MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1004 and CIRM — September 10, 2018

The LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune jointly opined on their websites in favor of SB 1004, which I joint-authored with the good Senator from San Francisco, Scott Weiner, and encourage the Governor to sign it.

How’s that for working with those on the other side of the aisle? I have an established history with addressing how to better direct Mental Health Services Act funding. With that focus, Sen. Weiner requested my collaboration on his bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Joint Author Details — July 7, 2018). The lead editorial is the first piece below.

The second piece is more than a year in the making. I was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle last year. They have done some very exhaustive analysis over this time period on CIRM, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (see MOORLACH UPDATE — I Told You So! — August 26, 2017 ).

The bonds that funded this dubious venture cost the General Fund $313 million in the current fiscal year and will cost $309 million in the next! Your taxes are paying for what I believe is the most egregious ballot measure abuse in recent state history.

I’m not against stem cell research. But, if there is progress and money to be made in this area, the private sector and institutional investors will make it happen. But, in 2004, when Proposition 71 was up for a vote, I was one of the three signatories in opposition to this measure because it was self-serving, unaccountable, and would be a fiscal bust (as the major patents had already been secured by the University of Wisconsin).

I recently did try to address my concerns about CIRM through the legislative process (MOORLACH UPDATE — Millstones and SCA 7 — March 30, 2017) and through messaging (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017).

Now the Chronicle provides a review of where the money went. Although thorough, it is silent on the administrative costs. That may provide information on high salaries and, therefore, high pensions, for well situated individuals who served in cushy positions. The piece also begs the question as to facilities. You can do research in a rented commercial building. But, I’ll save the rest for your reading pleasure with the second piece below.

California is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health programs. Let’s put it to use

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/msn/editorial-california-is-sitting-on-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-for-mental-health-programs-lets-put-it-to-use/ar-BBN8fdG

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/la-ed-mental-health-funding-20180910-story.html

Like much of the rest of the nation, California went only halfway toward keeping its promise to improve mental health care. It closed psychiatric hospitals, some of which were really just costly warehouses for the sick rather than modern medical facilities offering effective treatment. But the state didn’t follow through on its commitment to provide better alternatives, like community-based clinics that deliver the treatment and services needed to integrate patients into society, working and living independently where possible.

We can see the result of those half-measures every day. About a third of homeless people in Los Angeles and across the country are on the street because of untreated mental illnesses that prevent them from staying housed or holding down a job.

We’ve begun to make amends, at least of a sort. Fourteen years ago, voters passed Proposition 63, known informally as the millionaires’ tax and more properly as the Mental Health Services Act. It raises billions of dollars for services.

The ranks of mentally ill homeless Californians are constantly being replenished.

More recently, Los Angeles voters adopted tax measures to raise money for supportive housing – units that will give homeless people, including those with serious mental health challenges, the opportunity for dignified and independent living while receiving the medical care and services they need to hold their illnesses at bay and stay off the streets.

These are fine programs, but if they’re all we’ve got they will be futile. The ranks of mentally ill homeless Californians are constantly being replenished. As fast as we can lead the sick and suffering into homes, they are replaced on the street by new generations of people whose mental illnesses were left undiagnosed or untreated at an early stage, when they still could have been held in check. If only California also had funding for that – for prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment early enough that patients’ illnesses do not progress to the point where they lose the ability to lead independent lives.

Actually, we do have the funding. The tragedy is that we haven’t spent it wisely, or in many cases haven’t spent it at all.

Twenty percent of Proposition 63 funding allocated to counties is supposed to be spent on prevention and early intervention programs and treatment. Yet a recent state audit found that counties hadn’t spent most of that money, despite statutory deadlines meant to deter hoarding. Hundreds of millions of dollars just sit in county accounts, still waiting to be put to use.

Why? There is too little guidance on how to effectively spend those tax dollars. A state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission is supposed to direct counties to best practices, but that loose system has led us to where we are: unmet needs and unspent funds. There is little strategic vision. Programs aren’t measured for their effectiveness. Counties aren’t held accountable for results.

The law should be tightened to ensure data are gathered, outcomes are measured and the commission offers more exacting spending guidance that prioritizes treatment for young patients.

After all, researchers have found that signs and symptoms of mental illness – hallucinations, delusions and other evidence of psychotic episodes – first present themselves in the patients’ early teen years and into their mid-20s. Treatment at or just after the onset of these symptoms can prevent, or at least allow patients to manage, serious mental illness that worsens over time. Failure to respond quickly makes effective treatment later in life much more difficult – and feeds the pipeline that sends sick adults to the street.

A bipartisan proposal from state Sens. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) would provide the appropriate spending guidelines and promote some uniformity in treatment around the state while leaving counties the flexibility to spend on different priorities if they can make a persuasive case for them. The measure (Senate Bill 1004) cleared the Legislature and is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Brown’s Department of Finance opposes it, arguing that the commission can do everything the bill can simply by changing the appropriate regulations. Perhaps it could – but the point is that it hasn’t.

Some critics object to the move to increase the focus on the young. Yet that’s where the greatest need is for prevention and intervention services, and where funding can provide the greatest value. Besides, the bill would also direct funding to programs that address the particular mental health challenges of older people as well. The bill is a targeted solution to an exasperating problem. It deserves the governor’s signature.

Taking stock of California’s $3 billion bet on stem cell science

Erin Allday and Joaquin Palomino

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Taking-stock-of-California-s-3-billion-bet-on-13215312.php

It was an extraordinary political proposal: Approve a $3 billion bond measure to fund the cutting-edge science of stem cell therapy, and soon some of the world’s cruelest diseases and most disabling injuries could be eradicated.

The 2004 measure was Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The campaign to pass it was led by a Palo Alto real estate developer whose son suffered from an incurable illness that he believed stem cells, the keystones of human biology, could heal. Other supporters included preeminent scientists, Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and elite investors.

The need was urgent, they said. Federal restrictions had recently been imposed on funding research involving human embryonic stem cells, then the most auspicious field of study.

Among the campaign’s promises: Nearly half of all families in California could benefit from stem cell treatments Prop. 71 would help create. One study it commissioned found that new, life-changing therapies could emerge in just a few years. And Prop. 71 would pay off financially, the campaign claimed, creating thousands of jobs and potentially returning the state’s investment more than seven times over.

“How many chances in a lifetime do you have to impact human suffering in a really fundamental way, including possibly even in your own family?” Robert Klein, the campaign leader, would say shortly after the vote.

In November 2004, Prop. 71 passed with nearly 60 percent approval. It created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, an agency tasked with administering the $3 billion and making the campaign’s lofty visions a reality.

Fourteen years later, the money voters approved is nearly gone, and supporters of CIRM and the research it funds are preparing to ask the public for another $5 billion in 2020. This time, taxpayers will want to know: Has California’s initial bet on stem cell science paid off?

Over the past several months, The Chronicle conducted an extensive analysis of CIRM’s spending, reviewing the nearly 1,000 grants the agency has made, tracking how the money has been spent, and gauging whether the promises have been realized.

It’s not a question that can be answered simply. Science often can’t be measured in quantifiable outcomes. Failures aren’t just common, they’re necessary — it’s impossible to expect every dollar invested in research to lead down a traceable path toward success.

CIRM can take credit for some notable progress.

It has helped make California a global leader in the field that’s come to be known as regenerative medicine. Anywhere significant stem cell research is taking place in the state, it almost surely has received support from CIRM.

At UCLA, doctors are using stem cells to cure a rare immune deficiency disease that kills children. At Stanford, early studies show that stem cells deposited deep into the brain could restore movement and speech to people devastated by stroke. At UCSF, a team is beginning human trials for a fatal genetic blood disease that involves transplanting stem cells into a fetus still in the uterus.

But as thrilling as such advances are, they fall far short of what Prop. 71’s promoters promised.

