Covered California Gets High Marks Entering Year 2

Daniel Weintraub
Journalist and Political Blogger at HealthyCal.org

In the first full year under the federal Affordable Care Act, California led the nation – embracing the new law eagerly, implementing it quickly, and providing relatively robust choice with low premiums through a web site that, most of the time, actually worked.

There was nothing in Thursday’s announcement about the early stages of Year 2 that suggests the state’s position as a poster child for the law is about to change any time soon.

Covered California, the new state agency created to run the program here, announced that ten insurance companies have signed on to offer plans next year, and rates in 2015 will increase an average of 4.2 percent, a modest price hike by health insurance industry standards. And because 90 percent of consumers who have bought insurance through the program receive federal tax credits to reduce their cost, the actual increase will likely be smaller for most of them. Some people might even pay less in 2015 than they do today.

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Californians and the Carbon Tax

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

California is leading efforts to address climate change, and public support for state action on this policy has been strong and steadfast. In the July PPIC Survey, six in 10 likely voters say that global warming’s effects have already begun and favor the state’s requirements that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020.

The landmark law laying out these efforts—AB 32—relies on a “cap-and-trade” program for companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The state government currently enforces emissions “caps” by issuing permits that can be “traded” among companies at quarterly auctions. The state is getting ready for the AB 32 legislation to impact transportation fuels in 2015, with costs—which are unknown—likely passed on to Californians at the gas pump. Under these circumstances, some policymakers are having second thoughts about the cap-and trade program and are reconsidering a carbon tax on companies for their greenhouse gas emissions.

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Does Anyone Cover the News in Sacramento?

Brian Calle
Opinion Editor for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Register and Press-Enterprise. And Editor-in-Chief for CalWatchdog.com

California is perhaps the most significant state in the union both culturally and economically. One in every eight Americans lives here. In 2012, California’s GDP was $1.9 trillion — roughly the same size as that of Italy and Russia.  If we were a nation, we’d consistently be in the top-10 largest economies in the world. And the state’s capital, Sacramento, is one of the largest governments in the nation outside of Washington, D.C., often responsible for exporting good and often bad policy ideas to other states.

One would think with such importance that reporters and news organizations would have in place an incredibly large presence to cover the comings and goings of lawmakers and agencies in Sacramento. Yet, disconcertingly, the opposite is true.

In fact, the number of reporters covering state government is at a startling low. And a recent Pew study shows that number will likely continue to decline.

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LA Council Flunks Infrastructure 101

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

12062zThe high profile rupture of a high pressure water trunk line on Sunset Boulevard that dumped 20 million gallons of water (160 million pounds) onto UCLA and the recently reconstructed Pauley Pavilion is just another example of the City Council’s failure to maintain the City’s aging infrastructure.

While numerous reports over the years have highlighted the problems of the Water Systems aging pipeline infrastructure, the City Council continued to shortchange the Department’s basic maintenance program by diverting Ratepayer funds to their pet projects and to very generous raises for the workers represented by the politically powerful IBEW.  

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Implement FCC Rule on 9-1-1 – Save 10,000 Lives Each Year

Firefighter

In recent months, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a proposed rule that would update their standards to improve location accuracy for wireless calls to 9-1-1, so that emergency responders are better able to find mobile-based 9-1-1 callers.

According to the FCC, their rule change would save about 10,000 lives a year—TEN THOUSAND LIVES EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

Given this estimation, one would imagine that everyone would be on board. Unfortunately, even as emergency responders have overwhelmingly demonstrated their support for the rule, cell phone carriers have dragged their feet. In fact, they have gone so far as to try and craft a backroom deal with the leadership of the Association of Public-Safety Commissioners (APCO), a public safety trade group, aiming to weaken and delay these measures.

