Good morning, California.
“Quite frankly, to start out with a January proposal that includes that investment in California’s children reflects a new day.”—Sen. Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles Democrat, after Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom disclosed he will seek $1.8 billion in his budget next week to enhance early childhood education.
How sunshine laws can matter
Forced to disclose price hikes: the makers of OxyContin.
Complying with a new California law they lobbied hard to kill, Purdue Pharma, Novartis, Bayer and several other major drug companies for the first time have publicly disclosed that they are raising their prices.
- Over fierce opposition, then Sen. Ed Hernandez, a Democrat from West Covina, pushed Senate Bill 17 of 2017. Drug companies spent millions lobbying against the law and suing to block it.
- The measure requires that drug companies issue a 60-day notice of price increases if their prices have increased 16 percent or more over a two-year period.
The price hike disclosures, first reported by the Reuters news agency, have national implications. They illustrate that drug prices are rising at rates far greater than inflation, even though there are no particular improvement in the particular drugs.
Reuters: “The hikes will pose a new challenge to President Donald Trump’s pledge to lower the costs of prescription medications in the world’s most expensive pharmaceutical market.”
Democrats gaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives today are expected to scrutinize of drug price hikes, Reuters also noted.
Beth Capell of Health Access California, the bill’s main proponent along with organized labor: “This is transparency with teeth. … We hope our counterparts at the federal level will be able to take advantage of this information.”
Another California law—the state Public Records Act—allowed the news agency to inform consumers. Reuters obtained the records by filing PRA requests with California Correctional Health Care Services, which provides healthcare services to the state’s corrections department and “spends more than $3 billion annually on drugs for inmates, more than any other state.”
- The drugs range from Purdue’s pain killer, Oxycontin, to blood pressure medicine produced by other companies.
- At least two companies, Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., and Amgen, Inc., have sued the state to block release of their planned price increases. Hearings on those suits are set for later this month.
Money matters: Pharmaceutical companies spent $16.9 million lobbying in California during the two-year fight over SB 17.
What’s ahead for legal weed
Cannabis outlook for 2019: Still no place to park the proceeds.
One sign of difficulties: tax collections.
- The state estimated legal cannabis would generate $630 million in tax revenue in 2018. It will produce $471 million, The Times reports.
Weed will remain a cash business. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Treasurer John Chiang have dashed the dream that the state might launch a bank where weed dealers could deposit their profits.
Chiang: “No state-backed financial institution designed to support the cannabis industry is feasible.”
Such complications ensure that lobbyists who represent cannabis clients will have a busy 2019. Amy Jenkins, one of Sacramento’s top cannabis lobbyists, listed some issues that will find their way into legislation:
- How to deal with locales that ban sales, as much as 70 percent of the state.
- Enforcement against illicit dealers, perhaps by giving the Bureau of Cannabis Control police powers.
- Cannabis access at public schools for kids and at hospitals for patients with medical needs.
- The right to offer free samples by legal cannabis sellers.
- How to regulate industrial hemp.
- Whether to cap taxes on cannabis and its attendant businesses.
San Diego, for example, levies a 15 percent retail tax and a 5 percent gross receipts tax, plus the sales tax. The city also seeks to tax an Oakland distribution company that wholesales its product in San Diego. It all gets passed to consumers.
The big ongoing issue: Cost-conscious users still buy from illicit dealers.
Did a dirty trick cost GOP an Assembly seat?
Phil Graham and his stepfather, former Gov. Pete Wilson.
What happened to failed Republican Assembly candidate Phil Graham is part of whodunnit, part dirty trick, part cautionary tale, as told by the journalism site Voice of San Diego.
Cautionary tale: On May 14, three weeks before the June primary, Graham, former Gov. Pete Wilson’s stepson, dropped by a bar near his North San Diego County home. It was after midnight, which is never a good idea, especially for someone running for office.
The dirty trick: Apparently, a woman, Nichole Burgan, told the sheriff’s department that Graham forcibly tried to kiss her. The allegation went public.
Voice of San Diego: “Citing witness interviews and surveillance video, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department concluded on May 29 that Burgan’s claim wasn’t just ‘unfounded.’ It had been ‘disproved’ by detectives.”
Though Graham was cleared, ads describing the accusations continued, including a robocall evidently placed by a company in Mexico in which a female voice asked why Graham was harassing a woman when he should have been at home sleeping.
Whodunnit: Exactly who is behind the ads is the subject of various investigations by the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
Graham placed third in June, leaving two Democrats to run for the seat vacated by Republican Rocky Chavez. After the primary, the San Diego County district attorney charged Burgan with filing a false police report.
Epilogue: Democrat Tasha Boerner Horvath occupies the seat long had been held by Republicans. She had no comment, nor did Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Out with the old, in with the neologism
Brown and Newsom demonstrate the universal sign for hello and goodbye.
Gov. Jerry Brown will be remembered for many things—his policy achievements and failures, his political command of Sacramento, his corgis. But the former Jesuit scholar’s use of language has to make the Top 10.
- The incoming governor, Gavin Newsom, has his own unique rhetorical style, too, though less of it’s in Latin. So as California counts down to the transition, Calmatters’ Ben Christopher has prepared a CALmatters Guide to Gubernatorial English, offering handy translations from the particular patois of the state’s incoming and outgoing leaders to standard Californian English.
A few examples:
- Brown: “A pretzel palace of incredible complexity.”
- English: The California budget.
- Newsom: “Normalization of deviancy.”
- English: Tolerating bad behavior.
- Brown: “I ask you to consider the principle of ‘subsidiarity.'”
- Newsom: “Localism is determinative.”
- English: Local political decisions matter sometimes.
But wait—there’s more.
Commentary at CALmatters
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges: Higher education is the linchpin to our future. Now, as we enter a new era of leadership, we have a chance to think big and be unapologetically bold with solutions to ensure that future is bright for Californians and the state economy alike.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: Local governments have been blatantly using taxpayer money to campaign for tax and bond measures, but the Fair Political Practices Commission is beginning to crack down on the practice.
Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]
See you tomorrow.