Not a single federally approved therapy has resulted from CIRM-funded science. The predicted financial windfall has not materialized. The bulk of CIRM grants have gone to basic research, training programs and building new laboratories, not to clinical trials testing the kinds of potential cures and therapies the billions of dollars were supposed to deliver.

Over that same time, many people suffering from incurable diseases have become impatient waiting for scientists to produce the miracle treatments the Prop. 71 campaign said were within reach.

Instead, a thriving, for-profit industry of clinics offering dubious stem cell therapies based on half-baked science has sprung up, defying attempts at government regulation and requests from scientists to proceed cautiously.

Now, as CIRM supporters prepare to approach voters again, some say its achievements shouldn’t be measured only against the claims made by the campaign that created it.

“What was promised was not deliverable,” said longtime CIRM board member Jeff Sheehy, a former San Francisco supervisor. “However, I would distinguish the promises from the impact and value. We have developed a regenerative medicine juggernaut.”

Klein, though, is unapologetic about the campaign he led. Indeed, as he lines up advocates and testimonials for the coming campaign, his message is familiar: Fund this research and we will save lives. Slow it down and the consequences will be grave.

“Do you want your son to die? Are you going to wait?” Klein asked recently. “Is that the price you are prepared to pay?”

In his airy, sunlit lab at San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes, cardiologist Deepak Srivastava has used skin cells to produce heart cells. As they pulse in a petri dish, their steady, calming beat feels familiar, even viewed through the lens of a microscope.

Someday, he hopes, the work of his team at Gladstone’s Roddenberry Stem Cell Center will lead to a therapy that can reverse the effects of a heart attack.

“We got this far purely because of CIRM,” said Srivastava, the center’s director.

The dream of exploiting the human body’s remarkable ability to heal itself — to grow skin and bone, to replace muscle lost to wasting or disease, to undo systemic damage caused by infection — has long captivated medical scientists. In the late 1800s, they began to suspect that specific cells in the body were responsible for this repair and regeneration work.

A century later, in 1981, UCSF scientist Gail Martin gave the most powerful of these cells a name: embryonic stem cells.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first human embryonic stem cells were isolated and replicated in a lab. These cells are uniquely potent, responsible for building every part of a human body. As an embryo matures, it rapidly replicates, transforming into bone cells and muscle cells, brain cells and heart cells.

Some doctors believed if they could harness stem cells, they could use them to treat all but the most disastrous threats to the body, perhaps even reverse the natural effects of aging.

The process of isolating them, though, involved destroying days-old embryos. Religious and antiabortion groups decried the science as unethical. In 2001, President George W. Bush instituted far-reaching limitations on federal grants for embryonic stem cell research.

In California, advocates for regenerative medicine sought a way around the funding restrictions. Their solution: Prop. 71, which would generate $3 billion in general obligation bonds, the type more often used for infrastructure projects like highways or dams. Including principal and interest, the total cost to taxpayers would be roughly $6 billion.

State-funded scientific research on that scale had never been attempted and, despite the campaign’s pitch, there was no guaranteed payoff. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office offered a cautious assessment: The potential financial benefits were unknown.

Klein, then a major Silicon Valley developer, helped conceive, bankroll and write Prop. 71. For him, the effort was personal. His son, Jordan, had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and Klein had become a ferocious advocate for people with brutal conditions and little hope.

More than 20 Nobel Prize laureates backed the proposal. So did Hollywood celebrities such as Michael J. Fox and Brad Pitt. Million-dollar donations came from the founders of eBay and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

Radio and television ads featured gut-wrenching appeals from people with incurable diseases. Patient advocate Joan Samuelson, later appointed to CIRM’s board, said in one ad that Prop. 71 “will rescue me, and a million people with Parkinson’s disease.”

In another, “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed from the neck down after a horseback-riding accident, said “stem cells have already cured paralysis of animals,” and called them the “future of medicine.” Dependent on a ventilator attached to his trachea, he struggled to breathe and to speak in the ad. He died before the spot aired.

Almost immediately, critics filed lawsuits. CIRM, the new stem cell institute, lacked public accountability, they said. While technically it was a state agency, the measure gave the Legislature little direct oversight of it. The legal challenges eventually were dismissed, but they slowed funding for nearly two years.

Meanwhile, the confident claims of the campaign were being tempered with more modest expectations. A year after moving into its San Francisco headquarters, CIRM would unveil a 10-year plan dramatically scaling back the pledges made by Prop. 71.

The field of embryonic stem cell research was still young, the report warned. The road to marketing new therapies would be long and expensive. Most research never reaches human clinical trials, it explained, and most of those trials fail. Potential treatments for just a handful of diseases might be tested, and it was doubtful that a single approved therapy would be developed from the state’s investment.

“The whole tenor of the campaign, what was said on television ads that flooded the state and by Bob Klein and his lobbying group, was that if California would fund this work, there would be cures,” said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley. “People that were saying that must have known you can’t schedule medical breakthroughs. Those hopes were just that, hopes, and completely speculative.”

But as CIRM ramped up, The Chronicle’s review shows, it began doling out grants at a furious pace, averaging more than $7 million a week in 2008, its first year of full-fledged operation. To date, CIRM has spent or committed more than 90 percent of its $3 billion allowance.

The grants can be broadly divided into four categories: basic science and training; infrastructure; translational and preclinical, which is the work that goes toward moving laboratory science into human studies; and clinical trials.

The Chronicle reviewed CIRM grants through May 2018, tracking who received money and how it was spent.

Bay Area institutions have been especially well-funded, with more than one-fifth of the bond money funneled to Stanford, UCSF, UC Berkeley and the Gladstone Institutes. Stanford, the biggest beneficiary, has received $360 million in grants. CIRM’s funding of Stanford, a private institution supported by a hefty endowment, has at times been sharply criticized.

Nearly 40 percent of the total bond money, more than $1.1 billion, has gone into training programs and basic research — work largely aimed at improving scientists’ understanding of stem cells and how they might be best used in medicine.

These basic biology studies have helped scientists develop techniques that could prevent immune rejection from an organ transplant. They discovered weak points in cancer stem cells that might become new targets for drug therapies. In addition to Srivastava’s beating heart cells, scientists have used stem cells to build mini-organs, including “brains” in petri dishes for testing drug therapies and learning more about diseases like Alzheimer’s.

CIRM’s focus, meanwhile, has expanded beyond embryonic stem cells. It has funded research involving adult stem cells, which exist in pockets throughout the body and are cheaper and less controversial than embryonic stem cells. It’s also invested in induced-pluripotent stem cells, first developed in 2006. Produced from other types of cells, they look and act like embryonic stem cells.

CIRM-funded researchers have published more than 330 scholarly articles in four of the most respected stem cell and academic journals. Each represents a new discovery in the field and has enabled the work California has funded to reach scientists around the world.

CIRM’s investments in infrastructure have amounted to $482 million — 16 percent of the bond money. Most of that went toward building a dozen stem cell research centers.

UCSF received a $35 million grant to help raise a glass-and-metal structure on the hillside overlooking its Parnassus campus. The independent Buck Institute for Research on Aging received $20 million toward a sleek white building on its Novato grounds. Stanford University won the largest single grant: $43.6 million toward a four-story structure at the edge of its medical school campus built around a glass-walled atrium.

About $388 million has gone toward preclinical and translational research: studies that take science out of the lab and try to apply it to humans. This phase of research, seldom backed by the federal government, can be particularly challenging. A therapy that looks promising when tested on a cluster of cells in a laboratory-controlled environment often fails when given to more complex organisms.

The preclinical studies funded so far reflect the immense possibilities stem cells offer: Scientists have examined a gene-modifying technique to try to treat HIV. They’re studying small molecule drugs that could destroy leukemia stem cells. They’re developing a gel derived from pig muscles that could stave off amputations among people with a disease that weakens blood circulation.

The research has helped CIRM-backed scientists license 107 invention disclosures. Some of the studies have paved the way for clinical trials, while others have hit dead ends.

