Good morning, California.

“AB 84 is like you’re filing divorce papers” – Daraka Larimore-Hall, vice chair of the California Democratic Party, testifying Tuesday against an Assembly bill that would permit legislative leaders to raise $36,000 in individual campaign contributions, up from the current maximum of $4,400. “California politics simply does not need more opportunities for big checks to go to campaigns.”

The bill, which passed an initial committee, would shift money and thus power to legislative leaders and away from political parties.

Hunter Stern, of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245.

Legislators said Tuesday they expect to complete a final report on the issue of wildfire liability by week’s end, giving them a mere two weeks before the end of the 2018 session to sort out complex questions about who pays for devastating fires.

The sides: Electrical workers and utilities want to change liability laws requiring utilities to pay for damage in future fires if their equipment is at fault. That’s a pressing issue as climate changes and wildfires become more common.

They also want relief for potential costs from 2017 fires that killed 44 people. Insurance companies, fire victims, cities, counties and plaintiffs’ attorneys want to keep liability laws as they are.

Hunter Stern, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local that represents workers at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and other Northern California utilities, warns that PG&E could end up in bankruptcy. Liability for last year’s fires could exceed $10 billion and plaintiffs’ attorneys would get a third or more of that.

“Trial lawyers are taking money out of victims’ wallets.”

Stern singled out Burlingame attorney Frank Pitre, who is representing fire victims in suits against PG&E.

Pitre told me: “IBEW, just like their conspirator PG&E, makes stuff up without any basis in fact.”

GOP? Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates Tuesday called on the Legislature to defer discussion of liability for future fires until some time later.

What’s next: Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat, and Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, co-chairs of a special joint committee on fires, told me Tuesday they intend to produce a report for legislators to vote on by the end of the week. Neither would say whether the report will include a recommendation for a new law on future liability.


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CA’s rising health care budget and ‘Million-dollar Murray’

A mere 1 percent of the 13.2 million enrollees in Medi-Cal, California’s $100 billion health program for low-income people, will use more than a quarter of the money, CALmatters’ David Gorn writes.

Summer Thomason, who runs an Orange County recuperation center: “We had one person here—we called him Million Dollar Murray.” He was in the ER or hospital 142 times in one year” with psychotic episodes and physical maladies.

In Part Four of his series on reducing costly chronic illness through healthy living, Gorn chronicles a five-year state project to help super-users of the state’s health care system handle their addiction, mental illness, and other issues that lead to repeat emergency room visits. A single hospital stay can cost $10,000.

Nadereh Pourat, of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research: “If you can avoid one hospital visit a week, you could reduce costs by 2 percent or 3 percent, and that’s significant savings.”


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It's time to make behavioral health solutions a top priority in California.


How CA passed the nation’s toughest privacy bill

Alastair Mactaggart

The New York Times details the story behind San Francisco developer Alastair Mactaggart’s decision in June to pull his initiative about protecting online consumer privacy off the ballot in exchange for strong legislation on the issue.

Consultants told him the tech industry could spend $100 million against his measure. “Mactaggart was rich. But he wasn’t that rich.” He also played his hand well, offering “Silicon Valley a take-it-or-leave-it privacy policy — the same kind that Silicon Valley usually offered everyone else.”

Tech companies concluded that they didn’t want to take their chances at the ballot, and dropped their open opposition to compromise legislation. Legislators approved the bill, which takes effect in 2020, without a single no vote.

Mactaggart: the legislation will be the “most stringent consumer-privacy law in the country.” The California attorney general could police the entire industry, becoming “the chief privacy officer of the United States of America.”

Bottom line: Mactaggart’s success could establish a model for wealthy advocates to seek legislative action by using initiatives as leverage to force political deals involving powerful interests.

Prepare for big ballot fight in 2020. Or not

Although campaign 2018 won’t be over for three-plus months, a property tax initiative already aimed at the 2020 election could be a battle royale, CALmatters’ Matt Levin reports.

Public employee unions and others announced Tuesday they had enough signatures to place on the 2020 ballot an initiative to create a so-called split roll, changing a part of the landmark Proposition 13 of 1978. The signatures still need to be confirmed.

The measure would raise property taxes on businesses and keep them the same for homeowners. The Legislative Analyst’s Office said local government could reap as much as $10 billion a year, much of it for schools. The tax increase could drive businesses out of the state.

Or else: Proponents could force high-stakes negotiations over a broader tax overhaul with business groups and the Legislature, averting an initiative war as happened this year with initiatives about online privacy protection and liability for lead paint clean up.

Walters: DMV wait times and gas tax repeal

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters describes the Legislature’s refusal to authorize an audit to get at the causes of long wait times at the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Walters: “It could all backfire come November when those exasperated motorists and other voters pass judgment on a multi-billion-dollar package of gas taxes and fees that the Legislature passed to fix the state’s dilapidated streets and highways.”

Commentary: candidates talk teacher pensions

Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck.

In CALmatters new commentary forum, candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction discuss unfunded teacher pension liability. Marshall Tuck: Politicians must stop ignoring the pension crisis. Tony Thurmond: Let’s bring both sides of the table together on pensions.

BBQ, kale and banana cream pie

Assemblywoman Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara Democrat, passed out popsicles from her paletería in the Legislature's annual end-of-session potluck.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins offered barbeque from a Sacramento joint Tuesday for the annual end-of-session potluck lunch in the state Capitol, where legislative offices share favorite food and Capitol staffers sample the banquet.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat, offered kale salad, balanced with meatballs. Sen. Mike Morrell, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, provided mac-and-cheese. Freshman Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove won friends with banana cream pie.

Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, a Madera County Republican, knew he missed a bet with his offering of Capri Sun and Rice Krispie treats. Bigelow’s top end-of-session priority is legislation to expand wild pig hunting. They’re a destructive menace, he says. Why, oh why, didn’t he think of winning votes by offering pulled pork?

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See you tomorrow.