Changes afoot for California's voting system

Aug 30, 2016

California could be switching from its current ballot-casting system to one that operates primarily by mail -- with the sole purpose of attracting more voters. 


Sac Bee's Alexei Koseff reports: "California is on the verge of sweeping changes to its election system intended to boost plummeting voter turnout."


"The state Senate on Monday sent a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown that would begin shifting California away from its network of neighborhood polling places to primarily mail ballots."


"Based on a model used in Colorado, Senate Bill 450 would authorize counties beginning in 2018 to conduct elections where every voter is mailed a ballot and drop-off locations are available up to four weeks ahead of time in lieu of polling places. Temporary “vote centers” would also be open starting 10 days before the election to register voters and accept ballots."


SEE MORE related to Ballot: Was your ballot counted? You'll be able to find out if Gov. Jerry Brown signs this bill -- John Myers reporing with L.A. Times 


A bill intended to bring transparency to campaign cash contributions may inadvertantly bring about more opacity -- according to some experts.


CPR's Ben Bradford: "New requirements for campaign ads on TV could pass the California Legislature this week, after six years of attempts by open government advocates. But a state elections watchdog says it’s been compromised, and would actually make it easier for special interests to hide money."


"Ads in California have to list the committee that paid for them and also the top two donors behind those committees. Often, that’s more generically-patriotic-sounding committees."


"Legislation proponents have dubbed the California DISCLOSE Act would require campaigns to report who money for an ad originally came from -- both to the state and on-air."


Medi-Cal could see some serious money on the ballot in November.


Dorothy-Mills Greg with Capital Weekly writes: "Medi-Cal is on the November ballot, hiding in plain sight in three propositions."


"These ballot measures could yield about $7.6 billion for the state’s health care program for low-income families, the disabled and children."


"One measure, Proposition 52, would not add “new” money, but extend the current fees hospitals pay to receive more matching funds from the federal government. The other two propositions, 55 and 56, could provide up to $3.6 billion for Medi-Cal – an amount that is eligible for matching federal funds."


Lee Baca will soon undergo psychological evaluation to determine if he is indeed fit for trial despite his progressive Alzheimer's diagnosis.


Fred Shuster with the LA Daily News: "A federal judge has ordered a psychological examination of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to determine if he suffers from any mental impairment that would prevent him from understanding the corruption charges against him or assisting in his own defense, according to court papers obtained Monday."


"In his order for a Nov. 21 hearing, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled that a mental competency exam — conducted by a licensed, court-approved doctor — must take place no later than Sept. 30, followed by the preparation of a report describing whether Baca is suffering from a mental issue and, if so, its history, current symptoms and diagnosis or prognosis."


"The tests should signal whether Baca is “mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” Anderson wrote in the Friday order."


As the Department of Justice strays from using private prisons to house inmates, California still finds for-profit incarceration viable.


Anna Sturla reporting for The Daily Californian writes: "While the U.S. Department of Justice has announced it will begin phasing out its contracts with private prisons, California will continue contracting private prisons to house state-level inmates."


"More than 9,000 California state inmates are housed in private prisons, with the bulk of those imprisoned in Arizona and Mississippi. In addition to the two out-of-state prisons, California contracts with eight in-state prisons of varying sizes."


"The state continues to use private prisons in order to bring down its overall prison population in compliance with a court order, according to Joe Orlando, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is in charge of California’s 180,000 inmates."


Critics re-examine the High-Speed Rail proposal and have identified new issues facing the momentous transportation project.


Ralph Vartabedian with L.A. Times reports: "The state’s plan to build an initial stretch of high-speed rail line, from San Jose to a map point in the midst of Central Valley farmland, came under renewed attack at an oversight hearing Monday."


"Republicans on the House rail subcommittee had sought to hold the hearing in the Silicon Valley but ran into Democratic opposition, according to sources familiar with the matter."


"So the group convened around folding metal tables in a nondescript basement room in a San Francisco federal building."


A bill that would protect gas/electric/utilities ratepayers from shouldering the cost of gas leaks stalled in the Assembly yesterday.


Jeremy B. White with Sac Bee reports: "Legislation to shield ratepayers from shouldering the cost of gas leaks failed decisively in the state Assembly on Monday."


"A large amount of methane is lost in the process of harvesting, storing and transporting natural gas before it can be converted into electricity, according to Senate Bill 1441’s advocates. The bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and allies argued that consumers shouldn’t have to pay more to offset those losses."


"But despite clearing the Senate by a considerable margin, the bill fell well short when it arrived on the Assembly floor Monday, gathering just 27 votes in support – 14 short of the required majority. Its opponents included Pacific Gas and Electric Company."


The Senate killed a bill that would impose a $4,200 campaign contribution donation limit from a single donor in local elections.


L.A. Times' John Myers:  "State lawmakers rejected a plan on Monday to place limits on individual campaign donations for city and county offices, races where in some California communities there are no restrictions on the size of a legal donation."


"Assembly Bill 2523 was supported by a simple majority of senators, but had been recently amended to require a supermajority vote to actually pass."


"The bill would have set the maximum campaign donation in a local campaign at a level equal to those for Assembly and Senate races, currently $4,200. It would have allowed local communities to set lower limits if desired."


Meanwhile, California representatives are calling for a congressional investigation into the makers of OxyContin and other opiods, stating that Purdue and similar manufacturers collected substatial information about the level of trafficking and deaths their drugs were involved in, but failed to act morally and accordingly.


Harriet Ryan in L.A. Times reports: "Two California representatives called Monday for a congressional investigation of opioid manufacturers, citing a Los Angeles Times investigation that found that the maker of OxyContin collected extensive evidence of criminal trafficking of its drug but in many cases did not alert law enforcement."


"Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), both members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter to the committee chairs that an immediate investigation was necessary “to fully understand the implications and consequences of pharmaceutical companies that do not fulfill their legal and ethical requirements to restrict the sale of opioids in circumstances that raise suspicion regarding inappropriate prescribing practices."


"The congressmen added, “There appears to be a pervasive disregard for patient safety and public health by some within the pharmaceutical industry.”

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