CIRM funding helped push UC Irvine scientist Henry Klassen’s work from lab studies to clinical trials testing a stem cell therapy for a rare form of blindness. His research, which has shown success, has largely been carried out in a building at UC Irvine partly underwritten by CIRM.

“The whole reason I’m here in California is because of CIRM,” said Klassen, who had been working in Singapore and took a job at Irvine shortly after Prop. 71 passed. “This consistent source of funding has been critical as we go from the bench to the bedside.”

Still, critics and supporters alike say those who pushed Prop. 71 significantly oversold the short-term medical and financial prospects of stem cells.

No federally approved treatments have been produced. And without marketable therapies, the public is still far from reaping the up to $91 billion in health care savings by 2040 the campaign predicted.

CIRM has funded nearly 50 clinical trials, but just four have been completed, meaning scientists enrolled all the patients they said they would and finished compiling data. One of those trials was an observational study that tested no new therapy. The others involved treatments that are still years, at best, from reaching the market.

The state, once told to expect as much as $1.1 billion in royalties from CIRM-backed discoveries within 35 years, so far has received just a tiny fraction of that amount: a single payment of $190,000 from the City of Hope medical research center in Los Angeles County.

Other economic benefits, such as tax revenue and new jobs, have been measured only a handful of times. The most recent study, which CIRM commissioned using public funds and published in 2012, showed the state investment had helped create tens of thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue.

The aim of the report, however, was to aggressively support the goals and initiatives of CIRM, according to the California Stem Cell Report, a blog that has diligently tracked the institute.

CIRM and its 29-person governing board, meanwhile, have been a frequent target of attack.

State lawmakers have introduced multiple bills aimed at making the institute more accountable to the public and at ensuring that all taxpayers, not just biotech companies and universities, would benefit from the public investments.

Almost every effort has failed, in part due to the unusually restrictive language of Prop. 71: Any change in CIRM’s structure needs a voter initiative or a 70 percent vote in both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s approval.

The proposition also specified the precise makeup of the agency’s governing board, placing representatives of many of the institutions that CIRM funds to oversee its grants. Having such built-in conflicts of interest without the oversight expected of a public agency has undermined CIRM’s legitimacy, critics say. They have likened it to an insiders’ club that enriches its own members.

“These guys got away with an incredible amount of personal enrichment,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Irvine, a longtime critic of CIRM. “And all they gave us was debt.”

CIRM leaders say they have strong protections to ensure that personal interests don’t influence funding decisions: Board members don’t discuss or vote on proposals they have a financial stake in, and an out-of-state review panel has a major say in which projects are funded.

Multiple audits, however, have found the sheer volume of recusals troubling.

Records obtained by The Chronicle showed that board members abstained from voting on grants roughly 1,770 times since 2006 due to reported financial conflicts. Tens of thousands of additional recusals were triggered by a CIRM policy that bars certain members from weighing in on any application.

In some cases, nearly half of the board was unable to vote on major and controversial proposals due to conflicts of interest.

One board member, UC Regent Sherry Lansing, a former film studio executive, has recused herself from more than 400 grant discussions because of a tangle of conflicts, most related to the universities she oversees. Lansing’s role is to advocate for cancer patients.

A pivotal Institute of Medicine review in 2012 found that such widespread conflicts had caused some to “question the integrity and independence” of CIRM, and it recommended sweeping reforms. Many of the suggestions were not enacted, although CIRM did make some significant changes shortly after the report published.

Klein, CIRM’s board chairman during its first seven years, has been a divisive figure. Despite his role at CIRM, he continued to run a patient advocacy group that regularly dismissed concerns about the agency and attacked many people, including legislators, who challenged it. A 2009 Little Hoover Commission report called him “a lightning rod for calls for more accountability.” There were multiple demands for his resignation.

“There’s a reason you have checks and balances, transparency and accountability when you use that much in public funds, and unfortunately none of that was in place,” said former state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, who strongly supported Prop. 71, then became a CIRM critic. “You can’t go to the voters and say, ‘Let’s use $3 billion in state funds,’ then say, ‘We don’t want the terrible government to bother us.’ ”

Even some of CIRM’s most ardent supporters — patients and patient advocates who stand to benefit most directly from stem cell therapies — have become critical. Their chief complaint: The science is taking too long, and they’re running out of time.

At the Gladstone Institutes’ Mission Bay campus last fall, CIRM held a public meeting to update patients about the research going on throughout California.

CIRM representatives and scientists told the story of a mother who had her vision partially restored after enrolling in Klassen’s trial at UC Irvine. They talked about an East Bay teenager, paralyzed the day before graduating high school, who regained some movement after receiving a stem cell transplant.

The $3 billion bond, they said, had made these achievements possible.

“What you will see over the next decade,” Srivastava of the Gladstone Institutes told the crowd, “are a series of breakthroughs for many diseases based on that investment.”

Not everyone shared his enthusiasm.

“I’ve met hundreds, thousands of people with spinal cord injuries,” Franklin Elieh, a quadriplegic man and patient advocate, said at the same meeting. “Millions are suffering needlessly and endlessly. Billions (of dollars) are being spent needlessly and endlessly. What can be done to really accelerate this?”

Elieh, like many people living with incurable diseases or conditions, is disillusioned with the dearth of clinical trials CIRM has backed.

Clinical trials are the goal of laboratory medical science. They are the moment that a possible treatment, studied only in a test tube or a dish or an animal, finally is tested on a human subject.

The first two trial phases primarily test safety: Does this treatment, when given to a human being at an effective dose, cause intolerable side effects? Phase 3 trials are typically the first to tell scientists how well a therapy works in large groups of patients, if it works at all. They are often the last step before scientists — usually working with a for-profit company that has financed the increasingly expensive research — seek FDA approval.

About 900 patients have been involved in the 49 clinical trials CIRM has backed so far, The Chronicle’s review shows. Nearly a fifth of CIRM’s funds, about $530 million, has gone to support the trials. Most of those grants were awarded in the past three years, part of a deliberate effort by the agency to direct more money toward testing treatments.

“Every single project we have is spectacular, and just a couple of years ago may have been considered science fiction,” CIRM President Maria Millan told a state legislative committee in August as she outlined many of the clinical trials the agency has funded.

Only six of the clinical trials, though, have been phase 3 studies. Of those, two were terminated or suspended, three are still recruiting patients, and one — for a bioengineered blood vessel that can be used in dialysis — is under way.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health, the primary federal funding agency for medical research, has far outpaced CIRM in supporting clinical trials in stem cell research. A 2017 analysis by STAT, a science and health news publication, found that, dollar for dollar, the NIH funded 3½ times as many clinical trials as CIRM from 2006 to 2016.

In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but for both agencies, trials using those cells remain rare.

“When we voted for Prop. 71 we wanted clinical trials, we didn’t want basic research,” said Judy Roberson, a longtime CIRM supporter who has lost five family members, including her husband, to Huntington’s disease. Roberson has 17 other relatives who are also at high risk of developing the hereditary neurological disorder, which slowly erodes a person’s ability to walk and talk.

“Our loved ones are going to die. They’re sitting on time bombs,” she said. “You could do basic research for 100 years, but you’re never going to learn everything. So just get in there and try something.”

But accelerating the push of basic science toward human trials is not without its critics. The International Society for Stem Cell Research — the largest body of scientists looking at policy and politics in regenerative medicine — has cautioned against that approach. Many scientists say that, in general, it’s too early to be experimenting on people, particularly with embryonic and induced-pluripotent stem cells, which may cause tumors.

Gene therapy, a field related to stem cells, underwent more than 30 years of grueling research and repeated setbacks before establishing its first commercial successes in 2017: two cancer treatments approved by the FDA.

Embryonic stem cells were isolated for the first time just two decades ago. Induced-pluripotent stem cells were made only 12 years ago. Adult stem cells — the cells responsible for regular repair and upkeep — have been used in bone marrow transplants for more than 50 years, but their application beyond that started to be deeply studied only in the 1980s.

