"Last year, a Schwarzenegger administration investigation found Blue Cross had illegally canceled health insurance policies for 90 sick patients. But more than a year after the administration released its findings, it has refused to require Blue Cross to reissue the policies that were canceled illegally
, even though it has the power to do so," reports Capitol Weekly.
"At a Senate Health Committee hearing last week, the DMHC's chief of enforcement, Amy Dobberteen
, said the Blue Cross survey was more focused on identifying "systems failures" and not a review of individual rescission cases.
"But Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, said it appeared the Department of Managed Health Care was doing its job backward
. 'It just seems to me the priorities here seem to be reversed,' he said. 'If we're into consumer protection, the first priority would be to reinstate the insurance coverage for the patient who needs the health care. The second priority in my mind is to fine the plan and make the big headlines and change the industry.'
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has restricted salary increases for 1,330 supervisors throughout state agencies
and authorized an audit to find out why some are making more than allowed under the current pay scale," reports Judy Lin in the Bee.
"In a March 24 memo obtained by The Bee, Personnel Administration Department Director David Gilb
ordered state directors and agency secretaries to immediately halt salary increases for a certain class of civil servants working in management positions but not covered by unions. Others will be eligible for a smaller raise than previously allowed.
"'Any CEA salary currently above the maximum salary of their respective level is frozen; no additional salary increases within the CEA bands may be authorized,' Gilb wrote.
"These so-called "career executive assignments" cover a range of managerial positions, from doctors and attorneys to communications staff. Until last month's move, those supervisors had been entitled to up to 10 percent annual raises, with salaries ranging from $74,076 to a maximum of $160,572.
"But some CEAs are being paid over the current maximum salary for the job. For example, the assistant director for health care services at the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department is earning $205,476. One medical director at the Department of Developmental Services makes $282,792."
John Howard reports the Headwaters Forest is back in the news
"Out of the mists of California's North Coast comes an issue that defined a generation of environmental activism and forced protections for the spectacular Headwaters forest. This time, the fight is not being waged among the trees but in a Texas bankruptcy courtroom, and the decision could come as early as next week.
"Up for grabs are more than 210,000 acres of Northern California forests and the picturesque company town of Scotia, as an array of logging interests, creditors and environmentalists grapple in federal bankruptcy court over the assets of the once-mighty Pacific Lumber Company."
"Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lobbied state legislators Wednesday against what he termed a "rip-off" of Los Angeles residents by state officials
, making his plea during a trip to the state Capitol that also renewed buzz about whether he will run for governor in 2010," reports Patrick McGreevy in the Times.
"Villaraigosa said he has secured commitments from legislative leaders to oppose a preliminary recommendation by the Public Utilities Commission that he believes would hurt customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest municipal utility.
"The mayor said the PUC's proposal to implement a provision of AB 32, the state initiative to reduce greenhouse gases, could allow private electric companies and their customers to benefit from money collected by the DWP from city customers.
"'I am a big supporter of AB 32, but the PUC proposal to rip off L.A. taxpayers and redirect ratepayer money to private utilities is a power grab that we will not accept,' Villaraigosa said between meetings with state legislators.
"The mayor said that he was concerned that the recommendation could require the DWP to pay up to $750 million a year for pollution credits to cover its carbon emissions and that the money could end up being used to benefit investor-owned utilities that cause less pollution. The DWP is heavily dependent on dirty-burning fuels such as coal.
"PUC spokeswoman Nancy Ryan
said the agency has proposed a framework of a system, but it is up to the California Air Resources Board to decide what to adopt. The final system may allow the DWP to get pollution credits for free, she said. If there is a cost, it could return some of the money to the DWP, she said."
While the mayor may not like taxing dirty fuel sources, the public just might support it.
"Californians support the idea of charging "green" vehicle fees that would make drivers of gas guzzlers pay higher taxes and offer discounts for those driving less-polluting vehicles
, according to a survey by a transportation researcher at San Jose State University," writes Michael Cabanatuan in the Chron.
"The state now charges drivers registration and licensing fees and gasoline taxes at rates that do not take into account vehicles' pollution levels. But the survey, conducted by Asha Weinstein Agrawal, a research associate with the university's Mineta Transportation Institute, found that Californians would support a variety of taxes and fees to raise money for transportation improvements as well as combat global warming, including:
"-- Raising vehicle registration fees, which now average $31, to an average of $62 and having higher-polluting vehicles pay higher rates and cleaner cars lower rates.
"-- Offering rebates of up to $1,000 for people who buy new cars that emit very little pollution and levying a surcharge of as much as $2,000 on those purchasing gas hogs.
"-- Levying a mileage-based tax that would replace the 18-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax. The per-mile amount would vary depending on how much a vehicle polluted the air.