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Reunion with the Past of “Separate But Equal”

Bruno Peguese
BART Real Estate Officer

I have lived in California since 1959–which should now qualify me as a native. Before coming to California, though, I lived in a farming community in Mississippi, and was among the last group of Black students to attend segregated schools in the pre-Brown v. Board of Education era. Recently, I made the journey back to Prentiss, Mississippi for a school reunion.

Earlier this year, I received an invitation to the first ever Mt. Zion Community School reunion. I attended the school as a young boy during the 1950s. Nothing was impressive or noteworthy about the school, no one of social note went there, or for that matter, visited the structure behind the church at the top of Mt. Zion road.So why its interest now? What does it add to the already complex quilt work of societal anecdotes? Locally, such an event such as this would raise few eyebrows in or outside a small, agricultural township like Prentiss, Mississippi. But this event has a story to tell that is as relevant now as it was then.  It speaks to all Black families who, for many years, have lived and raised families in Prentiss and neighboring townships throughout Jefferson Davis County. Since the inception of the school in the late 1920s, it has been a source of information and knowledge, while educating students for over 40 years.

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Delaying Fuel Cost Piece of Greenhouse Gases Law Pits Blue Collar vs. Progressive Elites

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

One of the most high profile bills in the legislative session that resumes next week just got pushed into the center of the spotlight. AB 69, the measure to delay applying cap-and-trade regulations to transportation fuels, drew the attention of hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer who pledged “to spend what it takes” to see that the greenhouse gases reduction law is implemented according to schedule.

If AB 69 does not move forward, beginning in January, the cap-and-trade provisions of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, will cover motor vehicle fuels. Estimates range from a 15-cent to 70-cent increase in the cost of a gallon of gas if vehicle fuels are included.

Steyer’s move puts him at odds with some California Democrats who are concerned that their constituents and the economy will suffer with increased fuel costs.

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What’s Good for Putin Is Good for California

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Here are two words Californians should say to Vladimir Putin:

Thank you.

California, with its historic reliance on defense-related industries, never quite recovered from the end of the Cold War. Today, Los Angeles has fewer jobs than it did in 1990. Fortunately, Putin seems intent on giving us a new Cold War.

Let’s stipulate that Putin’s crushing of dissent at home, his seizing of the Crimea, his wars against Ukraine and Georgia, and his bullying of European neighbors are bad for the peace and security of the world. But all this Russian madness—not to mention the threatening, nationalistic expansionism of Putin’s Chinese ally President Xi Jinping—presents an opportunity for California.

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To Fight Inequality, Blue States Need To Shift Focus To Blue-Collar Jobs

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

In the coming election, we will hear much, particularly from progressives, about inequality, poverty and racism. We already can see this in the pages of mainstream media, with increased calls for reparations for African-Americans, legalizing undocumented immigrants and a higher minimum wage.

There’s no question that minorities’ economic wellbeing has deteriorated since the economy cratered in 2007. African-America youth unemployment is now twice that of whites, while the black middle class, once rapidly expanding, has essentially lost the gains made over the past 30 years, says the Urban League.

Conservatives may not have the answers but it’s clear that a progressive regime has not worked either.

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Don’t Let This Drought Go Down the Drain

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Two weeks ago, State officials approved an emergency regulation imposing $500 fines on water users who violate mandatory conservation measures. With 80 percent of the State now in extreme drought, it’s imperative that we all conserve as much water as possible. Visit SoCal WaterSmart to find out what water conservation programs are available for your home and business.
The current drought has underscored the critical need for investment in our state’s water infrastructure. “Our state’s water system is in a deep financial crisis, with failing marks for essential infrastructure and with unmet needs of about $2-3 billion annually,” according to a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

State funds for water programs are drying up quickly and state lawmakers have been unable to move beyond long-standing water wars to successfully amend the $11 billion water bond slated for the November 2014 election. The $11 billion bond measure was originally developed in 2009 to create a more drought resilient state by funding the development of local water resources and storage capacity. The general thinking in the legislature is that this bond is too large to secure voter approval.

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