The science simply isn’t there yet, said Arnold Kriegstein, head of UCSF’s stem cell center, who has received $2.5 million from CIRM for basic research.

“CIRM touts 50 or so projects moving toward the clinic, and many of them will likely fail,” Kriegstein said. “It might be more prudent to spend dollars solving basic research problems, where a relatively modest investment can have a huge impact.”

Some suggest that CIRM’s recent aggressive support for clinical trials is directly tied to its plan to return to voters for more funding. The fact that its work is supported by taxpayers increases the urgency to produce results, said Timothy Caulfield, a Canadian law professor at the University of Alberta who closely follows CIRM.

“That creates a lot of pressure to frame the work in terms of near-future miracles, and that will almost always fail,” Caulfield said. “True medical breakthroughs with broad application are incredibly rare.”

To patients desperate for cures, CIRM leaders say stay hopeful. The work may be taking longer than promised, but it will pay off in the end. And the state has too much invested now to give up. Such hope, though, isn’t easy to come by for those beginning to realize that any therapies to help them probably will arrive too late.

“We see how slow progress is, and we know a lot of people are never going to be candidates for a treatment,” said Elieh, who is co-founder of the Northern California Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, a nonprofit patient support group.

Elieh, 54, was injured in a diving accident in 1989, shattering his vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord so badly that he lost movement in his legs and upper body. In the years afterward, he enrolled in clinical trials and costly rehab programs, but none helped.

During the Prop. 71 campaign, Elieh watched celebrities talk about the miraculous ability of stem cells to regenerate tissue. He saw videos of paralyzed rats that could walk again after receiving an injection of stem cells. Clinical trials, scientists said, were just years away.

“Everyone you talked with thought, ‘Wow, we’re going to put $3 billion into this,’ ” Elieh said. “It was really creating hope. And, unfortunately for me, false hope.”

Over the past decade CIRM has funded two clinical trials testing the same treatment for spinal cord injuries. The therapy, though, applies only to people newly injured, not the hundreds of thousands of men and women like Elieh who have been paralyzed for years.

So far, the therapy has proved safe. A handful of patients in the second trial regained some movement, though it’s too soon to say whether stem cells are the reason. While CIRM supporters are keen to hold up that trial as an example of the stunning potential of stem cell therapies, Elieh and many of his peers are more cautious.

“We’ve still barely taken the first step, and we have no idea when the second step will land,” Elieh said. “We all had a lot of hope back then, and we’ve just kept hoping.”

Seated on a stage before 50 people in a town hall-style meeting in Mill Valley, Art Torres had one word to describe the results of the CIRM-funded trial for spinal cord injuries: “Miraculous.”

Torres, former state senator and longtime member of the CIRM board, was enthusiastic in a way that would have made the more cautious scientists running the trial cringe. But CIRM needs a home run.

The looming end of its funding — and the need to ask voters for billions more — presents an existential moment.

Since 2004, the political and scientific climate has changed significantly. Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is no longer tied up, and many voters are savvier about the limitations of regenerative medicine. The scientists backed by CIRM, meanwhile, face unconventional competition from an unexpected source: a vibrant consumer-clinic industry that’s marketing unproven therapies to those tired of waiting for cures.

Prop. 71’s most tangible achievements — cutting-edge academic buildings, discoveries in petri dishes, advances in lab rats, pioneering trials in human subjects — aren’t necessarily going to resonate with voters. What will are visible triumphs in real people. Those successes are what CIRM’s most ardent supporters are rallying around.

On the cover of the agency’s 2017 annual report was Ronnie, a wide-eyed infant who was cured of an immune deficiency disease called SCID, or “bubble-baby disease.” Children who have the condition typically live in isolation to protect them from fatal infections.

CIRM has helped fund four trials, all at different institutions, testing stem cell therapies for SCID. Ronnie was treated at UCSF using a treatment developed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. A therapy out of UCLA, which has been in clinical trials since 1993, could win FDA approval — a first for CIRM-backed research — in a year or two, say the scientists who developed the treatment. In all, 40 babies have been treated with the UCLA therapy.

And there’s Rosie Barrero.

In a video posted on CIRM’s website, Barrero sits in a sunny room at the agency’s headquarters, now in Oakland, Lake Merritt glittering behind her. She’s earnest as she talks about retinitis pigmentosa, the disease that has slowly blinded her.

Barrero was treated in 2016 in Henry Klassen’s trial for patients with RP. Within months, she could pick out colors and shapes she hadn’t been able to see for years. She could tell her daughters apart. She has regained about “a pinhole” of sight, but that she’s had any improvement at all, she said, is amazing: It means that the therapy works.

“We’re definitely hoping that this work continues to get funded,” Barrero said in an interview. “It’s incredibly important, to all of us.”

If a new bond isn’t approved in 2020, said CIRM President Millan, it could devastate stem cell research in California. Private industry is still reluctant to back research that has yet to produce a treatment, let alone show it can be profitable.

And so, CIRM proponents are turning again to Klein, who plans to lead the 2020 campaign for more research dollars.

In Klein’s downtown Palo Alto office, a series of photos — colorful, fantastical close-ups of stem cells studied by CIRM scientists — hangs above his desk. Once they’d hung in CIRM’s offices. Today they reflect the deep connection he’s retained with the agency, despite not having an official role since stepping down as board chairman seven years ago amid a flurry of criticism.

Late last year, Klein addressed the CIRM board at a meeting about the fate of the agency. According to polls he had paid for — the full results of which he declined to share — 70 percent of voters would support another stem cell funding proposition. No other options for future financing — not private fundraising, not legislative efforts — would work, he said.

It was his son Jordan’s battle with Type 1 diabetes that drove Klein into patient advocacy and stem cell research. But the therapies that Klein believed were imminent did not arrive in time to save Jordan. Two years ago, at age 26, he died from complications related to the disease.

The loss seems to have cemented Klein’s resolve.

“We couldn’t get there fast enough for Jordan,” Klein said. “We have to get there for everyone else.”

Klein rejects the notion that expectations for CIRM were overhyped or voters misled in the 2004 campaign. If cures aren’t yet at hand, they’re surely years closer than they would be without CIRM, he said, and people already are benefiting from research paid for by Prop. 71.

During an interview in his office, Klein played a brief video of a young man who is part of the spinal cord injury trial CIRM has helped fund. Made quadriplegic after a devastating car accident, the man is shown in the video lifting weights.

“After the stem cell surgery, I’m able to live my life again,’ the man says in a quiet, halting voice. “Thank you for giving me my life back.”

Klein turned off the video, his eyes bright.

“I wish all the voters could see this,” he said. Christopher Reeve, whom he considered a friend, “would have been absolutely ecstatic” to have seen such a video, he added.

“In 2004 we had a vision of the future and data on animals,” Klein said. “In 2020, we will have patients who were paralyzed, patients who were blind, patients with cancer who will tell their story. The public will decide.”

Erin Allday and Joaquin Palomino are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. eallday, jpalomino Twitter: @erinallday, @JoaquinPalomino

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Ballot Opposition Arguments — June 6, 2018

It was nice to not be on the ballot. But, I did have plenty of campaign-related activities with Propositions 68 and 69. It is certainly a rare privilege to write two ballot opposition arguments that appeared in the voter pamphlet prepared by the California Secretary of State. The Daily Californian covers the predictable, but disappointing, results in the piece below.

Now, it is on to the General Election on November 6th. Congratulations to all of the Republican Primary candidates that made it to the top two. For those Republicans who ran and did not make it, please do not be bitter. Be better, and consider another attempt in the future.

The other two big news items are the success of the recall in the 29th Senate District and having a Republican challenger for Governor. I’m sure I’ll have more insights to share between now and November. Let’s see if I get another opportunity to write ballot arguments against expensive or non-beneficial propositions that are up in the General Election.

