PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: John Perez

Counties express concerns about Medi-Cal expansion

As state lawmakers propose a major expansion of Medi-Cal to help California implement President Obama's healthcare overhaul, county officials are raising concerns that the proposal could siphon critical dollars from their safety-net programs.

On Monday, legislative leaders in both houses sponsored bills that would dramatically expand the state's public insurance program. Under the proposals, individuals earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level -- or $15,415 a year -- would be covered, potentially adding more than 1 million Californians to the Medi-Cal rolls.

The federal government would subsidize costs for the first three years, phasing down to 90% afterward.

Currently, counties receive state funding to care for the uninsured. But Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if the state were to administer the Medi-Cal expansion it may reduce the roughly $2 billion it gives to counties each year to cover the new costs. In his proposed budget, the governor said the state might also shift some state responsibilities, such as child care, to counties to offset costs.

Kelly Brooks-Lindsey, a lobbyist for the California State Assn. of Counties, said counties will still be responsible to cover residents who remain uninsured even after the federal Affordable Care Act takes effect next year. For instance, if Californians miss the deadline for open enrollment in a new state-run insurance exchange, they will have to wait a year for another chance to sign up, she said.

There are also people who cannot afford insurance on the open market but make too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal.

"We need to make sure we have enough revenues to pay for whatever remaining responsibilities we have and the populations we will continue to serve," Brooks-Lindsey said.

On Monday, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), author of the Medi-Cal legislation in the lower house, said he was working with county officials to hammer out a compromise.

"We think that there's a way to get to an accommodation where counties will be very happy with the outcome," he said. "But this is a very complex area and we expect there to be a lot of debate in both houses of the Legislature as well as with all the stakeholders."

ALSO:

Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Healthcare law will have new Legislature scrambling

State of the State: 'California did the impossible,' Brown says

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Lawmakers introduce proposals to expand Medi-Cal

The state Legislature gaveled in a special session on healthcare Monday, with lawmakers introducing measures to help California implement President Obama's healthcare overhaul.

Most Americans face the requirement in January 2014 to buy health insurance or pay a penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Underscoring the importance of the issue, legislative leaders in both houses sponsored bills that would dramatically expand Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for the poor. Under the proposals, individuals earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level -- or $15,415 a year -- would be covered, potentially adding more than 1 million Californians to the Medi-Cal rolls.

The federal government would subsidize costs for the first three years, phasing down to 90% after that.

"Ensuring that every Californian has access to quality, affordable healthcare is one of the most important public policy challenges we face," said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) at an afternoon press conference. "No Californian should ever face bankruptcy or severe financial setbacks due to illness and injury."

The legislation would also streamline the Medi-Cal enrollment process to help sign up hundreds of thousands of Californians who are currently eligible but not enrolled. According to a recent study by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, that change could add between 240,000 and 510,000 people to the Medi-Cal rolls by 2019.

Gov. Jerry Brown has earmarked $350 million in his budget proposal to pay for the increased participation. Costs for the currently eligible group will be split evenly between the state and federal governments.

On Monday, as healthcare providers challenged a federal court's decision allowing California to cut Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, Pérez said slashing state costs was necessary. California, he said, lacks the resources to better compensate doctors, hospitals and pharmacists.

"I don't think we're in a situation to make fundamental changes to that given our current budgetary situation," he said.

ALSO:

Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Healthcare law will have new Legislature scrambling

State of the State: 'California did the impossible,' Brown says

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Lawmakers applaud optimism of State of the State address

APphoto_California BudgetGov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address drew praise from legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, but his call for fiscal restraint was interpreted differently by Democrats and Republicans.

"The whole atmosphere now contrasting with the prior years is so much more hopeful, and I think the governor’s leadership and his speech embodies that,'' said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "It was just great."

Democratic leaders said they agreed with the governor that the state needs to be restrained in spending, but they said that does not rule out restoring money to programs cut in the past if it becomes available as the economy improves.

"We are in complete agreement that you don’t spend money that you don’t have and we need to focus on a reserve and paying down debt," Steinberg said. But, he added, "if the economy grows and if there is opportunity and if there is headroom to restore some of what was lost of course we are going to."

Republican leaders said they liked the governor’s emphasis on fiscal restraint, but are uncertain the Democratic-controlled Legislature will heed his call.

"He struck some good Republican themes," said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. "I just hope the reality of the future matches the rhetoric of today."

Huff said he was disappointed that the governor "did not offer any substantive proposals for job creation or helping California’s working class.'' 

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare also liked the governor’s emphasis on fiscal restraint. "From his call to enact a ‘live within our means’ budget to making education the priority it should be, I see a lot of common ground between Republicans and the governor, and opportunities where we can work together with him," Conway said in a statement.

The only standing ovation during the speech by Republicans and Democrats occurred when the governor said about the financial problems of the state universities: "Tuition increases are not the answer. I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities."

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State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown at a press conference earlier this month. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee hikes

JohnPerezAssembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) issued a stern warning to University of California officials this week, saying that if the UC system follows through with plans to hike student fees, it will face the renewed scrutiny of the California Legislature.

