"On the eve of a pivotal legislative hearing, the healthcare overhaul pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has won so little support in the California Senate that the Democratic leadership may have to alter a committee's makeup for the measure to pass
," reports Jordan Rau in the times.
"The $14.9-billion plan, which would require nearly all Californians to obtain insurance and would subsidize the premiums of those too poor to afford it, was approved last month in the state Assembly only after some of the state's strongest labor leaders lobbied for it. The difficulty was notable because the plan was written by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez
"Doubts about the plan have intensified since then. A report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office released Tuesday evening questioned some of the Schwarzenegger-Nunez plan's fiscal assumptions as too optimistic and estimated that by the fifth year of operation, the plan would be spending $300 million more than it was raising.
"The Health Committee has 11 members and thus needs six votes to pass. Five are Republican, and all but one, Abel Maldonado
of Santa Maria, are sure to vote against the bill.
Committee chair Sheila "Kuehl
said she would not support it, and on Tuesday another Democrat, Leland Yee
of San Francisco, announced that neither would he. Gloria Negrete McLeod
of Chino, another Democrat on the panel, has told people she too may vote against the plan.
"Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
(D-Oakland) is a co-sponsor of the bill. People close to Perata said he wants the bill to pass out of the Senate and is considering adding several new members to the Health Committee to create a majority in favor of the bill. Alternatively, Perata could pressure lawmakers to change their votes using other incentives."
And Leland Yee might want to make sure those keys to his office are still working this morning...
Meanwhile, the state legislative analyst's report won't help the bill, either
. The Chron's Tom Chorneau reports, "The proposed overhaul of California's health care system could cost taxpayers billions of dollars in unanticipated expenses within five years of being launched
, according to a review released Tuesday by the Legislature's nonpartisan analyst.
And the chairwoman of the Senate Health committee did a little premature grave dancing. ""If it doesn't pass my committee, if we don't approve it - the governor will be out there saying that the state Senate killed health care reform," said Sen. Sheila Kuehl
, D-Santa Monica, chairwoman of the health committee and a critic of the proposal.
"'But the headline should be that the Senate refused to put out a bad health care bill,' she said."
Speaking of dicey prospects, there's a new Field Poll out on the GOP race in California, which now appears to be up for grabs
The U-T's John Marelius reports, "The volatile Republican presidential contest in California has turned upside down in the past month and now stands as a close race between Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a new Field Poll.
"The poll shows McCain leading with 23 percent to Romney's 21 percent as the Feb. 5 primary approaches
"A political watchdog group called Tuesday for a state investigation into Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez
's channeling of corporate charitable funds through a nonprofit group
to bankroll civic events that featured him," writes Jim Sanders in the Bee.
"The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said the fundraising by the Los Angeles Democrat -- totaling more than $250,000 -- was a facade to promote himself in 2005 and 2006 while evading the state's campaign contribution limits.
"Nunez denied any wrongdoing in connection with the civic events, which ranged from a toy drive to a youth conference that carried his name.
"'People in my district expect me to do things to help them, especially if it's something that's going to help poor children
,' he said."
"Problems with Sacramento County voting machines will stall Feb. 5's election results for hours
. Results may not come until well after your morning coffee -- the next day, county elections officials said Wednesday," reports Ed Fletcher in the Bee.
"'It might be slow, but it will be accurate,' offered Brad Buyse
, a spokesman for the local election office.
"He said the county discovered problems with the equipment used to count ballots in neighborhood polling places a couple weeks ago.
"Because the machines didn't fail previous "logic and accuracy tests," Buyse said there is no reason to believe previous results are tainted.
"State law requires that county voting equipment be tested prior to each election.
"'We've never had any problem with them when we used them before – that is why it's kind of baffling
,' Buyse said."
Baffling voting machines. Not exactly comforting words.
The Merc News's Steve Geissinger reports on the state auditor's assessment of the California Highway Patrol
"State Auditor Elaine Howle said the agency, with a $400 million annual operating budget, improperly bought $8.4 million in handguns and car electronics and wasted $11.4 million on flawed pacts to buy more than 600 motorcycles.
"The auditor also concluded that for more than a decade the department flew an overly expensive airplane for its top officials, at times on inappropriate missions.
"For example, in 2006, the CHP used the eight-passenger plane to take chief Mike Brown on a short hop from Sacramento to Oakland for a radio interview - at 13 times the cost of driving. More than a dozen flights that year, which cost $24,000 total, weren't for state business, the audit charged.
"Howle, in a 60-page report, said that, in general, mistakes occurred due to conflicts of interest and dismissal of some officials' concerns and weaknesses in justifications for non-competitive bidding.
"Representatives of the CHP and Department of General Services acknowledged mistakes
and said corrective measures were being taken."
"Even during a fiscal crisis, the state can improve its school system
, from boosting support for minority students to expanding pre-school programs, state Superintendent for Public Instruction Jack O'Connell
"O'Connell delivered his fifth annual State of Education address to a Sacramento audience of educators and administrators who were painfully aware that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for cutting $4.4 billion from schools over the next 18 months as part of an effort to close a $14.5 billion budget deficit.
"'We have a serious budget shortfall, but improving our education system is the key to ensuring that California has a well-qualified workforce to secure a healthy economy in the future,' O'Connell said.
"He noted that a recent Education Week study found that California spends nearly $1,900 less per pupil than the national average. But he said most of the proposals he was making would not cost the state more money."
Now here's a campaign promise voters may be able to get behind. "A candidate for treasurer in Kerr County, Texas is making a single campaign promise: Elect me and I won't serve
. Ed Hamilton
, 77, is challenging incumbent Treasurer Mindy Williams
for the Republican nomination during the March 4 election. No Democrats are seeking the office.
"He said the job is redundant and costing the county money it doesn't need to spend. The duties should be assigned to another county office, Hamilton said.
"I don't plan to do the job," he said. "I won't accept a paycheck."