Majority of California, Alameda County measures pass in state primary election

BY AMANDA BRADFORD | STAFF

http://www.dailycal.org/2018/06/06/majority-california-alameda-county-measures-pass-state-primary-election/

Proposition 68 — which will fund parks, natural resources protection, water quality and supply, climate adaptation and flood protection — passed with 55.5 percent approval.

Prop. 68 will authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection.

It will increase state bond repayment costs, averaging $200 million annually over 40 years, and provide local government savings for natural resources-related projects, likely averaging several tens of millions of dollars annually over the next few decades.

California state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is opposed to the measure on multiple grounds, saying in a statement that the money would not be distributed fairly and equally across the state.

“Of the $4 billion dollar bond, only $1.3 billion is actually dedicated to improving parks,” Moorlach said in the statement. “A lot of the remaining money is given to politicians to spend on their pet projects.”

Proposition 69, which will require that certain new transportation revenues be used for transportation purposes, passed with 80.8 percent approval.

Prop. 69 will require that certain revenues generated by a 2017 transportation funding law, SB 1, be used only for funding transportation initiatives and bans the Legislature from using the funds for anything else.

The proposition would have no direct effect on revenues or costs but could affect the allocation of money.

Yes on Prop 69 campaign spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks said this proposition will ensure accountability within transportation groups.

“Prop. 69 would make sure the money drivers are putting in goes to repairing the roads, highway safety and relieving congestion,” Fairbanks said. “It should give people comfort knowing that transportation dollars will be spent efficiently and only on transportation.”

Proposition 70, which would have required a legislative supermajority vote approving the use of cap-and-trade reserve funds, failed to pass with 62.4 percent rejection.

Prop. 70 would have required that cap-and-trade revenues collect in a reserve fund until the Legislature authorizes use of the revenues by a two-thirds majority.

Revenue collected from the sale of state greenhouse gas emission permits would have been relocated into a separate fund beginning in 2024 — the deposits would only have been allowed to build, until the passage of a bill that spends money from that fund by the state Legislature.

The current state sales tax exemption for manufacturing and other equipment would have been suspended, while “auction revenue” would have been deposited into the special fund.

Proposition 71, which will set an effective date for ballot measures, passed with 77.1 percent approval.

Prop. 71 will mandate that ballot measures approved by a simple majority of voters will take effect five days after the election results are certified by the secretary of state.

Many state ballot measures, or propositions, will take effect about six weeks after Election Day — after the statewide vote has been counted and certified.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he supports Prop. 70 because it clarifies when measures will take effect after the election.

“It can look like something wins on election day, but people who send their ballots through the mail may vote differently than people on election day,” Worthington said. “Having measures go into effect after the secretary of state certifies the results is a common-sense reform.”

Proposition 72, which will permit the Legislature to exclude newly constructed rain-capture systems from the property-tax reassessment requirement, passed with 83.4 percent approval.

Prop. 72 will authorize the Legislature to allow construction of rain-capture systems without the property-tax revaluation requirement for systems completed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

A system installed to collect and store rainwater on a property would not result in a higher property tax bill, according to the text of the measure.

The measure will likely result in a minor reduction of the annual property tax revenues to local governments.

Measure A, the “Alameda County Child Care and Early Education Measure” passed with 65.2 percent approval.

Measure A will expand access to child care and preschool for low- and middle-income families, solicit and retain child care workers, aid homeless and at-risk children — including with child abuse and neglect prevention help — and add child care spaces around the county.

This would be paid for by a half-percent sales tax lasting 30 years, to be enacted by the county of Alameda, providing about $140 million annually with citizens’ oversight, public disclosure of spending and mandatory annual audits.

The measure will need a two-thirds majority of “yes” votes to go into effect.

Measure B, which will fund school maintenance and services in the San Lorenzo Unified School District, passed with 67.9 percent approval, with 85.96 percent of precincts reported in San Lorenzo.

Measure B will upgrade outdated classrooms, restrooms and educational buildings at local schools; make health, safety and security system improvements; improve student access to technology; and replace and upgrade outdated heating, ventilation and electrical systems within the San Lorenzo Unified School District.

The measure will allow the district board to issue and sell bonds of up to $130 million in aggregate principal amount at interest rates within the legal limits.

Measure C, a measure concerning affordable housing bonds in Emeryville, passed with 71.6 percent approval, with 80 percent of precincts reported in Emeryville.

Measure C will provide affordable housing and prevent displacement of vulnerable populations — including low- and middle-income households, veterans, local artists, seniors and the disabled — as well as provide supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and help low- and middle-income households purchase homes in Emeryville.

The measure requests voter authorization to issue general obligation bonds to finance affordable housing projects of $50 million, with an estimated average levy of 4.912 cents per $100 of assessed value — this would generate approximately $3.422 million annually to pay bonds over 27 years.

Measure D, which aims to maintain, protect and improve library services throughout Oakland, passed with 75.8 percent approval, with 80.73 percent of precincts reported in Oakland.

This measure will authorize a 20-year annual, special parcel tax that will raise revenue to protect and improve direct library services throughout Oakland.

The city can use the revenue only for the purposes specified in the ordinance, such as programs including early childhood literacy and student homework support for children, teens and adults, as well as employee staffing costs to maintain and expand library hours.

Regional Measure 3, the “Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan,” passed in Alameda County with 54.2 percent approval.

Regional Measure 3 will reduce auto and truck traffic, relieve crowding on BART, unclog freeway bottlenecks and improve bus, ferry, BART and commuter rail service.

The measure will increase the tolls on all Bay Area toll bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge to fund these projects. The tolls will increase by $1 in 2019, an additional $1 in 2022 and an additional $1 in 2025, for a total increase of $3 in the span of six years. After 2025, tolls can be increased for inflation.

In order to pass, Regional Measure 3 had to pass through nine counties — the city and county of San Francisco and the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma.

Worthington said BART will receive $500 million from the measure to replace old BART cars and build new ones, which will make BART less crowded.

“Old cars break down and cause the system to slow down,” Worthington said. “This measure is critically essential to the Bay Area.”

The above voting data is accurate as of press time, with 75.52 percent of precincts reported in Alameda County and 58.4 percent of precincts reported in California for state measures. As Measures B, C and D were not voted on by all Alameda County voters, the percentages of precincts reported are listed separately for each.

Contact Amanda Bradford at abradford and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.

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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — CA AG Reception Invitation — May 24, 2018

For me, this year’s June Primary has revolved around five major ballot items.

48th Congressional District –

The one receiving the most national attention has been the decision by Scott Baugh to challenge Dana Rohrabacher.

The OC Register covers this topic today. It can be seen at https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/23/after-three-decades-in-congress-rohrabacher-faces-bare-knuckled-fight-for-political-life-from-democrats-and-gop-contender/. Since it draws on previous articles on this topic, I’ll pass on providing the entire article below.

To see my other ballot recommendations for the June Primary and a previous discussion on the Baugh/Rohrabacher battle, go to MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — June Primary Antics — April 28, 2018.

Propositions 68 and 69 –

The next is the two Propositions 68 and 69 that have me garnering statewide attention. My last report on this subject can be found at MOORLACH UPDATE — Propositions 68 and 69 — May 18, 2018 , with my sincerest apologies for not including “CAMPAIGN” in the title.

I continue to receive multiple requests for interviews by radio stations and reporters from around the state. And, because I’m a signatory in opposition to these two ballot measures, I am mentioned in numerous articles due to the association, without an interview, as is the case in the four pieces below.

The Daily Press, in the first piece below, provides a column on the five ballot measures and recommendations, of which I agree 80%, disagreeing on Proposition 70, which I oppose. If you live in San Bernardino County, you’ll appreciate the author’s perspectives.

KTLA Channel 5 provides a voter guide in the second piece below, but I only include the first two propositions.

The Sierra Sun provides a lopsided perspective on Proposition 68 in the third piece below.

