s confession about the 100,000 immigrants, Texas filed a motion for early discovery. Thursday’s hearing focused on that motion.
With supporters of DACA and DAPA shouting “Si se puede,” and holding signs stating “We Work Hard,” “We Pay Taxes” and “We Are Good For the Economy” outside the Brownsville Federal Building and Courthouse, Hanen presided over a one-hour hearing there.
Texas Assistant Attorney General Angela Colmenero came up to bat first and she had some accusatory words for the Feds.
“Defendants made representations to the status quo and assured the court that they would not make any decisions until March 4, 2015, but this did not happen,” she said.
“Defendants were actively moving forward with the applications process and no notice was provided to plaintiffs regarding the change to the status quo.”
Colmenero also went after the merits of modified DACA, claiming it will motivate new immigrants to enter the country illegally and that the “expansion from two years to three years would cause harm by a wave of immigrants flooding our borders.”
Hanen was understandably weary of government attorney Kathleen Hartnett, who had promised no modified DACA applications would be processed until March 4 at the Jan. 15 hearing.
“Can I trust what you say? Can I trust what the president says? It’s an easy question, yes or no?” he asked.
“Yes your honor, you can,” Hartnett said.
At the close she told Hanen the government is in the process of changing the 55 three-year DACA cards that went out after the injunction back to two years, and that anybody who applied for DACA before Nov. 24, 2014 was given the extension of legal status to three years.
Hanen said he “will be making a prompt ruling” on the plaintiffs’ motion for expedited discovery.
The Justice Department appealed to the 5th Circuit shortly after Hanen issued his injunction. The government also asked that court for an emergency stay of the injunction in a filing this past Friday.
The New Orleans-based appellate court gave the plaintiffs until March 23 to reply.
Numerous parties from both sides of the issue have weighed in on the case.
The attorneys general for the Democrat-led states of Washington, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia asked the 5th Circuit for permission to file a friend of the court brief in support of Obama’s policies on Tuesday.
The states claim Hanen erred by deciding that Texas has standing to bring the lawsuit because they will bear the costs of processing driver’s license applications for qualifying immigrants.
“A single state cannot dictate national immigration policy, yet that is what the district court allowed here. Relying entirely on Texas’s speculative claims, the district court enjoined vital immigration reforms nationwide,” wrote Noah Purcell, Washington state’s solicitor general.
Texas was the only state of the 26 plaintiffs to present evidence of how the policies would allegedly harm them. Purcell played that up in the brief.
“At the very least, this court should stay the order outside Texas, as no other state has presented any evidence that it will suffer the irreparable injury needed to justify injunctive relief,” he wrote.
The blue states added that Obama’s policies should go into effect because they will be good for all state economies.

“Moving these people out of the shadows and into the legal workforce is estimated to increase Washington’s tax revenues by $57 million over the next five years. California’s tax revenues are estimated to grow by $904 million over the next five years, with an anticipated 1,214,000 people eligible for deferred immigration action. The tax consequences for the plaintiff states are also positive,” Purcell wrote.
“For example, if the estimated 594,000 undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action in Texas receive temporary work permits, it will lead to an estimated $338 million increase in the State tax base over five years,” he added.
Not to be outdone by proponents of the policies, the American Center for Law & Justice, a Christian conservative law firm based in Washington, D.C. and appearing on behalf of 68 Republican Congressmen, asked the 5th Circuit on Wednesday for permission to chime in with their own amicus brief.
The firm’s chief counsel Jay Sekulow repeated what the plaintiffs have said all along: that Obama’s policy changes exceeded his authority and trampled “Congress’s exclusive authority over immigration.”
While Sekulow acknowledges that the Homeland Security Act makes the Department of Homeland Security’s secretary responsible for immigration enforcement policies, he believes Obama’s directives go beyond.
“The removal of unlawful aliens carries enormous importance to the overall statutory scheme, but the DHS directive does not just articulate priorities for removal, it grants legal benefits on a categorical basis to current illegal aliens. By granting illegal aliens lawful presence during the deferred period, appellants violate the express and implied intent of Congress,” he wrote.

