Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump

Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. sits the rest of the country, and a chasm. On immigration and taxes, guns and healthcare, cannabis and climate change, California is the federal government’s equal and opposite reaction. One year into President Trump’s first term, the push and pull continues—playing out under the Capitol dome, in the courts and on Twitter.

Ready for another year? Follow along here.

Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump

California requested a temporary restraining order today against the Trump administration, to ensure it continues to pay the health care subsidies it slashed last week while a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 18 other attorneys general and the District of Columbia winds its way through the justice system.

Announcing the move, Becerra said if his request is granted the federal government would have to continue to make cost-sharing payments that help low and middle-income individuals afford health care through the Affordable Care Act.

“These payments must be made,” said Becerra, who was in Congress when the Affordable Care Act passed. “We are going to fight to make sure the presidents doesn’t pick and choose which laws he’s going to follow.”

Healthcare experts say cutting subsidies weakens the health care law and opens the door for higher premiums and for some insurers to close in certain markets.

In California, consumers would not see such effects for some time. The state’s insurance exchange, called Covered California, developed rates for 2018 on the assumption that the subsidies might disappear and asked providers to add a surcharge to certain plans to cover the uncertainty.

But in 2019 Californians could see significant increases in premiums and care costs if the subsidies do not resume. Rates for 2019 have not yet been set.

About 670,000 people in California receive significant discounts on premiums, deductibles and co-pays due to the federal subsidies, said Tam Ma, a director for Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group. She said those who qualify for the aid are working, earning up to $29,000 annually for an individual and up to $61,000 for a family of four.

“Discounts allow families to have financial stability,” she said.

Last week, the Trump administration said it would stop paying the subsidies, arguing they were illegal because Congress did not approve them.

Covered California is gearing up to begin open enrollment Nov. 1.

But “for too many people,” Becerra said, “it’s a decision between paying rent or paying medical bills.”

Today’s action follows a lawsuit that Becerra and the other attorneys general filed against the Trump administration Friday for cutting the subsidies.

“I and many of my attorney-general colleagues will fight vigorously to ensure Californians and all Americans as taxpayers receive the healthcare the law provides,” Becerra said Friday.

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California already has taken its first shot at countering the Trump administration’s plan to deny funding for reproductive health services to any organization that provides abortions or makes referrals for the procedure.

This week California led a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia in backing a Planned Parenthood motion for an injunction to halt the federal plan. The states’ brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Trump administration today is expected to release the details of its proposal to change the requirements for the funds, known as Title X money, effectively taking it away from groups like Planned Parenthood and instead awarding it to groups advocating natural family-planning methods and abstinence-only education.

According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California receives about $20.4 million a year in Title X money, which helps provide family-planning and other reproductive health services to roughly 1 million low-income Californians.

“Medical care is a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the President or the Vice President,” Becerra said in a March 18 statement.

According to reports from the New York-based nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group, roughly half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. The rate of unintended pregnancies would jump by 66% without publicly funded contraceptive services, a Guttmacher report said—and unplanned pregnancy rates for teens would be 73% higher.

The Institute said Planned Parenthood is the source of birth control for about a third of all low-income women who get it through the Title X program.

“Title X is not abortion care,” said Jennifer Conti, a Stanford physician who provides abortions. “One of the things even my close friends and relatives don’t understand is that Title X funds have never been used to provide abortion care. This seems like a punitive rule for groups like Planned Parenthood.”

Conti said what rankles her most about the proposed rule is the restriction on discussing where patients can get an abortion.

“This new rule would force us to lie to our patients,” she said. “Not that we couldn’t discuss abortion—but not being able to discuss how to carry out an abortion or where to get it, I think that puts patients’ lives in danger.”

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The Orange County anti-sanctuary uprising takes the national stage today, as a coalition of politicians are in Washington to talk Republican political strategy with President Trump.

It’s a big day for these conservative California politicos, who come from a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 in the Legislature and the GOP voice has been largely muted. About a dozen of them were invited to attend an afternoon meeting in Washington with Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE director Thomas Homan.

They’re gathering to discuss how to attack California’s sanctuary law passed last year that places some limits on cooperation with federal immigration information requests.

Dozens of cities and counties across California have passed resolutions or joined a federal lawsuit opposing that law, with the epicenter of that opposition in Orange County. It began with the small city of Los Alamitos, which passed a local ordinance that breaks state law. Other cities haven’t gone that far, but at least 13 of the 34 cities in Orange County have joined the resistance with statements of support. And the county board of supervisors voted to join the federal lawsuit against three California sanctuary laws.

Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel is part of the group meeting with the President, and so is the mayor of Los Alamitos, Troy Edgar. In an email, Edgar outlined what he hopes to discuss with Trump:

“First, I plan to thank him for our mutual interest in upholding the Constitution and I look forward to contributing to this dialogue on sanctuary and immigration law and policies,” Edgar said. He also hopes to get some financial help in fighting a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Los Alamitos’ ordinance, and any impending lawsuit that might be brought by the state of California.

“There will continue to be a significant price that comes with beginning this revolt in California,” Edgar said. “Any assistance that our city can be provided by direct or indirect funding would be appreciated.”

By early afternoon, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown weighed in:

Opposition to the sanctuary law is one of the few issues where Republicans have found a little political traction in California, and they plan to make immigration one of their cornerstone issues in the upcoming midterm elections.

The GOP faces an uphill battle for voters in California. They actually come in third in percentage of the state’s voters—with just 25.9 percent of registered voters, the Republicans not only trail the Democrats’ 44. percent but also are outnumbered by 29.4 percent of independent voters who choose no-party or other party affiliations.

According to Politico, the anti-sanctuary contingent includes Steel, Edgar, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Riverside County Assembly member Melissa Melendez, and Los Alamitos City Council member Warren Kusumoto, along with some municipal and law enforcement officials.

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May 15, 2018 4:22 pm

Auto mileage and emissions: Will Washington and California be negotiating?

Environment Reporter
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to revise the standards for auto emissions and fuel efficiency. Photo by MichaelGat via Flickr

The standoff between California and the Trump administration over automobile emissions standards continued this week, despite reports that the president ordered two federal agencies to begin negotiating with the state.

Trump met with automakers last week, and industry officials reportedly told the president they hoped he could sort out differences with California, which sets its own emissions standards.

In practice, the state’s stringent requirements have been adopted as a benchmark in the national fuel-efficiency standard. The auto industry earlier agreed to make cars gradually more fuel efficient, adding that no one wins if there are two sets of emissions standards.

That agreement, established during the Obama administration, is under review by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which have signaled an intention to roll back the standards.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Trump left a meeting with auto executives Friday and directed the two agencies to enter talks with California to resolve the issue.

No one from the administration has yet contacted the California Air Resources Board, which regulates automobile emissions, according to spokesman Stanley Young.

California and more than a dozen other states are suing the federal government to prevent any reduction in the standards.

Note: This post was updated to clarify which rules California sets.

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