Newsom’s tax bill, vaccinations, and new additions to lobby fights

Good morning, California.

“I look at a city that is fighting for its soul right now.”—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, quoted by the L.A. Times’ Steve Lopez, about the city’s homeless crisis. The mayor has not declared a state of emergency.

Tax fight

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators have some unfinished business this week, specifically taxes.

Democrats decry President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul, contending it cut taxes for wealthy people and corporations. However, Newsom and legislative Democrats clearly like some of the Republicans’ handiwork.

Enter the Loophole Closure and Small Business and Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2019. That’s the catchy name for Newsom’s proposal to conform California tax law with parts—only parts—of Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

The state estimates the “Loophole Closure” parts of the bill would generate $1.7 billion in additional revenue from corporations and rich people by, for example:

  • Limiting the ability of partnerships to deduct business losses.
  • Denying corporations the ability to deduct executive pay in excess of $1 million a year.
  • Restricting the ability of businesses to deduct employees’ meals, entertainment and membership dues.

California would use money to significantly expand the earned income tax credit, a program championed by President Ronald Reagan to help low-income workers by giving them tax credits worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

The number of eligible families would increase to 3 million, from 2 million, and families with young children would get more money.

  • Expect the Senate to vote on the bill today. The Assembly is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday.
  • The politics: Some Democrats hesitate to raise taxes, given the state’s $20 billion surplus. Some Republicans may support it. Trump did, after all, embrace closing the loopholes.

Vaccination bill

Sen. Richard Pan, Democrat from Sacramento.

Legislation to crack down on bogus medical exemptions granted to parents seeking to avoid vaccinating their kids will face tough questions this week.

  • Remind me: Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and pediatrician, is pushing legislation to stop a handful of doctors who write the bulk of medical exemptions. It faces a vote in the Assembly Health Committee on Thursday.

California Healthline reporter Anna Maria Barry-Jester, part of the nonprofit Kaiser Health News, cites criticism from Gov. Gavin Newsom and members of the Medical Board of California.

Newsom, earlier this month: “I’m a parent. I don’t want someone that the governor of California appointed to make a decision for my family.”

Pan cites a report by the nonprofit news organization Voice of San Diego that a third of all medical exemptions since June 2015 in the San Diego Unified School District were issued by a single physician. Kids who get phony exemptions threaten the health of others who have suppressed immune systems and have true medical reasons for not getting vaccinations, he notes.

Pan has talked with Newsom and believes he can address the governor’s concerns.

“We’re very close.”

New opposition: BBC Public Affairs, a lobby firm that includes former Congressman Gary Condit, has signed on to represent one of the opponents, a newly formed group called Advocates for Physicians’ Rights.

In ads aimed at swaying legislators, the group contends the bill would interfere with doctor-patient relations. A chiropractor signed the paperwork retaining the lobby firm.

Dark group joins USC fight

USC students protest their university.

USC’s scandal involving Dr. George Tyndall and the women who accuse him of sexually assaulting them will return to the Capitol on Tuesday. With an addition.

  • Remind me: The University of Southern California set aside $215 million to compensate Tyndall’s patients.

Democratic Assemblyman Eloise Gómez Reyes of San Bernardino is pushing legislation to give patients who opt out of that settlement an additional year to file civil claims. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Tuesday.

The Consumer Attorneys of California, an organization of plaintiffs attorneys, including some who represent Tyndall’s patients, backs the bill.

USC opposes the bill, prompting a student protest.

  • Lately,  an entity calling itself Justice for California Survivors has been running digital ads aimed at swaying legislators to expand the bill to include public universities.
  • That argument has some appeal, in light of the scandal at UCLA involving gynecologist James Mason Heaps. But such a rewrite would delay the bill for the year.
  • What is Justice for California Survivors? Hard to say. Its ads include no identifying information.

Nancy Peverini, a lobbyist for the consumer attorneys: “If you’re going to oppose a bill, oppose it. Don’t hide behind a fake website.”

Coincidence? The American Tort Reform Association, a Washington D.C.-based group that fights plaintiffs attorneys, recently registered to lobby in Sacramento, and hired a D.C. attorney, Mark Behrens, as its lobbyist. Behrens didn’t respond to my email.

Counting votes

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins shuffled the membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee, reassigning two more moderate Democrats and replacing them with Democrats who could take more liberal votes.

Sens. Anna Caballero of Salinas and Ben Allen of Santa Monica were replaced by Sens. Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles and newly elected Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach.

  • What to expect: Committee Chairwoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who is among the most liberal legislators, will gain greater clout. Expect more party-line votes on bills related to enhanced privacy, environmental law and the right to sue. (See the USC item above.)

Commentary at CALmatters

Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, California Supreme Court: My responsibility goes beyond deciding cases. We must help the public understand what we do and share our collective knowledge. Nowhere is that mission more urgent than when it comes to improving the lives of our state’s children.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: While politicians tout the state’s new budget, there are some very large caveats attached to it.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.

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