 

Residential no-burn in effect Wednesday in Southern Calif.–But No One Knew

Unless you were one of the dozen people who receive the press releases from the South Coast Air Quality management District in Southern California, you did not know it was illegal to use your fireplace yesterday. You might have been one of the few thousand, out of 15 million that caught the notice as part of the evening news—but seriously, how many watch the late night news?

Then, if you did illegally use your fireplace, who knew, unless a snitch turned you in. Does the agency have monitors driving around the communities of Southern California looking for a recalcitrant trying to stay warm using their fireplaces? The good news is that only electrons were disturbed, no trees were killed to send the unnoticed notice. Here is an idea, the agency can save money by not having personnel send out notices nobody reads or abides by.

“Under the alert issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, residents are barred from burning wood in fireplaces until midnight.” What a waste of electrons.

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Residential no-burn in effect Wednesday in Southern Calif.

Posted by Debbie L. Sklar, My NewsLA, 2/4/15

 

A residential no-burn alert will be in effect Wednesday in the South Coast Air Basin — which includes the greater Los Angeles area, Orange County and the Inland Empire — due to a forecast of fine particle air pollution.

Under the alert issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, residents are barred from burning wood in fireplaces until midnight.

“No-burn alerts are mandatory in order to protect public health due to a high concentration of fine particle air pollution forecast for the area,” according to the SCAQMD. “The no-burn prohibition also applies to manufactured fire logs, such as those made from wax or paper.”

The prohibition does not apply to mountain communities above 3,000 feet, the Coachella Valley or the high desert.

 

Sacramento City Council Uses SECRET Tax Funds to Donate to Planned Parenthood

Council members in Sacramento get “discretionary” money to spend—without telling anyone, making it public or taking a public vote on the expenditure. That is one of the ways the taxpayers of Sacramento promote the organization founded on the theory of eugenics, Planned Parenthood. We have been told that the money is for welfare and scholarship programs. Of course, that makes more money available for the abortion of minority babies—the vast number of abortions are of minorities.

Should council members have private slush funds financed by your taxes? Los Angeles city and county has these slush funds. Now we know that the city of Sacramento believes in slush funds as well.

“Liz Figueroa, vice president of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said they get a great deal of funding from tax dollars and education reduces a lot of taxpayers costs.

But Mariotti takes issue with the fact the contributions were never voted on in a public forum.

“I think if people were aware of it, you would have an overwhelming amount of people showing up at a City Council meeting complaining.  I think you would have calls to their offices. I think you would have long lines if there was an open forum for people to discuss. I think it would be a big issue,” Mariotti said.”

Planned Parenthood Abortion Pro Choice

Sac City Council funds Planned Parenthood programs

Discretionary funds allow funding without vote of council

Kevin Oliver, KCRA, 12/17/14

 

City Council member Angelique Ashby is among the most fiscally conservative of her colleagues, when it comes to spending her discretionary funds.

Compared to other City Council members, last year Ashby spent the least — about $35,000 on community service programs and local events.

But that included giving tax dollars to Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

When we asked Ashby about that expenditure, it led to the end of our interview.

“I donated to a scholarship. The money that I gave only could go to a scholarship fund for young single moms already selected to go to college,” Ashby said. “At one point in my life, sir, that was me.  So I hope that in doing so, that some of those young women grow up, love their city enough to come back, run for City Council and be the next Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Sacramento.”

Ashby wasn’t the only one.

Since 2012, every City Council member gave some of their discretionary funds to Planned Parenthood, a total of $11,000.

Sacramento resident and mother of four, Christina Marotti, said she doesn’t want her tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood programs — period.

“I don’t think they as elected officials should have the ability just to spend where they please,” Marotti said. “It almost seems like it’s kind of hidden. If it’s not voted on, it’s not announced. (KCRA 3) found it, but I never knew about it before.”

Most of the city funds went to a scholarship and a program that provided support groups for teenage mothers.