The Acorn also shows the allure of localities being the recipients of the bond’s proceeds and is the fourth piece below.

The Newspaper.com provides an overall analysis of the gas tax repeal efforts in the fifth piece below, with the potential non-necessity of Proposition 69 by the time the November ballots are cast.

With the minimal campaign activity on these two ballot measures, with just the Secretary of State’s pamphlet and these few news articles, I would find it a personal victory if the “no” vote on Proposition 68 is higher than 40 percent and higher than 30 percent on Proposition 69.

California Attorney General Reception –

The fourth is the statewide candidates. In this regard, I want you to meet the Republican candidate for Attorney General. I can give you a list of more than thirty reasons why this state needs a new AG.

I am hosting a reception for Judge Steven Bailey (Retired) in Orange County on June 1st, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the law offices of Cummins and White, 2424 S. E. Bristol, Suite 300, Newport Beach. There is no charge to attend, but bring your checkbooks, please. Please RSVP to Danielle@BaileyForAG.com.

Governor –

The fifth is the race for Governor. I have stayed neutral. I enjoy a relationship with both of the two main Republican candidates. I have always advised that, in a top-two system, only one Republican should be running in this field. The polling has consistently shown John Cox obtaining double the support of that garnered by Assemblyman Travis Allen. And President Trump has endorsed Cox.

For the sake of the Republican Party, it may be time for the Assemblyman to bow out and endorse John Cox. If this is not done, I believe that we will see Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as the top two.

BONUS: Remember to attend the reception on June 1st and to vote on June 5th.

Fewer propositions but lots of candidates for California voters to wade through

By RICHARD REEB

http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/20180523/fewer-propositions-but-lots-of-candidates-for-california-voters-to-wade-through

The unexpected effect of the incumbent-protecting top two nominating process was an explosion in the number of candidates, many Democrats and Republicans, quite a few Nones (17) and a scattering of third party hopefuls. So let’s take care of the unusually small number of legislatively sponsored ballot measures (five) first.

Whatever the merits of the three constitutional amendments and two statutes, note well that in all about two, the Assembly and the Senate were sharply divided. For example, supporters of Propositions 68 and 70 claim “bipartisan support,” but the truth is that the 40-member Senate split 27-9 and the 80-member Assembly 56-21 on the first and 27-13 and 59-11 on the second. At best, some Republicans voted for these measures but not many. Even Proposition 69 barely squeaked by 29-10 and 56-24 in the two houses. Remember, Democrats have huge majorities in both houses.

By massive contrast, Proposition 71 was backed 40-0 and 78-0, and 72 by 39-0 and 76-0. But whatever the support or lack of it for these measures, we must consider them on the merits.

Proposition 68 is a grab bag bond measure with a big price tag for a multitude of “park, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply and flood protection” fixes — who could oppose that? Certainly not the California Chamber of Commerce. But it comes with a price tag of $4 billion and a 40-year payment period the interest of which will double the cost. As State Sen. John Moorlach argues, California already leads all other states in total indebtedness at $169 billion. Vote NO.

Proposition 69 piously promises to donate all revenues from a 2017 “transportation funding law” to transportation needs. But there are at least two difficulties. Money previously so dedicated prior to 2017 was not spent on transportation, and the current measure includes monies for unwanted high speed rail, bike lanes and protecting habitat. Vote NO.

Proposition 70 has won some favorable reviews because it requires a super-majority of two-thirds in both houses of the state legislature to maintain the state’s cap and trade program, which rewards industries for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Here the opposing argument claims that “many Democrats and Republicans opposed putting Proposition on the ballot because it’s a bad deal for California.” That’s not quite true, at least in the State Senate, while proponents make the opposite claim.

Environmentalists are doubtless cool to the super-majority requirement which suits the Chamber of Commerce Just fine. Vote YES.

Proposition 71, which would make ballot measures effective whenever the definitive vote count is established, is headed for victory owing to its unanimous legislative support. With mail-in and absentee ballots coming in after election day, this precaution makes sense. Vote YES.

Proposition 72′s unanimous support derives from its relief from taxation of anyone who, at their own expense, adds rain-capture systems to conserve water. This is a no-brainer. Vote YES.

Now to wade through the multiple candidates for 12 state offices. Democrats and Republicans are scanning the many names looking for someone they recognize and/or they believe can be nominated and elected. Democrats, not surprisingly, have more prominent names than Republicans, particularly for Governor (Gavin Newsome, Antonio Villaraigosa, Diane Eastin, John Chiang), and the two most prominent Republicans are John Cox and Travis Allen. Cox is endorsed by Newt Gingrich, while Allen is endorsed by several state organizations, yet the latter’s campaign fliers have him endorsing several Democrats for other offices. I’ll go with Newt.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the four-term incumbent U.S. Senator, is challenged by state Senator Kevin De Leon. Both Republican hopefuls are pushing Arkun K. Bhumitra, but Tom Palzer got my attention with his determination to end the top-two nomination system.

Both Cox and Allen are endorsing Republican Cole Harris for Lieutenant Governor and Steven Poizner for Insurance Commissioner (officially None but actually Republican) on their fliers, while Allen is supporting Democrats Ed Hernandez for Lt. Governor and Dave Jones for Attorney General on other fliers! Go figure! Democrat Eleni Kounalakis is advertising an openly open immigration position in her bid for the No. 2 spot.

Democrat Betty Yee will be hard to beat for Controller, but Republican Konstantinos Roditis will probably face her in November.

Otherwise, likely Republican nominees are Mark Meuser for Secretary of State, Greg Conlon for Treasurer, Steven Bailey for Attorney General, Connie Conway for Board of Equalization and Shannon Grove for State Senate. Marshall Tuck is endorsed by both Democrats and Republican leaders for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

San Bernardino County Judge Arthur Harrison, District Attorney Mike Ramos and appointed Auditor-Controller-Treasurer Oscar Valdez will likely face November runoffs.

Of course, no one really knows who will wind up on the ballot in November, but the incumbents are hoping it’s them — again.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow Community College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of “Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause” (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at rhreeb

 

 

California Primary: A Simple Guide to the 5 Statewide Measures on the June 5 Ballot

BY KRISTINA BRAVO

http://ktla.com/2018/05/23/california-primary-a-simple-guide-to-the-5-statewide-measures-on-the-june-5-ballot/

In this file image, voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Alhambra on Nov. 4, 2014. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

In this file image, voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Alhambra on Nov. 4, 2014. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The state primary election is on June 5. In addition to selecting their top choices for governor, U.S. senator, members of Congress and other local offices, California voters will get to decide on these five statewide measures:

Proposition 68: Bonds for parks, the environment

Voting “yes” means the authorization of $4.1 billion in general obligation bonds (state debt) to fund parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation and water infrastructure.

The measure would help pay for projects to maintain forests, rivers, coastal habitats and other natural and recreational areas; finance equipment to remove pollutants from water supplies; and fund levees to protect communities during floods and storms.

On top of the $4.1 billion, the bonds would mean repaying $3.8 billion in interest, according to a state analysis. That means an average repayment cost of around $200 million every year over the next four decades, or about a fifth of a percent of California’s current general fund budget, according to the analysis.

Voting “no” opposes the authorization of the bonds to fund local and state parks, natural resource conservation and water infrastructure.

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board calls Proposition 68 a “sound investment,” while The Orange County Register says it would leave the state with “unnecessary debt.”

Proposition 69: Spending for roads, transit

Voting “yes” supports a state constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to continue spending revenues from recently enacted vehicle fees and fuel tax on transportation purposes only.

Voting “no” means lawmakers could in the future spend some of those revenues on purposes other than transportation.

State Sen. John Moorlach and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, both Republicans, oppose Prop 69. “A portion of money protected by Proposition 69 is for transit, which is NOT fixing our roads,” they say in a statement in the state’s voter guide.

Ballotpedia says it could not find any editorial boards against the measure and cited support from the L.A. Times, The Desert Sun and other publications.

