In summary

State fights to preserve Affordable Care Act. DMV to start charging credit card fees. Bill to combat sexual misconduct by psychologists stalls.

Good morning, California.

“TODAY: Every part of the #ACA is in jeopardy.”—California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, trying to defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Paxton: “It’s time to bury Obamacare once and for all.”

Peril for health care expansion

Gov. Gavin Newsom

With a federal appellate court seemingly poised to gut the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders gathered Tuesday to tout California’s implementation and expansion of Obamacare.

Newsom, at the Sacramento Native American Health Center, detailed budget provisions aimed at increasing access while lowering health care costs:

  • Expanding subsidies to help middle-income earners afford health care premiums, at a cost of $1.45 billion over three years. 
  • This would be funded by revenue generated from the creation of a state-only individual mandate, otherwise known as a fee of $695 on people who fail to buy health insurance.
  • Expanding Medi-Cal coverage to include undocumented individuals ages 19 to 25.

Newsom: “Regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C., California will come back strong and rebuild a framework and structure to do justice to the anxiety of this moment.”

Obamacare premiums are expected to increase by less than 1% in 2020, by far the smallest increase since the program began, according to Covered California, the department that administers the Affordable Care Act in California. 

All that is in jeopardy.

U.S. Court of Appeals judges in New Orleans grilled California’s deputy solicitor general, who sought to defend the act, against a suit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that seeks to have the act declared unconstitutional, the L.A. Times’ Noam N. Levey reported

Levey: “The judges seemed disinclined to decide what parts should be saved or struck down, as California and other defenders of the law have urged.”

DMV nickels and dimes

A California DMV office in Sacramento

California has found a new way to dip into motorists’ pockets, CalMatters’ Judy Lin has discovered.

Gov. Gavin Newsom singled out the ridiculousness of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ inability to accept credit cards in the year 2019. 

Newsom in January: “You can’t make that up.”

To get up to date, the state will stop absorbing credit card fees when customers make payments online and at self-serve DMV Now terminals. That means drivers will collectively pick up $45.3 million a year in transaction fees.

The cost is projected to grow to $71.8 million a year once the DMV adds field offices and expands self-serve terminals. In a state with 27.1 million drivers, that works out to $2.65 per driver.

Other state agencies, including the Franchise Tax Board, Department of Transportation and Department of Consumer Affairs, already charge credit card-processing fees, Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer notes.

Avoid the fee by paying by cash or check.

Fur flies; alligator bill passes

An animal rights advocate supports fur ban.

California would ban the sale of fur under a bill that cleared another legislative hurdle on Tuesday, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports.

Alligators? They’re another story.

Assembly Bill 44, authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman of Glendale, would ban the sale of new fur. Violators would pay $500.


  • Fur-related religious icons and used fur. 
  • Leather and shearling.

Friedman: “The voters of California have said pretty consistently that if they buy a product in California that involves animals, they want to know that those animals were treated humanely.”

Keith Kaplan, a spokesman for the Fur Information Council of America, said the bill would force fur customers out of the state, and shopkeepers would have to move, too.

Kaplan: “When you impose a ban, it’s the legitimate people, the people who follow the rules, that go out of business.”

Separately, another legislative committee approved legislation to allow the continued sale of farmed alligator and crocodile products. Without the bill, alligator parts would become illegal on Jan. 1.

The state of Louisiana, where the animals are farmed, is pushing for Assembly Bill 719, by Democratic Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio of Baldwin Park.

Old politics in #MeToo era

A bill targeting psychologists who engage in sexual misconduct stalled.

The #MeToo era notwithstanding, an Assembly committee killed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed authorities to crack down on psychologists who engage in sexual misconduct with their clients.

On behalf of the California Board of Psychology, Sen. Richard Pan is carrying legislation to update definitions of sexual misconduct. It stalled Tuesday.

Currently, these acts don’t warrant license revocation: sexting, phone sex, trading nude photos, or giving sex toys as gifts.

Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, told the Assembly Business & Professions Committee:

“You could actually lick the nipple of a male patient, and that would not meet that [current] definition.”

In nine cases over five years, the board sought to revoke shrinks’ licenses. In one case, a woman client became suicidal after her therapist coaxed her into sexual acts. But the nine psychologists were given probation. 

Beverly Hills psychologist Stephen Phillips, head of the Board of Psychology, testified:

“We are leaving sexual predators in a position where they still have a license to practice psychology and see patients.”

The Senate approved Pan’s bill 38-0. But Assembly Business & Professions Committee Chairman Evan Low said Pan should take a “more holistic” approach and include more professions.

Low, a Democrat from Campbell: “We of course in Assembly B&P will not tolerate any kind of sex misconduct. … Unfortunately, at this time, it is too narrow in scope, so we do not offer amendments.”

Pan’s bill died without a vote.

A connection? Three of Low’s bills stalled in the Senate Business & Professions Committee last week. Pan sits on that committee.


Kevin Liao

Kevin Liao, Speaker Anthony Rendon’s press secretary, has signed on to be U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Iowa press secretary for her presidential run. .

Liao, a track and field enthusiast, has been to Iowa for sporting events but never politics. He called Warren’s message of income equality inspiring and the election incredibly important. And he’ll get to inspect the Butter Cow up close.

Liao is 27. Remember his name. You’ll be hearing about him for many years to come.

Commentary at CalMatters

Jim Steyer, Common Sense: The California Consumer Privacy Act is setting the foundation for stronger privacy rights, but the multi-billion dollar data broker industry isn’t going down without a fight. There are several  bills going through the California Legislature that will undermine the act. 

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Two years ago, the state Supreme Court seemingly carved out a way for local governments to sidestep a law that voters must approve certain local taxes by a two-thirds vote. Ever since, those who want to raise local taxes have yearned to learn whether the Supreme Court really meant to make an exception. San Francisco’s very liberal city government has volunteered to become the legal guinea pig.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.

Barbara is a master's student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where she studies new media. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Sacramento State, where she served as editor...