Planned Parenthood says the teen success program costs $50,000 a year to help 12 single mothers.

Liz Figueroa, vice president of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said they get a great deal of funding from tax dollars and education reduces a lot of taxpayers costs.

But Mariotti takes issue with the fact the contributions were never voted on in a public forum.

“I think if people were aware of it, you would have an overwhelming amount of people showing up at a City Council meeting complaining.  I think you would have calls to their offices. I think you would have long lines if there was an open forum for people to discuss. I think it would be a big issue,” Mariotti said.

Council member Steve Cohn defended his use of City Council discretionary funds for the programs.

Cohn said in an email, “I believe that is a undeniably worthy community purpose.  These funds do not go to abortions or other controversial programming.”

Planned Parenthood officials said it is their policy to keep funding for educational programs separate from other services.

Sacramento State professor Charles Gossett said City Council members aren’t going to be able to make everyone happy when deciding how to spend tax dollars.

“That’s always a problem in a democracy.  Sometimes the city will purchase things from a vendor that some people don’t think you should be buying from that vendor but it may have been the best vendor,” Gossett said.

Gossett said there are ways to alleviate concerns about giving tax dollars to organizations that some might find controversial by establishing clear policies or even citizen commissions to make those decisions.

Two groups, Eye on Sacramento and the League of Women Voters, are trying to get the city to enact several reform measures, including an ethics code and citizen commission as well as new sunshine laws to improve transparency in city government.

 

Palo Alto Rich Must Live With Homesless–Results of Their Votes and Policies

I love it when Liberals need to live the way they vote. They want your community and mine to have affordable housing—but not theirs. They insist the homeless be taken care of, in my community and yours—but not theirs. Now the Leftists of Palo Alton are being forced to allow the homeless live in their cars on the streets in front of their multi-million dollar homes!

“The City of Palo Alto has repealed a 2013 ordinance prohibiting individuals from sleeping in their cars, campers, or RVs amid heavy criticism from homeless rights advocates and fears over a potential lawsuit.

Under the previous ordinance, sleeping in one’s vehicle could incur a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. But that rule was tossed out Monday in a 7 to 1 vote by the city council.

But I doubt if they will start repealing AB 32 and other job killers causing the unemployment and homelessness. Now they can be reminded every day of the affects of their liberalism.

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Palo Alto Car Camping Ban Thrown Into Reverse

California City News, 11/20/14

The City of Palo Alto has repealed a 2013 ordinance prohibiting individuals from sleeping in their cars, campers, or RVs amid heavy criticism from homeless rights advocates and fears over a potential lawsuit.

Under the previous ordinance, sleeping in one’s vehicle could incur a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. But that rule was tossed out Monday in a 7 to 1 vote by the city council.

“This is the right thing to do and this is the compassionate thing to do,” said Council Member Gail Price. She and her colleagues were urged to overturn the ban by City Attorney Molly Stump and City Manager James Keene, who said the city could soon face costly legal actions as a result. “I do think [a lawsuit] is very likely if Palo Alto retains this ordinance and begins to enforce it,” Stump warned.

Palo Alto’s legal concerns were heightened after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled a similar law in Los Angeles to be unconstitutional. The 30-year-old law prohibiting the use of vehicles as “living quarters” was described as an overly-broad gateway to discrimination and deemed incompatible with the rule of law.

Palo Alto Council Member Larry Klein was the lone dissenter during Monday’s vote. He expressed concerns that the city would be encouraging transiency by repealing the ordinance and noted that a final legal determination on the issue could still be years in the making.

Palo Alto’s ordinance was passed last year after numerous complaints by city residents. It was placed on hold pending the court’s ruling in the case out of Los Angeles.

Read more about the Palo Alto City Council’s decision here.

