“We will not allow conduct that takes advantage of San Diego’s generosity and destroys the quality of life in our communities.”—San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, pushing for a new ordinance to restrict homeless people living in their cars from parking at the city’s beaches.

The city will increase to four the number of “safe” parking lots, where homeless people can sleep in their cars.

Becerra slams latest attack on Obamacare

Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused the Trump administration of recklessly playing with lives Monday, after the administration declared it is embracing a Texas judge’s sweeping rule striking down the Affordable Care Act.

Texas and 19 other Republican state attorneys general sued last year contending Obamacare is unconstitutional. Becerra, who championed the act when he was in Congress, is leading the defense of the law on behalf of 21 blue states.

In a letter Monday to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Trump’s Justice Department said it agreed with U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who struck down the act in December.

  • Trump’s announcement represents a shift. The Justice Department under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not embraced O’Connor’s ruling wholesale.

Becerra: “[T]he Trump Administration recklessly made clear that it will not defend any portion of the Affordable Care Act. The Administration is choosing to neglect the rule of law and play politics with the health care of tens of millions of Americans.”

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat running for president, tweeted: “We must fight back again with everything we’ve got. And in 2020, we need to elect a president who will make health care a right.”

Meanwhile, another part of the administration announced Monday that 11.4 Americans signed up for Obamacare coverage on exchanges in 2019, including 1.5 million Californians.

Going to bat for birds

California wants to protect migratory birds.

California would gain greater authority to protect migratory birds under proposed legislation, introduced as the Trump administration seeks to roll back the the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The act implements an agreement among Russia, Japan, Canada and Mexico making it illegal to kill, import, export or sell any of 1,026 species of migratory birds, or their eggs, without a permit.

Reveal, an investigative news site, reported last March: “Since the 1970s, federal officials had used the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to prosecute and fine companies that accidentally killed birds with oil pits, wind turbines, spills or other industrial hazards. But a legal decision issued in December by the Interior Department revoked that ability.”

California joined other states in suing the Trump administration over its migratory bird policy.

  • Attorney General Xavier Becerra has concluded that the state Fish & Game Code protects native migratory birds.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat, is pushing legislation that would make the state’s role explicit by leaving in place all protections that existed in January 2017 when Donald Trump took office.

  • The bill faces its first hearing today. Similar legislation died last year.

Kalra said having Gov. Gavin Newsom in office will be helpful, given “his desire that California show leadership” on the environment, in contrast with Trump.

Opposition: The powerful Western States Petroleum Association says Kalra’s bill would create a duplicative permitting process.

Kalra: “If WSPA wants to work hand-in-hand with Trump, that’s their prerogative.”

  • 750,000 birds die in oil pits, an Assembly staff report says.

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Hospitals respond to psychiatric emergencies

Emergency room visits often involve people suffering from mental illness.

Hospital emergency room visits involving people suffering from psychoses, bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety jumped more than 50 percent from 2006 to 2013, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports.

Now, hospitals in California and some other states are establishing emergency units specifically to stabilize and treat patients suffering from mental illness, and connect them to longer-term resources, Kaiser Health News’ Anna Gorman reports.

Gorman: “Those who are well enough to go home get discharged, while those who need more treatment are admitted to the hospital or transferred to an inpatient facility.”

In Sacramento, emergency room physicians are seeking a $30 million infusion in state funding to hire special counselors who would work in emergency departments and focus on getting drug abusers and people with mental illness into treatment.

  • The UC Davis Medical Center emergency department, which employs such a counselor, reported a 60 percent decrease in emergency department visits by Medi-Cal patients suffering from drug addiction, mental illness or both.

Dr. Aimee Moulin, of UC Davis’ emergency department, testified at the Assembly budget subcommittee on health and human services earlier this month: “There is this huge opportunity that we are missing right now in our emergency departments to reach patients, to reach families, and to get them into treatment.”

What’s ahead: Expect the $30 million to be included in the Assembly version of the budget. Though that budget won’t be settled until June, Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly promised to focus on mental health care.

Helping homeless students

One in five community college students report experiencing homelessness.

More than half of 40,000 community college students in California lacked reliable access to healthy food, and one in five reported experiencing homelessness, according to a survey led by Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab.

Goldrick-Rab, who popularized the hashtag #RealCollege, spoke with CALmatters’ Felicia Mello:

“Los Angeles, people might think, is going to be worse than the rest of the state in terms of things like homelessness. But the numbers do show that in fact it’s all over the state. If you look at the regional variation, L.A. is not even the worst.”

To read more about her prescription for solving the problem, click here.

Lottery shake-up

A California Lottery executive has been fired.

A senior California Lottery executive has been fired, six months after an anonymous whistleblower sent a letter to then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s  office complaining about bawdy behavior by the lottery’s top brass, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday.

The whistleblower’s letter included a photo that was said to have been of a lottery official who had stuck his head up a woman’s sweater at a Southern California piano bar.

  • The Bee invoked the California Public Records Act to elicit from the lottery that  James David Cole, deputy director of sales, was placed on leave in February and terminated on March 1.
  • A personnel matter: Lottery officials refused to discuss it, and the letter cited by the Bee doesn’t make clear the reason for Cole’s dismissal.

Commentary at CALmatters

California needs to address high health care costs.

Glenn Melnick, professor of public policy at the University of Southern California: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call in his State of the State speech to restrain health care costs in California is rooted in some eye-popping numbers.  The cost of health care for a family of four reached $28,000 in 2018. If nothing is done, it will soon be $30,000 and more. This is clearly unsustainable. The governor can take the lead on two issues right now.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta: Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We live with the impacts of state water management decisions from loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to collapsing fisheries.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: A persistent achievement gap plagues California schools, but it’s uncertain how it can be closed.

 

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