Aid-in-dying bill on life support

Jul 6, 2015

Matier and Ross report that the controversial bill that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients may not survive its next committee hearing, scheduled for Tuesday.  From the San Francisco Chronicle:


“After sailing through the state Senate with only Republican opposition, the bill has run into trouble in the Assembly Health Committee, where several Latino Democrats have either come out in opposition or simply gone silent.


“The lawmakers’ hesitancy comes as the Catholic Church in Los Angeles, which is home base for many of the Assembly members and strongly opposes the bill, is urging parishioners to call legislators and voice their objections.


“Some lawmakers ‘just say, “I’m not comfortable with it,”’ [Sen. Ed] Monning said, adding that none has suggested changes that would make the bill more palatable….


“Monning is not likely to bring the bill to the committee unless he has the 10 votes needed to pass it out. And he needs them by Tuesday, the day a hearing on the measure has been set….


“One reason lawmakers may be taking a pass is that the bill’s advocates have promised to go to the ballot if the Legislature doesn’t act — allowing reluctant Assembly members to take the attitude, ‘Let the voters decide.’”


Unions and union-backed groups are working to organize service providers who care for children in state-subsidized programsAndrew Holzman, Sacramento Bee:


“Their goal is passage of Senate Bill 548 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Democratic leaders failed to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to include unionization in the budget measures he signed this month, but they are pressing forward with the stand-alone legislation.


“SEIU says the measure would affect tens of thousands of home-based child care providers who are underpaid and need help fixing the state-contracted agencies that distribute their money. The proposal would be significant – the biggest boon for labor in a state-funded industry since 1999, when legislation helped in-home care workers unionize….


“Republican lawmakers opposed to the unionization measure argued during a floor debate in the Senate that the state’s costs could rise considerably under unionization. They said the change also could result in higher child care costs for people who use the in-home care but don’t qualify for assistance.”


The Los Angeles Times reports that state officials blasted health giant Blue Shield in an audit for stockpiling cash and for failing to provide more affordable coverage than their for-profit competitors.  Chad Terhune in the Los Angeles Times:


“The California Franchise Tax Board cited those reasons, among others, for revoking Blue Shield's state tax exemption last year, according to documents related to the audit that were reviewed by The Times. These details have remained secret until now because the insurer and tax board have refused to make public the audit and related records.


“Blue Shield's operations are indistinguishable from those of its for-profit healthcare competitors, the auditors found, and it should be stripped of the tax break it has enjoyed since its founding in 1939. The insurance giant does not advance social welfare, the key test for preserving its tax exemption, according to the records.


"’Blue Shield is not operating exclusively for the promotion of civic betterment or social welfare,’ tax board officials Christie Maddox and Eddie Murillo-Corona wrote to the insurer in a 16-page report sent June 3, 2014.”


Increased water conservation is good news for California, not-so-good news for water departments suddenly facing deficits – who end up charging their customers extra to make up for it.  Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press:


“Millions of Californians expecting relief on their water bills for taking conservation measures instead are finding higher rates and drought surcharges.


“Water departments are increasing rates and adding fees because they're losing money as their customers conserve. They say they still have to pay for fixed costs including repairing pipelines, customer service and enforcing water restrictions - and those costs aren't decreasing.


“The financial blow is only expected to grow because Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has ordered communities to slash their water use anywhere between 8 and 36 percent compared to 2013 levels in response to the four-year drought. Those cuts are expected to leave agencies with a $1 billion hole in revenue, and they'll likely turn to customers to plug it, according to state estimates.


"’Just because you use less water does not mean you have lower rates or a lower bill,’ said Lori Dolqueist, a water attorney who represents private utilities. ‘All of these agencies and private water companies are being told to sell less of what they do. It's a challenge financially.’"


Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher rejoiced with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to let Arizona’s redistricting commission (and, by extension, California’s) stand.  Now, she says, is the time to take the idea nationwideCathleen Decker, LAT:


“Tauscher argues that taking the drawing of congressional lines out of the hands of politicians will lead to more competitive districts. More competitive districts will mean more moderate House members. More moderate House members will mean more compromise on issues like campaign finance, and, more broadly, a lessening of the partisan gridlock that has frozen the Capitol in recent years.


“The combination of more competition and less gridlock, she believes, will have the added benefit of engaging people so sick of the status quo that they often don't bother to vote.


“In effect, Tauscher's suggesting that the rest of the country follow California's lead. With two ballot measures in 2008 and 2010, the state put line-drawing in the hands of an independent commission, a move that increased the number of competitive seats. (Those measures were essentially endorsed Monday by the Supreme Court ruling, in an Arizona-based case.)"


And last, a story of hubris, alligators and alcohol – and a young man from Texas who has made himself a strong contender for this year’s Darwin Award:


Tommie Woodward, 28, ignored both the desperate pleas' of his friends and warning signs put up by employees at Burkhart's Marina in Orange when he went swimming around 2.30am at the private marina.


‘'He said “blank the alligators” and thereupon jumped into the water,' Orange County Justice of the Peace Rodney Price told KFDM 6


“Price said Woodward 'almost immediately yelled for help' after he hit the water…

Michelle Wright, an employee at the restaurant, saw the entire horrific scene unfold after she pleaded with Woodward not to get into the water.

“'Next thing I know this girl is screaming "an alligator's got him, an alligator's got him"', Wright told KFDM 6, recalling the scene. …


“Woodward suffered severe trauma to a limb and his body was found nearby about two hours later, according to Orange Police Capt. Robert Enmon.


“'You've got to remember that alligators are a predatory species, they are territorial, and they will take advantage of an opportunity,' Enmon said.


“Woodward was the first person killed by an alligator in Texas since 1836.”

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