 

Coupal: Jarvis Asks Supreme Court To Block Sale Of High Speed Rail Bonds

Arnold and the Choo Choo train crew told us the cost of the “high” speed rail was under $40 billion—now they admit it is $68 billion, while most experts believe it is way over $100 billion. Arnold admitted he doubled the potential ridership, the measure gave us the route—which is no longer operative. They lied about money, routes and ridership. But, still believe it is Ok to go forward. Thanks to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the Supreme Court is asked to end this canard and abuse of the California taxpayers and voters. Oh, the train no longer meets the definition of high speed—just another train.

“”The state has broken faith with voters,” said HJTA President Jon Coupal. “The current rail plan bears no resemblance to the one put before voters in 2008,”

Similar conduct by a private entity could be prosecuted under California’s bait and switch law which states, in brief, that It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association, to make untrue or misleading statements as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell property or services, at the price advertised,” added Coupal.”

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Jarvis Asks Supreme Court To Block Sale Of High Speed Rail Bonds

Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, 9/9/14

Today (9) the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the high speed rail bond validation case.

After radically changing the bullet train plan promised to voters who approved $10 billion in bonds in 2008, the State asked the court to approve sale of the bonds anyway. HJTA responded on behalf of all Californians saying the rail plan no longer matches what was promised voters and the State’s request should be denied. The trial court agreed and denied the State’s request for validation of the bond sale. The Court of Appeals has reversed this decision and HJTA is now asking for intervention by the Supreme Court.

The current plan for high speed rail is nearly twice as expensive as promised and the projected travel times and fairs have nearly doubled.

“The state has broken faith with voters,” said HJTA President Jon Coupal. “The current rail plan bears no resemblance to the one put before voters in 2008,”

Similar conduct by a private entity could be prosecuted under California’s bait and switch law which states, in brief, that It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association, to make untrue or misleading statements as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell property or services, at the price advertised,” added Coupal.

To read the petition, click here.

BACKGROUND

In November 2008, California voters approved $10 billion in bonds to build the first segment of a bullet train system that, according to the ballot materials, would whisk riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under 2½ hours, for about $50 per person. The $43 billion system would be built with federal and private matching funds, and would be self-funding once operational, requiring no new taxes or government subsidies.

After the High Speed Rail Authority radically revised its business and development plan so that it no longer resembled the project approved by voters, the State filed a validation action, High Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons, asking the court to approve the sale of the bonds. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) responded on behalf of “all persons.”

HJTA is fighting the sale of the rail bonds because the State’s current plans for the money break almost every promise made to the voters in 2008. The estimated cost of construction has increased by $25 billion. The federal government has pledged only a trifle, and private investors are not interested at all. A revised business plan has scrapped the idea of 220 mph trains operating on their own track, in favor of slower trains partly sharing existing track with standard passenger and freight trains. Ridership projections have been reduced, which means less ticket-sale revenue, which means higher ticket prices and annual taxpayer subsidies.

The measure approved by the voters required some oversight. An independent Finance Committee was supposed to review the proposed bond sale and approve it only if all prerequisites were met. The evidence at trial showed that the Finance Committee did not do its job. It rubber stamped the sale without ever holding a hearing to consider whether the promises in the ballot were being kept.

In January the trial court ruled in our favor of HJTA on the grounds that the Finance Committee’s approval of the sale of bonds was not supported by any evidence in the record. The court entered judgment denying validation of the bond sale—a huge win for taxpayers. The State then unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to step in and vacate the trial court judgment. The Supreme Court instead referred the case to its usual next step, the Court of Appeal.

The appellate court has now reversed the finding of the trial court, which is why HJTA is asking for review by the Supreme Court.

 

LA Times: Bi-Partisanship Means One Party State

So many Leftist, big government proposals, killing of freedom ideas (ban on plastic grocery bags for instance) were passed by the totally Democrat legislature—most with few or no Republican votes. To the media tax increases, legislation promoting and protecting unions, is “bi-partisan”. When Republicans oppose these the media calls it “gridlock”.

It is true the Democrats did get Republicans to vote a bonus of $330 million tax dollars for radical Democrat donors, the Hollywood billionaires. Maybe if they gave less to Reid, Pelosi and Obama, they would have the money to finance their California operations instead of blackmailing their Democrat friends into paying extortion.