The Democratic leader said lawmakers would focus on executive compensation in particular, arguing at a UC regents meeting Thursday that the higher education system had rewarded administrators with generous salaries and bonuses while hiking tuition for middle-class students.

The result, he said, is a generation of Californians saddled with debt.

"It limits the choices that they make and the options that they have to make their full imprint on this state," Perez told regents. "We need to be very clear that we have an expectation in the Legislature that you do no additional harm to access to the university."

On Thursday, leaders of the 10-campus system said fees for more than 50 professional graduate school programs, such as law and nursing, may increase.

Regent Richard Blum said UC must recruit the best leaders and that underpaying them "is a good way to turn this place into a junior college in about 15 years."

Lawmakers for years have called on UC and Cal State administrators to rein in their compensation practices.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced legislation that would ban pay hikes for top administrators at public universities in bad budget years or when student fees increase. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in 2009 and it fell one vote short of passage in the Senate Education Committee in 2011.

Perez told UC officials that if they go through with their plans to raise some student fees, "you will find a speaker that is less receptive to your efforts to stop legislation that is aimed at limiting your ability to compensate your executive officials at the level that you have."

Legislative Republicans have also proposed a seven-year freeze on tuition and fee increases at California’s public universities and community colleges to correspond with the length of tax increases under voter-approved Proposition 30.

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UC likely to hike tuition for some grad programs

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7-year freeze on university fee hikes proposed by GOP lawmakers

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speaks on the Assembly floor during the legislative session in 2011. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Assembly speaker restricts press access to lawmakers [Updated]

JohnPerezReporters who cover the California Assembly face new hurdles to interviewing lawmakers under rules ordered by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) for this year's legislative session.

Ending the longstanding practice of reporters interviewing legislators at the rear of the lower house's chambers, the Assembly speaker now requires those conversations to be conducted outside in the hallway.

[UPDATE, Jan. 8, 4:23 p.m.: Perez's office told the Times it has reconsidered the new rule and will still allow reporters to interview lawmakers in the rear of the Assembly chambers -- though those interviews must be conducted in a designated, cordoned-off area.]

The new rules also bar reporters from walking on the Assembly floor to talk to lawmakers after the lower house adjourns for the day. Such contacts were another longstanding practice.

Robin Swanson, Perez's spokeswoman, said the new rules were instituted to "make the Assembly floor more efficient and limit the disturbances so all members can do their jobs and focus on the legislation at hand."

Asked what prompted the changes, she could not cite specific instances in which reporters disrupted the business of the Assembly, only saying that the new rules were meant to "reduce noise interference" during sessions.

Compared with other state Legislatures, she said the new rules of the California Assembly are "pretty middle-of-the-road."

This is not the first time Perez has battled the Capitol press corps over public access and the legislative process.

In 2011, Assembly administrators denied newspapers' requests to examine legislators' current spending records, claiming that they were confidential under provisions in the Legislative Open Records Act. The media outlets sued, and a Sacramento County Superior Court judge later ruled that Assembly administrators had improperly withheld the records and chided the lower house for its “somewhat ironic” view of the open-records law.

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Lawmakers vow to close legal loophole in rape cases

Legislators vow to change law on rape by impersonation

Assembly speaker says Senate should clear way for rape bill

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speaks on the Assembly floor during the legislative session in 2011. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Assembly speaker introduces bill to close legal loophole in rape cases

 

JohnPerezAssembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) has joined with a Republican lawmaker to introduce legislation that would close a legal loophole that led a state appeals court to overturn the rape conviction of a California man.

Citing a 19th century law, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled last week that a man who impersonates someone in order to have sexual intercourse may be guilty of rape only if the victim was married and the man was pretending to be her husband.

"This is an appalling failure of justice, and I am committed to acting swiftly to prevent a similar occurrence in the future," Perez said in a statement. "Like every Californian, I was deeply disturbed by this decision, and my colleagues and I will work on eliminating this glaring loophole in state law and protect Californians from such a gross violation."

The legislation, AB 65, would expand the definition of rape to include cases where a perpetrator impersonates a person's boyfriend or girlfriend.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) is the measure's co-author. He introduced similar legislation in 2011, but it died in the state Senate Public Safety Committee, where lawmakers have a longstanding policy of shelving bills that could exacerbate the state's prison overcrowding crisis.

"Today, Republicans and Democrats are joining together to make an important statement -- the Legislature will not stand for rapists getting away with their heinous acts because of an ancient provision in state law," Achadjian said in a statement. "The overwhelming response last week to an injustice in the law that I’ve been fighting to end for quite some time will give our proposal the strong momentum it needs to be enacted into law."

The legislation has the support of 13 state senators and 30 Assembly members.

Lawmakers vow to close legal loophole in rape cases

Legislators vow to change law on rape by impersonation

Assembly speaker says Senate should clear way for rape bill

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speaks on the Assembly floor during the legislative session in 2011. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Assembly speaker says Senate should clear way for rape bill

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D–Los Angeles), right, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento) last year. Pérez says the Senate should clear the way to change a rape law.Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) says the state Senate should clear the way for legislation that would overhaul a law that makes it a crime to obtain sex by impersonating another only if the victim is a married woman.

