California's arm of the Affordable Care Act is experiencing a deluge of applications for health care coverage as people try to sign up in the teeth of an approaching deadline.
From the LAT's Chad Terhune: "California's health exchange is struggling to keep pace with a surge of applicants who are encountering long waits and website problems as they try to meet a Dec. 23 deadline."
"In response to higher-than-expected demand, the Covered California exchange said it is adding staff and expanding its capacity to answer consumer calls. It received 17,000 calls in less than an hour Wednesday, more than it received in an entire day in recent weeks. The exchange is also trying to dig through a backlog of 25,000 paper applications filed in October and November."
Here's a different take on real estate: The California Association of Realtors' political action arm gave a hefty $500,000 contribution to the California Democratic Party a day before the Demcrat-controlled Franchise Tax Board resolved an issue over the state's tax treatment of so-called "short sales."
From the Bee's Jim Miller: "Tuesday's donation, reported Wednesday evening, matches the $500,000 the Realtors gave state Democrats in May. The group also gave the party $168,000 earlier in the year and more than $1 million in 2012. The 2013 contributions, by far the largest to the party in the current election cycle, will help Democratic attempts to keep their two-thirds legislative supermajorities in 2014."
"Realtors spokeswoman Lotus Lou denied any connection between the two events. Wednesday's legal opinion from the Franchise Tax Board stemmed from a September clarification on the issue by the IRS, she said. "The two did not have any relation to each other," Lou said."
The numbers of African Americans gaining admission to the University of California are down sharply, in part because of the absence of racial preferences in deciding applicants.
From Reuters' Sharon Bernstein: "The report, by the education policy group Campaign for College Opportunity, also showed that African-American students were less likely than students from other ethnic groups to graduate from the state's public colleges and universities, and took longer to complete their degrees."
"The study comes amid an ongoing debate in the United States over affirmative action, the practice of giving an advantage in hiring or college admissions to some minority applicants to boost opportunities for under-represented populations."
The state's political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, is asking Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, about a $25,000 donation the Latino Caucus made to a nonprofit headed by Tom Calderon, a former lawmaker and brother of Sen. Ron Calderon, whose Capitol offices were raided in a federal corruption probe.
From the Bee's Laurel Rosenhall: "A political action committee run by the caucus, called Yes We Can, made the contribution early this year after a fight over leadership of the Latino caucus. Calderon's brother, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was in line to becomechairman of the influential caucus, but state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, did not want to give up the post."
"A few weeks after the caucus voted to keep Lara as chairman, the PAC gave $25,000 to Californians for Diversity, the nonprofit run by Tom Calderon."
"An FBI affidavit published by Al Jazeera America in October alleges that de León, D-Los Angeles, brokered a deal between Calderon and Lara to settle the leadership dispute with the $25,000 payment."
Political battles are brewing over health care in California, with a ballot initiative next year targeting insurers' rates, the insurance commissioner up for reelection and a new survey showing that Californians want health insurance but have concerns over the Affordable Care Act.
From Capitol Weekly's Samantha Gallegos: "California is in the forefront of the nation’s new health care insurance reforms and is following its own drummer, such as when it decided not to go along with the president’s call to give certain policyholders a year-long delay from being kicked off dubious health insurance plans."
"But the political forces surrounding the Affordable Care Act in California are profound and are all but certain to play a role in campaigns, including the potential reelection of California’s powerful insurance commissioner and whether Californians will approve a high-stakes initiative to regulate health insurers’ rates."
It's full-speed ahead at California's bullet-train project, where officials said they are not deterred by recent obstacles that include an adverse court decision and a stiff-arm from federal regulators.
From the AP's Juliet Williams: "Despite the recent setbacks, they said engineering work and state hiring are on pace and that construction will begin in the new year using federal money."
"At a meeting of the board that oversees the California High-Speed Rail Authority, board members voted in closed session to start work on a new request for blanket approval from the courts to sell $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds, after a Sacramento County judge denied such a request last week."
From the Press Democrat's Guy Kovner: "Scientists at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, who were the first to detect the hypoxic (low-oxygen) waters, aren’t calling it a “dead zone” yet, despite the similarity to a lethal condition along the Oregon coast for the past 12 years and forecasts that it will occur worldwide with global warming."
“There’s nothing dead,” said John Largier, an oceanographer at the UC Davis research facility on Bodega Head. But equipment on a bright yellow buoy anchored about a mile offshore has recorded dissolved oxygen levels low enough to cause “significant distress” for some marine organisms, he said."
And from our "Headless Torso Found in Topless Bar" file comes the tale of the lost prosthetic arm and the hunt for its owner.
"A stolen prosthetic arm has been uncovered at a second hand shop sparking a search for its owner."
"The unusual and distinctive arm is a Nasco Life/Form Advanced Injection Arm and is primarily used for training people to take blood samples."
"Detective Constable Adam Woolman, of Bournemouth CID, said: “During the course of an investigation police recovered a number of items from a second hand shop, including this arm."
The long arm of the law is flexing its muscle ...