“The legislative “achievements” of 2014 include a statewide ban on plastic bags–the first in the nation; rules for “affirmative consent” in sexual relations on college campuses–also a national first; and tax credits to keep film production in Hollywood (as opposed to tax reform that might benefit all Californians). The glaring omission is any real kind of ethics reform, after four Senate Democrats were either charged or convicted of crimes this year.”

Photo courtesy of DB's travels, Flickr.

Photo courtesy of DB’s travels, Flickr.

California Media Hail ‘Bipartisanship’ in Sacramento

by Joel B. Pollak, Breitbart CA, 8/31/14

This is “bipartisanship” the way Democrats, and the mainstream media, like it: Republicans giving in on nearly every issue. From the Los Angeles Times to the San Jose Mercury News, journalists are united in praising the work that both parties did to pass a slew of bills that largely push a left-wing agenda, calling it an example for leaders in Washington. GOP leaders are basking in the temporary praise. But what, exactly, have they done?

Of the bills that passed, only two–a $7.5 billion water bond, and a rainy day fund–are of real significance to the state, and both merely nibble around the edges of major problems. (The water bond will do nothing about the state’s present drought, and the rainy day fund will barely make a dent in California’s long-term public pension-driven debt). The other bills are a “progressive” wish list, superficially watered down to placate the GOP.

The legislative “achievements” of 2014 include a statewide ban on plastic bags–the first in the nation; rules for “affirmative consent” in sexual relations on college campuses–also a national first; and tax credits to keep film production in Hollywood (as opposed to tax reform that might benefit all Californians). The glaring omission is any real kind of ethics reform, after four Senate Democrats were either charged or convicted of crimes this year.

The media and policy commentariat are celebrating–and making sure Republicans learn a lesson. The Mercury News quotes USC’s Sherry Bebitch Jeffe: “California Republicans in particular are beginning to understand that if they are going to survive as a party, they have to move to the center.” The Times praises Republicans who “chose to work across the aisle” rather than “throw a wrench into the legislative works” when they could have.

The Times suggests that Republicans likely seized the opportunity to cooperate after realizing that Brown was likely to be re-elected this year. Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff also credits Democrats for being “more collaborative, less confrontational, more focused on getting things done,” the Times notes. But when much of what is done is counter-productive, the question is why Republican opposition was less visible and effective.

The Democrats’ ethics problems provided a perfect opportunity. But Republicans did not press the issue–perhaps because of the beating they took in 2012 over Brown’s tax hikes. Last week’s visit by the Mexican president said it all: two Republicans boycotted over the arrest of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, and one led protests outside, but the rest preferred to sit at the table. And the gubernatorial candidate was nowhere in sight.

 

1 in 6 California construction jobs part of underground economy, study finds

California income tax revenues are DOWN 6% for the first six months of the year. Illegal aliens, contrary to the liberal canard, do not pay income taxes—to do so would bring them to the attention of government. So, they work “off the books”.   Thanks to minimum wage increases and ObamaCare, people are being moved to part time work, then some are being pushed onto unemployment. So, why work on the books when construction firms are willing to save money, but pay workers?

This is illegal—not paying taxes, not paying bribes to unions, all of this is the result of government policy. People and firms to survive must break the law. Or they claim company workers are really on contract. The good news is that folks have jobs and companies are making money—obey the law and how much will be lost? A conundrum.

“California’s construction industry is sinking underground. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable that found more than 143,900 jobs – or one out of six jobs –in California’s $152 billion construction industry were part of the so-called underground economy in 2011. Of those, 104,100 jobs were unreported by employers and more than 39,000 employees were misclassified as independent contractors.”

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1 in 6 California construction jobs part of underground economy, study finds

Ben Bergman, KPCC, 8/31/14

California’s construction industry is sinking underground. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable that found more than 143,900 jobs – or one out of six jobs –in California’s $152 billion construction industry were part of the so-called underground economy in 2011. Of those, 104,100 jobs were unreported by employers and more than 39,000 employees were misclassified as independent contractors.

