Battle royale

Aug 24, 2012

A move to allow the state Department of Insurance to regulate the rates of health insurance companies and keep them from charging excessive premiums has qualified for the 2014 ballot in what is certain to be a high-stakes battle.


From Sandy Kleffman in the Mercury News: "We expect a battle royale," she added. "We have no doubt that the health insurance industry will throw down tens of millions of dollars to oppose this."  Opponents have already begun to organize their campaign."


"This flawed, costly measure is not real health reform," said Patrick Johnston, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, in a statement. "This measure would give one politician too much power over health coverage, do nothing to address the underlying costs driving health care premiums and create an expensive and duplicative state bureaucracy that will be paid for with higher health insurance premiums."


"Consumer Watchdog hadhoped to qualify the initiative for this year's ballot. But after a random sample of petitions failed to produce enough valid signatures, counties did a full signature check, pushing the count past the deadline for this November's election."


Californians, who rely on the Internet for myriad chores, soon will be able to use it to register to vote.


From Timm Herdt in the Ventura County Star: "Beginning next month, Californians for the first time will be able to use the Internet to register to vote, giving them about six weeks of online access to register in time to participate in the Nov. 6 presidential election."


"In an advisory sent late Wednesday, the office of Secretary of State Debra Bowen informed the state's 58 county elections officers that the California Online Voter Registration System is in its final stages of testing and will become operational in early September. Software upgrades are scheduled to be electronically transmitted to the counties Friday, with online training for local officials to be conducted next week."


"It's really huge," said Secretary of State Debra Bowen. "I think it will be extremely popular and am very hopeful it will increase voter registration."

The 11th-hour attempt to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act, a familiar activity as lawmakers head toward adjournment, bit the dust -- at least for now.


From Jim Miller in the Press-Enterprise: "The leader of the state Senate pulled the plug Thursday, Aug. 23, on efforts to revamp the state’s environmental impact rules in the closing days of the legislative session, disappointing some lawmakers who say the law hinders job growth."


"Among them was Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Riverside County lawmaker who last week cast the only Republican vote for legislation by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez to end a $1 billion tax break for out-of-state corporations. The money instead would go to increase college scholarship aid for middle-income families."


"Nestande said he voted for the measure in part because he viewed the legislation as part of an evolving package of changes to the California Environmental Quality Act and other laws that have prompted business complaints. The vote cost Nestande his chairmanship of the Assembly’s 28-member Republican caucus. It could be a line of attack in a future campaign. And now there will be no changes to the law known as CEQA until at least 2013."


The levees around Sacramento and in other parts of the Valley have failed to meet the feds' maintenance criteria, which means getting federal money to rebuild them in the event of a storm could be a serious problem.


From the Bee's Matt Weiser: "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the declaration after concluding that a new state plan to improve Central Valley levees does not provide enough detail to ensure that maintenance problems, such as erosion and intruding structures, will be fixed."


"The affected areas include 40 miles of levees wrapping most of the city of Sacramento on the American and Sacramento rivers. This system of levees, known on flood-control maps as Maintenance Area 9, includes the south bank of the American River from about Bradshaw Road downstream to the confluence with the Sacramento River, then downstream from there nearly to Courtland."

Meanwhile, transforming garbage and animal manure into energy is one way of helping to meet California's power needs.
From Jeremy Miller at KQED: "Wood scraps, animal manure, household garbage and other wastes may soon fuel a sweeping “clean energy” initiative in California, if the collective vision of several state agencies comes to pass."

"This week, the state announced its 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan [PDF], which promotes an array of organic materials as a large and untapped fuel source for an energy-hungry state."


“Swift action on bioenergy will create jobs, increase local clean energy supplies, and help businesses grow in California,” said resources agency secretary John Laird in a Department of Natural Resources release. Currently, the bioenergy sector employs roughly 5,000 people and contributes $575 million to the state economy; the agency estimates the new plan could create an additional 4,000 jobs statewide."

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