No party like a GOP Party

Feb 27, 2015

California Republicans will party the weekend away in Sacramento, celebrating gains made in the last election at the party’s biannual convention.  Headliner: GOP star and New Jersey Governor Chris ChristieChristopher Cadelago has the story at the Sacramento Bee:


“The keynote speaker is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential hopeful who for years has stood out as a shining example of a Republican who could win in a decidedly blue state. Christie is currently experiencing a bit of a rough patch in the polls, however, as he strains to make inroads with national donors and other key early groups.


“The convention will also be an opportunity for a pair of former state party chairmen – Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro – to get some face time as they consider running for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer. The only announced candidate so far is Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris. Another possible Republican contender, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez of Oceanside, plans to host a Friday night reception.”


Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has rejected a request for $17.5 million in additional funding for the Department of Consumer Affairs’ troubled BreEZe system.


Jon Ortiz at the Sacramento Bee: “Leno, D-San Francisco, wrote that the Brown admininstration ‘has failed to provide adequate information necessary to inform the Legislature’s review and decision-making,’ such as how the department will move the BreEZe project forward and how its higher costs will impact license fees.


“About a quarter of the 40 regulatory boards, bureaus and commissions in Consumer Affairs have implemented the system since fall 2013, aiming to streamline and automate work. After a bumpy start, some of the bugs have been fixed and some units have adjusted. Still, a recent state audit hammered the deparment for failing to adequately access its business needs and monitor the project, noting that more than 1,000 defects remain in the system.


“The estimated BreEZe budget has ballooned from $28 million to $96 million. The department has spent nearly $37 million so far.”


Senator Ed Hernandez (D-SD 22) introduced a new scope of practice bill, SB 323, which would expand the authority of nurse practioners.  A similar bill, SB 491, died in 2013 in the face of fierce opposition from doctors’ groups.  Kathy Robertson has the story in the Sacramento Business Journal.


“Senate Bill 323 would grant California's 18,000 nurse practitioners ‘full practice authority.’ A "spot" bill designed to serve as a vehicle for discussion, it does not flush out what this means, but preliminary language suggests authority to diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for patients without physician oversight.


“Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia permit this. Another eight states allow nurse practitioners to diagnose and treat patients, but require physician supervision for prescribing medications…


"’This is not a new fight here in California, but with 2.5 million previously uninsured Californians receiving health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we need to pass this law to ensure that more trained health care professionals are available,’ Hernandez said in a news release. ‘It is well documented that California is facing a shortage of primary care physicians and giving trained nurse practitioners full practice authority would go a long way to help remedy this situation."’


The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has discovered that oil producers are using hundreds of unpermitted wastewater pits in Kern County.  From Julie Cart at the Los Angeles Times:


“Inspections completed this week by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board revealed the existence of more than 300 previously unidentified waste sites. The water board’s review found that more than one-third of the region’s active disposal pits are operating without permission.


“The pits raise new water quality concerns in a region where agricultural fields sit side by side with oil fields and where California’s ongoing drought has made protecting groundwater supplies paramount….


“The pits — long, shallow troughs gouged out of dirt — hold water that is produced from fracking and other oil drilling operations. The water forced out of the ground during oil operations is heavily saline and often contains benzene and other naturally occurring but toxic compounds.


“Regional water officials said they believe that none of the pits in the county have linings that would prevent chemicals from seeping into groundwater beneath them. Some of the pits also lack netting or covers to protect migrating birds or other wildlife.”


Senator Tony Mendoza, (D- Artesia) has introduced legislation to tighten conflict-of-interest rules for local officials.  Mendoza introduced similar legislation three years ago, and faced strong opposition from the League of California Cities.  Ben Adler has the story at Capital Public Radio.


“Currently, elected officials only need to recuse themselves from voting on contracts for immediate family members or their spouses if there’s a common financial interest – for example, if they live together, or co-own a business. Democratic state Senator Tony Mendoza says elected officials should recuse themselves even if there isn’t a direct financial relationship.


“’If you violate this – which, by voting on the contract, you violated it – you’re done,’ Mendoza says. ‘You can’t hold office again in California.’”


Former Senator Ellen Corbett made news yesterday when she landed an appointment to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board – an appointment worth $128,109 per year.  Senator Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) thinks that’s ludicrous, and has introduced legislation to reduce the salaries on a dozen boards to just $12,000 per year.


From Patrick McGreevy at the Los Angeles Times: “’We’ve got to put an end to these high paying commissions that serve no other purpose than to provide a living for termed-out legislators who can't find a job in the private sector,’ Stone said Thursday…


“In addition to Corbett's board, other panels targeted by Stone's legislation, with members' annual pay, include: Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, $131,952, Board of Parole Hearings, $117,504, Agricultural Labor Relations Board, $128,109, Public Employment Relations Board, $134,591 [and the] Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board, $25,500.”


And this week, the Singin’ the Golden State Blues Award for worst week in Sacramento goes to the man who appointed Corbett to that board – Senate leader Kevin De Leon.  Corbett is the least of his worries.


AP reporter Judy Lin broke the story this week that De Leon’s extravagant swearing-in party (derided as a ‘coronation’ by critics) cost taxpayers more than $25,000.  That’s bad enough – what’s worse is that the event’s organizers had been adamant that no public monies were used. The story noted that Speaker Toni Atkins also cost the public $15K for her swearing in, but the focus was definitely on the Senate.


The story had legs, running in most California media outlets and even made a splash nationally.  No big surprise that neighboring Nevada picked it up… but Minnesota? Indiana


De Leon’s tenure as head of the Senate has been marked by drama nearly from the start, with multiple rounds of layoffs and a general feeling of tension among staffers.  Last year’s triple corruption scandals already had morale at a low ebb when De Leon took over, but his management so far is said to be making things even worse for those in the upper house.

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