The study, unwritten by  the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, found the number of construction workers in the underground economy has skyrocketed 400-percent since 1972.

Researchers defined the underground or informal economy as workers who were not protected legally or socially in their jobs. Particularly vulnerable are immigrants, who made up 43-percent of the California construction labor force in 2012.

“Construction once provided livelihoods for many workers to live the Californian Dream,” lead researcher Yvonne Yen Liu said in a statement.  “That dream has unfortunately turned into a nightmare as informality increases and many are pushed into contingent work. Construction is a low-road model of an industry sinking underground.  Informality threatens to become the new normal.  To get back on our feet, California needs to raise the floor wage so informal workers are paid a fair wage and enforce labor standards.”

The study found the number of workers exploited greatly increased during the Great Recession, and now four years later, conditions haven’t improved.

And it’s not just construction workers who are threatened, says Liu. That’s because labor practices originating in construction – like misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they should be employees – can trickle down to other industries.

“Misclassification was something that started in construction,” said Liu. “This is something we’re now seeing in the so-called ‘sharing economy.'”

Other findings from the study:

  • The informal tax gap in 2011 was estimated to total over $774 million. The federal government lost $301 million in taxes and California lost $473 million. California unemployment insurance was cheated of $63 million, state disability $146 million, and workers’ compensation $264 million. These are conservative estimates, which only include unpaid payroll taxes and not income taxes.
  • If the wage floor for informal construction was raised to the level of formal workers, California would benefit from $1.5 billion in economic stimulus. The federal government would receive $120 million in additional tax revenue, state and local government $100 million. Unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and state disability would receive $1.6 million.
  • From 1968 to 2012, an annual average of 20 percent of construction workers were not employed. Between 1988 and 2013, half of the unemployed lost their jobs involuntarily.
  • Informal construction contributes to the hollowing out of the middle class. Thirty percent of households with an income earner working informally in construction earned below-poverty wages. Households supported by an informal construction worker were three times more likely to live in poverty than households supported by a formal construction worker.
  • Informal construction workers earn half of what their formal counterparts bring home. For every dollar earned by a worker in the formal sector, an unreported worker makes 52 cents and a misclassified worker 64 cents. The total informal wage gap was $1.2 billion in 2011.
  • Specialty trades, such as drywall, have the highest level of informality, over 25 percent employed informally in 2012. Building construction was next, with 20 percent estimated to be informal. Little evidence of informality was found in heavy and civil engineering.
  • Construction has difficulty recruiting and retaining young workers. Many younger, lower paid workers are churned, entering and then leaving the industry after short stints. The median age for those who stayed in the industry was 38 while those leaving and entering were 4 to 6 years younger.

David Kersh, Executive Director of the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee, a construction labor watchdog group, said the study quantitates the sorts of violations he hears about everyday, including ones at large-scale private and taxpayer funded construction projects.

“We come across these types of unlawful business practices at schools, colleges, universities, libraries, airports and other government facilities; at multi-unit housing projects and high-rise buildings,” Kersh wrote in an e-mail. “They involve regional and international contractors and developers, and companies employing from dozens up to 200 workers on a single project, as evidenced in the situation of National Drywall, a drywall subcontractor recently debarred by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement from working on public works projects for defrauding the state and whose workers have received $1 million in owed wages for labor violations.”

 

Attorney General of California Blocks Real Initiative Reform

Recently a ballot measure to reform the collapsing pension system had to be pulled because the Attorney General wrote a “Title and Summary” making it look like the measure did the opposite of its wording. This killed a chance for the public to do what the union controlled legislature refuses to do—fix the pensions and save the checks for retirees. In the past other Attorney Generals had done the same thing—wrote Title and Summaries for the purpose of misleading the public and force the defeat of good measures and pass measures that harmed the public.

