Good morning, California. Here’s to your health.
What will matter next in CA
California nurses rally for universal health care in 2017.
Prepare for more pressure for single payer in California as that federal ruling striking down Obamacare moves through the court—and is digested by an electorate for whom healthcare was a dominant issue on Nov. 6.
- A Texas judge on Friday delivered what Republicans sought, and what Democrats led by California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra feared: a breathtakingly broad declaration that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
- U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Wichita Falls issued his decision in a case brought by Texas and 19 other Republican state attorneys general. Becerra led blue state attorneys general by intervening when the Trump Administration declined to contest it.
Associated Press: O’Connor ruled the Trump tax cut of 2017 removed the foundation from Obamacare by eliminating a financial penalty on people who don’t get coverage. The rest of the law cannot be separated from that the individual mandate and is therefore invalid, he opined.
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton: “Today’s ruling halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American healthcare system.”
California Atty. Gen. Becerra: “Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions … and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans.”
Coincidental timing: Most Americans faced a Saturday deadline for signing up for 2019 coverage. California extended the deadline to Dec. 21 for coverage starting Jan. 1, and Jan. 15 for coverage starting Feb. 1.
- What’s ahead: The law will remain in effect pending appeal, and many legal scholars predict it won’t stand. Nancy Pelosi, expected to become House speaker when Congress reconvenes in January, also vowed to intervene to help Becerra defend the law she helped pass in 2010.
- But the ruling has galvanized blue state liberals who have vowed to make health care an issue in 2020, and renewed calls for Medicare for all.
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Why Obamacare matters here
A Covered California open enrollment ad.
Five million more Californians get coverage through expanded Medi-Cal and private Obamacare plans since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
The feds give California $25 billion a year to subsidize Affordable Healthcare Act plans and the expansion of Medi-Cal. The loss of that money would blow a huge hole in California’s $200 billion budget. It’s the equivalent of what the state spends on prisons, the University of California and parks.
The act did more than ensure coverage for poor people and workers without employer-based health plans. It also:
- Extended Native American health care services and prescription drug coverage for senior citizens.
- Allowed young people to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.
- Banned discrimination in health plans against anyone included people who are disabled, gay or transgender.
- Barred insurers from refusing coverage based on preexisting conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and pregnancy.
- Required coverage of emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, lab services, preventative care, and chronic disease management, and pediatric services.
Why ACA ruling matters to Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was a congressman in 2010 who was part of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s team, and can rightly claim credit for helping draft and push through passage of the law.
- Part of his motivation for defending the Affordable Care Act: The congressional district he represented in central Los Angeles had the second highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation. Only one other, in Dallas, was worse.
In 2013, when he was in Congress battling to preserve Obamacare, Becerra told me: “Folks in my district are very hard-working, out there hustling. They work hard, but they are living in expensive Los Angeles, and it’s hard for them to afford health insurance.”
The nonprofit advocacy organization Health Access California shows Becerra’s old district has more people covered as a result of the act than any other in California, 142,369.
What's going to matter in education
Early childhood education is at the top of the school spending wish list.
The Legislature’s wish list for public schools is shaping up to be a long one: Early childhood education, a data system that would track kids from nursery school through state universities, $40 billion in additional school spending and more.
- CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano sorts out proposals awaiting lawmakers in 2019. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom supports many of the education initiatives being pushed, but promises to “live within our means.”
All this comes against the backdrop of political gains for organized labor in the November election, and financial losses earlier this year, via the U.S. Supreme Court. In Janus v. AFSCME, the high court ruled that public sector employees need not pay into unions if they don’t want to be members, potentially eroding the power of California teachers’ unions over the long term.
- Meanwhile, teachers at the Los Angeles Unified School District marched through downtown L.A. Saturday, ahead of what is expected to be the first teachers’ strike in 30 years at California’s largest school district.
- United Teachers of Los Angeles’ wish list: retroactive raises, smaller class sizes, more nurses and counselors and a general pushback against charter school backers who have gained power in recent years within the district. Also increased solidarity.
L.A. Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner says the 600,000-student district cannot meet the union’s demands and remain solvent. UTLA plans a January strike if no agreement is reached.
The trouble with cap and trade
The Valero Refinery near the Bay Area community of Benicia.
The California Air Resources Board has delivered on a controversial deal struck last year that handed oil companies and other major polluters a multimillion-dollar windfall, CALmatters’ Julie Cart reports.
- In the Gov. Jerry Brown-backed legislation to extend the cap-and-trade law to 2030, there was a provision for subsidies worth as much as $350 million, including some for the oil industry.
What’s cap-and-trade? Industry pays to pollute by buying allowances in a carbon-trading market. In addition, some receive free allowances from the state. It also costs motorists a few cents per gallon, though that amount could rise in years to come.
- Air Resources Board staff recommended a reduction in free allowances. Last week, however, the board voted to maintain a full supply of free carbon credits to some companies. That vote adopted recommendations from a later staff report.
Critics pounced on what they characterized as a giveaway to industry, Cart writes. To read more, please click here.
Will localities cede housing control?
Empty storefronts in the near-vacant Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino.
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom wants 3.5 million new housing units in California by 2025, an astronomical goal that won’t happen unless the state pries away some local control over development, Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who has pushed for more housing, says.
- Hear Wiener’s take on Newsom’s plan, as told to CALmatters’ Matt Levin and the L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon in this week’s episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”
But seizing control over local housing decisions is easier said than done, as The Los Angeles Times finds in a look at the epic battle over an effort to put a couple thousand homes on the site of the near-vacant Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino.
The Times’ Liam Dillon: “Vallco’s fate has prompted lawsuits, tumult within city bureaucracy, a referendum campaign and elections that resulted in a new City Council majority that is against Sand Hill’s efforts.”
Minh Le, a consultant briefly considered to mediate the conflict: “I feel sad that highly intelligent, resourceful and passionate leaders on both sides could not figure out a peaceful way to solve conflicts together. Instead they contributed to tearing to shreds the fabric of our community in this fight over who gets to decide what happens at Vallco.”
Commentary at CALmatters
Kathleen A. Cairns, author of “The Case of Rose Bird: Gender and Politics in the California Courts”: Rose Elizabeth Bird, the court’s first woman, remains Jerry Brown’s most consequential judicial appointment. It’s possible to trace bare-knuckled fights over the judiciary to the ones over her confirmation and retention. Today’s court again is led by a woman, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and its rulings rarely resonate beyond legal circles. But the war on the judiciary continues.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: California will suffer economically if it doesn’t do something about its chronic and growing housing shortage, as a new report on Ventura County’s economy shows.
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See you tomorrow.