"'The public is very supportive of these green taxes and fees,' said Agrawal. 'This shows that it is realistic to improve the way we collect transportation taxes in this state.
Meanwhile, "Attorney General Jerry Brown
joined officials in 17 other states Wednesday to demand that the federal Environmental Protection Agency release its internal finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health
," reports the Bee's Kevin Yamamura.
"The move comes after EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson
wrote last week that he plans to open a months-long public comment period on greenhouse gas emissions, a procedure critics say serves to delay action on emissions until after President Bush leaves office.
"The states, joined by environmental groups, filed their legal demand Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking that EPA release the finding within 60 days.
"'The president and his assistants have taken control here and have continuously blocked or sabotaged efforts to control greenhouse gases, although on some occasions saying something to the contrary and giving false hopes to the country,' Brown said in a conference call. 'What we have here is the environmental agency … acting completely contrary to its essential mission and duty.'"
"Undeterred by the state's budget woes, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday unveiled eight bills to address the dramatic rise in diagnosis of children with autism
," writes the Bee's Aurelio Rojas.
"The legislation is the result of three years of public hearings throughout the state by the Legislature's Commission on Autism, consisting of health experts, educators and families affected by the nation's fastest-growing developmental disability.
"Once considered rare, autism is now more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined – and affects one of every 150 children and one of every 94 boys.
"'Virtually everyone in California knows a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor struggling with challenges surrounding autism and its related problems,' Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata
said at a Capitol news conference."
The Daily News's Harrison Shepard looks at the Fran Pavley v. Lloyd Levine duel for Sheila Kuehl's senate seat
"The knives have come out as Levine, still in the Assembly, and Pavley, who was termed out, both have well-funded campaigns, deep ties in the Valley and similar ideologies - and each is slashing at the other's effectiveness.
"Pavley sought to distinguish herself in the Assembly by championing landmark environmental legislation, and she says Levine has trouble shepherding bills through the Legislature - much less getting them signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"'I compare myself with my opponent in effectiveness as a primary difference,' Pavley said. 'Roughly 68 percent of all my bills got to the governor's desk. This is a Democratically controlled Legislature, so a Democrat should be able to get well-crafted bills through both houses.'
"But Levine bristles at that argument, saying a "batting average" is no way to measure a legislator's effectiveness.
"'Look at what we've accomplished,' Levine said. 'Don't look at batting average. The important thing is what you've accomplished as a legislator and not how you managed to navigate the system with bills that declare (someone) a poet laureate (one of Pavley's first bills as a legislator) or whatever.'"
"While presidential campaigns woo voters online, tech-savvy officials in California are increasingly using the Internet to communicate day-to-day political messages directly to constituents
," writes Edwin Garcia in the Merc-News.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger since early 2006 has been Webcasting many of his public appearances. Assembly Democrats have spent the past year e-mailing their newsy "Web reports," which also reach YouTube subscribers. Assembly Republicans in recent weeks have begun to post their broadcast-quality video reports, in Spanish, highlighting legislation important to Latinos.
"'Doing stuff online is cheap, it's unfiltered, and most importantly it allows for interactivity - you can have people talk back to you and that level of engagement can be very valuable,' said Jude Barry
, a San Jose-based Democratic strategist. 'And let's face it,' Barry said of the growing online audience, 'that's where the eyeballs are going.'"
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan looks at the Assembly's ceremony honoring its first full-time employee
"Anyone familiar with California political history is probably familiar with names like Arthur Samish and Earl Warren, not to mention Pat Brown and Jesse Unruh. You may not have heard of Arthur Ohnimus
- but they all knew him.
"Ohnimus has the distinction of being the first full-time employee of the California Legislature. He's also among the longest-lasting of all time, having served 45 years by the time he retired in 1963. Thirty-seven of these years were as chief clerk of the Assembly, easily giving them the longest tenure in that job.
"The Assembly honored Ohnimus on Tuesday with a floor ceremony. There are also photos and letters from Ohnimus' time under the dome on display through Friday in Room 105 in the Capitol. These items come from nine boxes donated by Ohnimus' widow, Bernice, who died in September at the age of 94.
"Ohnimus first started out as an Assembly clerk in 1915, during the Hiram Johnson administration, along with Samish and Warren."
And from our Eye For An Eye Files
, we bring you the story of Amy Rice. "Amy Rice feared for her dog's life when a pit bull jumped over a fence into her yard and attacked her pooch. So she took matters into her own mouth
"Rice says she bit the pit bull on the nose Friday after trying to pull the dog's jaws off her Labrador retriever, Ella. The dog had jumped a fence to get into Rice's northeast Minneapolis yard, and Rice says she feared the pit bull would kill Ella.
"Rice says she drew blood when she bit the dog, and her doctor will have to determine whether she should get shots for rabies."