Recently there was a chance to fix the system and take it out of the world of politics. Our Attorney General Kamela Harris understands the power of this responsibility, so killed efforts to fix the problem. Maybe it would take a ballot measure to fix it, if she allowed it on the ballot.

“Most of the organizations participating in the working group agreed with HJTA’s proposal to transfer the responsibility of preparing the title and summary to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst. But because the AG and her minions have substantial political muscle, the effort to secure a more non-partisan title and summary process has now died. And adding insult to injury, the AG even objected to language requiring that ballot titles and summaries use “clear and concise” language.”

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AG Blocks Real Initiative Reform

By Jon Coupal. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, 8/24/14

Just last month, this column noted that the professional political class harbors great hostility toward the tools of direct democracy — the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. These are effective tools to control an indolent or corrupt legislature.

From the perspective of politicians, direct democracy allows the great unwashed and unsophisticated to deal with matters such as taxation, victims’ rights, insurance and, most importantly, political reform. These are issues over which politicians strongly desire to exercise a legislative monopoly.

The column was written in the context of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, a particularly pernicious proposal that would make it much harder for grassroots groups to use direct democracy by requiring a higher vote threshold at the ballot box for changes in the California Constitution proposed by citizens. ACA 6 reflects the epitome of hypocrisy because constitutional amendments proposed from the Legislature would not be subject to the higher standard.

ACA 6 remains a threat, although, as we head into the last week of the Legislative session, we have reason to believe it will die the death it so richly deserves.

In contrast, today’s column concerns another legislative effort to alter the initiative process, Senate Bill 1253. Unlike ACA 6, which was a clear attack on the initiative process, SB 1253 is a mixed bag. Nonetheless, in its final version, it falls woefully short of what is implied by its title: “The Ballot Initiative Transparency Act.”

First, a bit of background.

Last year, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was asked by other organizations to participate in a process to review the initiative process with a view toward real reform. We ourselves have noted that the current process is not perfect and, while skeptical, agreed to participate. (There is an old saying in politics – you’re either at the table or on the menu).

Spearheading the process was moderate Democrat and former legislator, Robert Hertzberg. Also providing a leadership role was Common Cause, a left of center good government organization. In addition to HJTA representing taxpayers, business interests were represented by both the California Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Thankfully, it was decided that no elected officials should be part of the working group.

Surprisingly, the early meetings were quite productive – more so than this writer had anticipated. One of the early items agreed on was that proponents of initiatives should retain the right to withdraw an initiative even if had qualified for the ballot. The reason for this is that a qualified initiative has the potential to force the Legislature to actually address an issue in a meaningful way. A pending, but not yet enacted ballot measure, acts as a sword over the head of a disengaged legislative body.
A primary motivation for HJTA’s participation in this reform effort was the widely recognized problem that the Attorney General had abused her authority in the preparation of a ballot measure’s “Title and Summary.” On at least two occasions, one dealing with statewide pension reform and the other dealing with medical malpractice lawsuits (appearing on the November ballot as Prop 46), the AG wrote ballot titles so outrageously one-sided that even left-leaning news outlets were surprised. Writing an objective, impartial ballot title and summary is, in the minds of most thinking Californians, a fiduciary obligation of the Attorney General. Apparently, she does not share that view and prepared ballot language that rewarded two of her favorite special interest groups (and financial backers): public sector labor groups and trial lawyers.

Most of the organizations participating in the working group agreed with HJTA’s proposal to transfer the responsibility of preparing the title and summary to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst. But because the AG and her minions have substantial political muscle, the effort to secure a more non-partisan title and summary process has now died. And adding insult to injury, the AG even objected to language requiring that ballot titles and summaries use “clear and concise” language.

SB 1253 is now a shell of its original self and scarcely worthy of support. It has extended by 30 days the time in which to gather signatures and that helps grassroots groups – a little.

At this point, SB 1253 could be viewed as the weakest of initiative reform or as adding other superfluous processes that should be opposed. The only thing that is certain from our perspective is that SB 1253 is nothing more than a lost opportunity.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.