“If that reassurance seems unnecessary, it’s because anti-tax opponents are readying a repeal of the gas tax …” says the San Francisco Chronicle in its editorial. California Republicans are seeking to put a proposed repeal of the 2017 gas tax increase on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Voters to decide on $4 billion bond to fund clean parks and water conservation

Hannah Jones
hjones

https://www.sierrasun.com/news/local/voters-to-decide-on-4-billion-bond-to-fund-clean-parks-and-water-conservation/

On June 5 voters have a chance to secure $4 billion in general obligation bonds, to go towards park maintenance, environmental protection projects and clean water conservation.

If passed, Proposition 68 will be the largest statewide investment into outdoor conservation and restoration projects since 2006. Since that time California’s population has grown from 36 million to 39.5 million, leading environmental groups to fight for the protection of natural resources.

“The reason why these bonds are so necessary is because we can see that our region is changing,” said Chris Mertens, Sierra Business Council government affairs director.

“There’s dying trees, there’s more forest fires, extreme weather events. This bond will help give our region the tools we need to build a more resilient community. It provides and unprecedented amount of funding to protecting our community.”

SUPPORT IN THE SIERRA

Several environmental groups in the Tahoe region have endorsed the measure including the Sierra Business Council, Keep Tahoe Blue and the Truckee Donner Land Trust, voicing concerns about the future of Lake Tahoe and the natural resources it provides.

More than 60 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada. Under Proposition 68, the California Tahoe Conservancy would receive $27 million. In addition to these funds, the Water Supply and Quality Act, scheduled for the Nov. 6 election would supply $100 million to the region.

“Our parks continues to get more and more visitors and the population is growing, so having money dedicated to protecting those resources in vital to this area,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of Keep Tahoe Blue. Collins said that because most state funding for such projects is competitive among other regions, the $27 million secured through Proposition 68 will “allow that certainty that we can start projects we know we can finish them,” she said.

‘WRONG WAY,’ OPPONENTS SAY

OPPOSITION TO THE MEASURE COMES MAINLY FROM TAXPAYERS WHO BELIEVE THE MEASURE WILL ONLY PLUNGE THE STATE FURTHER INTO DEBT.

“We need to protect and improve our state parks, but Proposition 68 is the wrong way to do that,” Andrea Seastrand, President of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association, said in a California official voter information guide. She argued that only $1.3 million will actually go towards parks and that the money will not be distributed equally throughout the state.

State Sen. John Moorlach, who represents most of Orange County, opposed the measure arguing against even higher taxes. In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, he cited data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office reporting that taxpayers would owe $200 million a year for 40 years from the state’s general fund if the measure were to pass.

“That means not just our children, but our grandchildren will be paying it off,” he said.

IF APPROVED

Prop. 68 funding would be provided in three main categories, with about two- thirds going to parks and wildlife, and one-third going towards water conservation and flood protection. According to the Proposition 68 website, the money will be allocated as follows.

Water conservation

$540 million to ensure clean drinking water

$180 million to groundwater cleanup and water recycling

$550 million to flood protection

$367 million to rivers, lakes, and streams protection and restoration

Parks and recreation

$725 million to neighborhood parks in greatest need of restoration

$285 million to safer and cleaner park facilities in cities, counties, and local park districts

$218 million to repair and improve state parks

$95 million to promote recreation and tourism

Natural Resources

$765 million for conserving and protecting natural areas

$235 million to protect beaches, oceans and the coast

$140 million for climate change resiliency

Statewide, there are 280 state parks which all have a maintenance backlog estimate at $1.2 billion. In the 1980s, California State Parks began to put off maintenance on basic repair projects such as bathrooms, rooftops, fences and trails due to underfunding of the state park’s budget. With deferred maintenance from the past three decades, some of the measure’s money will go towards reducing that backlog.

The last parks bond that was passed was Proposition 84, which gave $5.4 billion in funding to water and flood control projects and park restoration.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. She can be reached at hjones or 503-550-2652.

image23

 

Group hopes Prop. 68 funds can

save rural Agoura site from

development

By Stephanie Bertholdo
sberth

https://www.toacorn.com/articles/group-hopes-prop-68-funds-can-save-rural-agoura-site-from-development/

https://www.theacorn.com/articles/triangle-ranch-group-eyes-prop-68-funds/

The movement to protect Triangle Ranch in rural Agoura as open space has gained traction with the purchase of at least a portion of the property by local environmental groups.

But the status of the 320-acre ranch near Kanan and Cornell roads still remains up in the air, and its fate could be decided by voters in the June 5 election.

The first of four Triangle Ranch parcels have been bought and will remain undeveloped.

Paul Edelman, planning chief for the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority and the Santa Mountains Conservancy, said his agencies bought the land in March for $5.85 million from Sage Live Oak of Newport Beach. The cost included a $95,000 option to buy the entire property.

If money is not raised to acquire phases two through four, the Newport developer could move forward with its plans to build 61 custom homes at the ranch.

The conservancy gave a $2-million grant to the MRCA to buy the land for open space. Another $2.5 million came from Los Angeles County park funds. The Agoura Hills-based Hilton Foundation contributed another $50,000 toward the purchase.

Although more money is owed, Edelman feels the deal is finalized.

Other agencies and the City of Agoura Hills may contribute to the purchase—and if Prop. 68, a $4-billion statewide bond measure targeted for parks, environment and water issues, passes in next month’s election, even more funds could become available.

A part of the bond revenue— about $725 million— would be earmarked for construction of neighborhood parks in lower income areas.

Triangle Ranch lies in an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County, and the county could hold sway over how the money is actually spent.

Colleen Holmes, president of Cornell Preservation Organization, is hopeful the bond measure will pass.

“We still have some hills to climb to finish the funding of Triangle (Ranch), but we are optimistic now,” she said.

“If Prop. 68 is passed, we will get all the funding and it will close out by fall,” she said.

Holmes hopes that part of the Triangle property will be dedicated for a Chumash Educational Village to honor the Native Americans who originally occupied the land.

The City of Agoura Hills was approached late last year by Edelman and other agency leaders interested in preserving the land as open space.

The city was asked to contribute $2 million toward the purchase even though the land lies outside the boundaries of Agoura Hills.

Proponents of the project say that the city’s motto—Gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains— should serve as justification for the expenditure.

“We are all waiting to see what happens regarding Prop. 68,” Agoura Hills Mayor Bill Koehler said.

Opponents are worried and say the Prop. 68 bonds must be paid even if another economic recession should strike California and revenues dip.

“Bond measures are deceptive. You think you’re voting for something good. But, it will take approximately $8 billion to pay off the $4 billion of borrowed funds,” state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said in his ballot statement against Prop. 68.

“That means you can expect a tax increase.”

The opponents say California’s fiscal managers aren’t to be trusted and point to the 2012 scandal in which the state Department of Parks and Recreation threatened to close 70 parks, saying it didn’t have the money to keep them open, when an audit proved otherwise.

California Gas Tax Repeal Efforts Heats Up
California poised to vote on ballot measure to repeal $54 billion in taxes on motorists.

https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/64/6469.asp

Bicycle laneElection officials are sampling signatures in the effort to roll back a massive hike in California’s tax on gasoline. Earlier this month, supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment repealing the gas tax increase submitted over 940,000 signatures — well more than the 585,407 required for a place on the November ballot.

Last year, the legislature boosted the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and raised the annual vehicle registration fee to a maximum of $175 per year. The changes were expected to generate $54 billion in revenue over a decade. In response, Republican lawmakers circulated a ballot measure reversing the legislature’s move.

“California’s taxes on gasoline and car ownership are among the highest in the nation,” the proposal explains. “These taxes have been raised without the consent of the people. Therefore, the people hereby amend the constitution to require voter approval of the recent increase in the gas and car tax enacted by Chapter 5 of the statutes of 2017 and any future increases in the gas and car tax.”