The 19th century law required a state appeals court last week to overturn the rape conviction of a Los Angeles County man who entered a darkened bedroom where a woman was sleeping and had sex with her.

Legislation to change the law passed the Assembly in 2011 but died in the state Senate Public Safety Committee, where lawmakers have a long-standing policy of shelving bills that could exacerbate the state's prison overcrowding crisis.

In light of last week's controversial court ruling, Pérez said in an interview that lawmakers in the upper house should rethink the policy and consider new legislation that would "make sure that a heinous act is properly dealt with."

"I think it's a very problematic way to approach legislation –- to create broad-based rules without respect to the specific underlying facts," he said of the Senate policy. "We’ve gotta fix this, and hopefully the Senate will come to a more reasonable perspective as it deals with this important issue of public safety."

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said senators would probably reexamine the public safety policy, adopted in 2007 to alleviate prison overcrowding and  help the state comply with court-ordered inmate reductions. He noted drops in prison populations under a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown that makes low-level felons the responsibility of counties.

"With those reductions, it gives us a little more breathing room," Hedlund said.

Of the state's rape law, he said: "This obviously needs to be fixed."

Lawmakers vow to close legal loophole in rape cases

Legislators vow to change law on rape by impersonation

Federal budget deal could be reprieve for California finances

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D–Los Angeles), right, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento) discuss the state budget at the Capitol last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Assembly speaker appoints ex-lawmaker to plum post

MichaelAllenFormer Assemblyman Michael Allen may have lost a close race for reelection in November, but his state service is far from over.

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) appointed the former one-term lawmaker to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board on Thursday.

The board provides citizen oversight of appeals when unemployment claims are denied. The post comes with a $128,109 annual salary.

The unemployment board has become a sort of landing pad for termed-out or ousted lawmakers.

In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed former state Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield to the board. Ashburn was one of a handful of Republicans who broke party ranks to join Schwarzenegger in voting for tax increases in 2009.

Last year, Perez had backed Allen in a fiercely contested race for an Assembly seat in Northern California wine country. The incumbent lawmaker lost to fellow Democrat Marc Levine by 4,448 votes.

In announcing the appointment, Perez's office noted that Allen was a former labor leader who had championed legislation to bar employers from discriminating against unemployed Californians when they apply for jobs.

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Obama claims victory, heads back to Hawaii

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--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Photo: Then-Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) at the Capitol in August. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

With Assembly win, Democrats bolster their supermajority

California Democrats appear to have bolstered their historic supermajority in the Assembly.

Final election results released Sunday by Los Angeles County elections officials showed Democrat Steve Fox beating Republican Ron Smith by 145 votes in a Southern California swing district that spans three counties.

The victory gives Democrats 55 seats in the lower house -- one more than a two-thirds supermajority -- and some padding as Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) seeks to maintain his caucus' tenuous numbers. Assembly members are expected to run for the seats of two state senators who are leaving the Legislature for Congress next year.

Fox, however, could prove an unpredictable vote. According to the Sacramento Bee, the attorney and teacher ran as a Republican in a 2008 Assembly contest and has signed an anti-tax pledge.

The final Los Angeles County vote count Sunday also showed the winner in another upset widening his margin of victory. In District 50, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom bested incumbent Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey) by 1,705 votes.

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Democrats face pressure from left to use new powers

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James Humes, Brown's executive secretary, described as affable and decisive

-- Michael J. Mishak

Twitter.com/mjmishak

Assembly Speaker John Perez gets overwhelming support to keep post

Corporate Tax Loophole.JPEG–03fa9

While some races are still not yet settled, Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) wasted no time in consolidating his power at an organizational Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday that nominated him to continue as leader next year.

A final vote on the leadership will not take place until final election results are in and new members are sworn in Dec. 3, but Perez won unanimous support by acclamation from the dozens of current and possibly new lawmakers who met Thursday at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento

Perez was still basking in the glory over surprising Democratic gains in the Assembly -- if current election results hold up, he would have a supermajority in the lower house. "He’s really done tremendous things for the caucus both in terms of promoting Democratic values and political success," said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake).

The caucus convened Thursday included some potential new members, including Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and Sharon Quirk Silva (D-Fullerton). Silva has a 1,004-vote lead over Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby of Fullerton in an Orange County Assembly district and it may be weeks before thousands of uncounted votes in that race are tabulated.

Perez said in a statement that he planned to move fast with his party’s new powers. “In the new legislative session we will have 54 Democrats hitting the ground running, eager to work for jobs, recovery and economic growth for California," Perez said, adding that he was "honored and humbled to receive the unanimous support of my colleagues to continue leading that effort."

Assemblywoman Connie Conway of Tulare was chosen by the Assembly Republican Caucus to continue her leadership role, while Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento received support from Senate Democratic Caucus members to remain in charge in the upper house.

ALSO:

Voters reject Proposition 32, AP says

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Assembly speaker confident he has a two-thirds majority

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), right, talks with Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) during a session earlier this year. Credit: Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

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