Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

CA Assembly, Senate pass healthcare reforms for individuals

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Both houses of the California legislature approved bills Thursday that set new rules for how health plans handle individual customers in California.

Currently, 1.5 million Californians buy their own health insurance.  That number is expected to grow to 5 million next year when the federal Affordable Care Act takes effect and requires everyone to get insured.

The measures passed Thursday aim to make it easier for people to purchase individual plans, starting Jan 1, 2014.

They both prohibit companies from rejecting people for pre-existing conditions.  Both allow insurers to set premium rates for customers based on age, family size and where they live.  

The bills differ on how to standardize ratings based on geographic regions. That part is still “under negotiation.”




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Greuel goes on offensive over Garcetti's oil connections

Oil wells provide the background for archery class at Beverly Hills High School in 1937. Eric Garcetti's family granted drilling rights to a property it owns about a half-mile away.

Big Oil washed over the race for Los Angeles mayor Thursday when City Controller Wendy Greuel called on her chief rival, Councilman Eric Garcetti, to end his relationship with the drilling company Venoco.

At issue is a 1998 lease agreement allowing the company to drill for oil and gas under a  Wilshire Boulevard property owned by Garcetti's family. Under the agreement, Venoco could slant drill from nearby Beverly Hills High School, as first reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times.

“It is absolutely wrong that Eric is allowing children to be put in danger by leasing his property to this company,” Greuel said Thursday.

Garcetti immediately shot back: “This is a desperate attack by a desperate Wendy Greuel.”

The testy exchange between the candidates comes just days before the March 5 election. Greuel and Garcetti have been neck-and-neck atop the polls and they are expected to advance to the May 21 runoff. 


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Maven's Morning Coffee: the future of public education, race in CD 9, a profile of Kevin James

In a debate hosted by the United Way, the leading candidates for mayor all appeared to support the superintendent and criticize the teachers' union.
Photo by superterrific/dana byerly via Flickr Creative Commons

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Thursday, Feb. 28, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


In a debate hosted by the United Way, the leading mayoral candidates all appeared to back LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and criticize the work of United Teachers Los Angeles, reports the Daily News.

The LA Weekly looks at the racial politics of the city's Ninth District. "While Los Angeles' demographics are changing, and neighborhoods are becoming more Latino, the old African American guard still wants to maintain three seats on the City Council," according to the paper.


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Kevin James, the conservative talker, looks for an upset in LA mayoral race (Photos)

Kevin James looks for members of his staff after a candidate forum at John Burroughs Middle School in Hancock Park.
Grant Slater/KPCC

Growing up, Kevin James struggled to speak sometimes.

“I had severe asthma,” he explains.  “I sometimes slept in an oxygen tent when I was young.”

As an adult, James loves to talk. For almost nine years, until  2011, he was a late-night, conservative talk radio host. On this day, he readily offers a reprise of his on-air shtick.

“It’s Kevin James on another night across Los Angeles,” he booms.  “So where should we start? Let's talk about this really exciting mayoral candidate. His name is Kevin James!” 


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Congressman Takano wrestles with sequestration on 2 fronts

Freshman Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside) squeezes in lunch at his desk while keeping up with negotiations over sequestration.

You’d think with sequestration poised to kick in on Friday that voters would be giving their Congress members an earful. Surprisingly, not so much. But the budget battle is very much on the mind of one freshman from Southern California.

It’s a fairly quiet Wednesday morning in Democrat Mark Takano’s office. A group from UC Riverside dropped by to speak with his staff, and the phone rings from time to time. But few of the calls are about sequestration.

In the back office, Chay Halbert is the guy who goes through the mail. He says about half the correspondence is about sequestration, and opinions are pretty evenly split. Halbert notes there's "a decent amount that's probably broadly about just cutting government." But he's also getting mail from people concerned about program cuts. That split reflects the political makeup of Takano’s Riverside district: 42% Democratic, 35% Republican and 23% who decline to pick a party.

Richard McPike, Takano’s chief of staff, says party leaders have been getting most of the sequestration calls. But just in case a constituent calls Takano’s D.C. or district office with questions, he’s provided staff with a cheat sheet of sequestration answers. 

"Somehow there hasn’t been a great deal of call for it," McPike says. He adds that the public may not see the sequester as a threat to the economy, but instead as "yet another internal fight in Congress that in the end is going to work out at the last minute and it’s not going to actually have any impact on people’s day to day lives." 

But it’s front-and-center for his boss, the newly-elected Takano, who calls the sequestration threat "a big deal."

Takano has heard from March Air Force Base and museum directors and UC Riverside’s medical school about how cuts would affect them. What he hasn’t heard is what’s going on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill to reach a sequestration deal. He says "ordinary members like me are not privy to the discussions that are going on largely by a few people." Takano says he’s been piecing together what he knows from press reports.

And it’s not just the lack of information that ticks him off: it’s the lack of power to participate. He says all the big decisions are made by a very small group of individuals. The old so-called “regular order” of crafting legislation in committees with input from even the lowly freshmen is going by the wayside. "I don't know when it's going to dawn on the junior members of both parties that they're cut out of meaningful participation," Takano says. 

In the end, Takano predicts, after the “drama” dies down, agreement on sequestration will happen the same way a deal was struck for aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy: with a bi-partisan coalition of mostly Democrats. He says anything Congress has done in the two months he's been on Capitol Hill has been with "the bulk of our caucus — 195 members — joined by about 40 -45 Republicans." Takano predicts "the same coalition's gonna come together."

 The question is: when? Sequestration kicks in on Friday – not all at once but, as Takano says, “a death by a thousand cuts.” His staff predicts as soon as it becomes clear which programs will be cut, that’s when they’ll start getting an earful from constituents.


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