A simple majority vote would be required to raise taxes in the future. The Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year found public support for the measure was evenly split, with 61 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents in favor of the amendment, but 56 percent of Democrats against the idea.

Supporters of the gas tax hike insist the funds are needed to “fix the roads,” but a large percentage of motorist funds are being diverted toward transit projects. Bus projects will receive $3.5 billion. Light rail projects will take another $3 billion.

This year, Los Angeles is getting a $525 million light rail station and bicycle hub. Orange County is getting $365 million for five hydrogen-powered buses and bicycle paths in Tustin. Sacramento is getting $452 million for HOV lanes and light rail. San Mateo is spending $570 million to turn existing freeway lanes into toll roads. Santa Barbara will get $17 million for bicycle lanes.

In June, California voters will consider Proposition 69, which would prohibit the legislature from transferring motorist funds into the general fund. Motorist funds would still be diverted toward non-motoring-related transit projects.

“How insulting can a ballot proposition be?” state Senator John M.W. Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) asked. “Last year, a two-thirds majority of state legislators voted for a gas tax and vehicle fee increase for transportation improvements. And now they are asking you to tell them to only spend the money on that intended purpose?”

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MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — OC Congressional Races — March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I was appointed to serve as the Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector on March 17, 1995. I was elected to serve in the State Legislature for the 37th Senate District on March 17, 2015. So, let’s start the discussion on those willing to endure the process to serve the public.

Campaign season officially opened at 5 p.m. on March 9th for most of the races on the ballot. March 9th was the last day for a candidate to file to be officially recognized on the Primary ballot, unless the incumbent chooses to not rerun, thus giving a five-day extension. As this deadline was March 14th, what is affectionately known as “silly season,” is now upon us.

With campaigns come endorsements. My grid for making endorsements is rather simple. First, I usually stay out of races where two friends are running against each other, unless I have a long-time and close relationship with one of them. Second, as a member of the California Republican Party, the bylaws require that I only endorse Republicans, which I stick to rare exceptions in nonpartisan contests. And thirdly, in races with two or more Republicans, tradition dictates that I support the incumbent, with even rarer exceptions.

Today’s topic is the Orange County Congressional races. I’ll try to address the five ballot measures in a future UPDATE, as I am a signatory in opposition to two of the propositions, Propositions 68 and 69, something I haven’t participated in since Proposition 71 in 2004.

The Voice of OC provides a broad and in depth overview of all of the races in the first piece below. Note: It was released on March 12th.

The Laguna Beach Indy takes a closer look at the 48th Congressional District in the second piece below. When Scott Baugh contacted me, I reminded him of the protocol to not contest sitting incumbents. But, I was not there to tell him that Congressman Rohrabacher was a better candidate.

And the Daily Pilot provides an editorial perspective in the third piece below. The Congressman has stated he was going to retire in two years so many times in the past that he’s been dishonest and abusive to those that are ready to get some real work done in D.C.

After I reminded Scott Baugh of the Party’s protocol, I told him that if he decided to run anyway, I would support him.

I was there when Dana won in 1988. I oversaw the volunteer efforts of his campaign in 1992, finding volunteers to walk every precinct in Costa Mesa on his behalf. It was an effort that had a big impact on my life. But, 30 years later and that I cannot recognize any major committee chairmanships or legislative accomplishments by our Congressman is a tragedy. Especially from a District overloaded with talent. So, this is a very rare exception for me. A protocol should not be an umbrella that protects mediocrity and stagnation. The Republican Party deserves better. And, in my opinion, Dana has made severe missteps of late and I am one who really wants to improve the brand.

Candidates for OC’s Four Contested Congressional Seats

U.S. Capitol building. ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL

By SPENCER CUSTODIO AND THY VO

HTTPS://VOICEOFOC.ORG/2018/03/CANDIDATES-FOR-OCS-FOUR-CONTESTED-CONGRESSIONAL-SEATS/

The crowded field of candidates running for four Orange County Congressional seats narrowed slightly Friday, as several candidates failed to file paperwork by the 5 p.m. deadline for their names to appear on the June 5 primary election ballot.

Democrats nationwide are targeting the four Orange County Republican strongholds, the 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th Congressional districts, in a campaign to secure 24 seats across the country that would give them a majority in the House of Representatives. They consider at least some of the four Orange County GOP-held seats vulnerable because for the first time in 80 years, the four districts voted for a Democrat, Hilary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats are focused on two districts where longtime incumbents, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) of the 39th district and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) of the 49th district, aren’t running for re-election. Because the incumbents aren’t running, the deadline for filing in those two districts is Wednesday, March 14.

Orange County Democratic leaders have tried in recent weeks to narrow the field of candidates in order to avoid a scenario in June where Democratic voters split their power among several candidates, allowing two Republican candidates to receive the majority of votes and move onto the November general election. California has a “top two” primary where the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary, regardless of their political party, face off in November.

But few candidates have stepped aside. In the 39th District for example, so far 19 candidates have filed, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans.

The state Democratic Convention last month resulted in only two endorsements out of the four Congressional Districts because delegates from the 39th and 49th districts couldn’t decide who to recommend.

And there are no endorsements from state Republicans yet because their convention isn’t until the weekend of May 4.

39th Congressional District

There could be over 19 candidates will be on the June 5 primary ballot for voters in the 39th district, including nine Democrats. After 25-year Republican Congressman Royce announced in January he wouldn’t seek re-election, six Republicans entered the race. There also is one candidate registered as having no party preference and one from the American Independent Party.

More candidates could file by the extended 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline.

The 39th district includes most of north Orange County, including parts of Buena Park, Placentia and Anaheim Hills and contains all of Yorba Linda, Brea, La Habra and Fullerton. It also includes parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Candidate filing data came from the registrars of voters those three counties but the Secretary of State will compile the official list of candidates after March 14.

Democratic candidate Andy Thorburn raised the most money last year at $2.5 million, including $2 million of his own money, but former one-term Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim gathered the most endorsements including Royce, whom Kim worked for before she was elected to the State Assembly in 2014.

Kim also is endorsed by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and 2nd District Supervisor Michelle Steel. Seven Republican Assemblymembers have endorsed her as have numerous city council members from communities in and outside the 39th district.

Republican county Supervisor Shawn Nelson, another 39th district candidate, has been endorsed by five California Republican officeholders including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Assemblyman Phillip Chen of Diamond Bar, State Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, Orange County 1st District Supervisor Andrew Do and San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman.

The Federal Elections Commission website has no campaign finance data for Nelson, Kim and the other Republicans who entered the race earlier this year. The next quarterly filing date for campaign finance is March 31.

Thorburn has garnered endorsements from some Democrats including Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles.

Like Thorburn, Democratic challenger Gil Cisneros gave himself a little over $1.3 million, and raised $1.6 million last year. But unlike other high fundraising Democratic candidates, Cisneros is endorsed by several Democratic state and federal elected officials: eight members of Congress, including Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Linda Sanchez of Whittier; and three Assembly members, including Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton.

While the district spans three counties and has 361,000 registered voters, the bulk of voters are in Orange County at 223,000, according to a January voter registration report from the Secretary of State.

Republicans still hold a slight edge in the district with 35.5 percent of voters, with Democrats close behind with 34 percent. Voters with no party preference total 26 percent.

Election analysis website Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball lists the 39th as a toss up while another handicapper site, The Cook Political Report, lists the district leaning Democratic.

45th Congressional District

There are five challengers looking to unseat Rep. Mimi Walters in the southeast Orange County district, including five Democrats and one no party preference candidate. Walters raised the most money last year with $1.6 million, over half of it from a joint fundraising committee, Mimi Walters Victory Fund, which is used by other political action committees to fundraise and spend on events. Walters has been in office for three years.

So far, the closest anybody’s gotten to Walter’s war chest is Democrat Brian Forde, who raised $873,000. Around $100,000 of that was directed to his campaign through San Francisco-based Coinbase, a digital currency bank, but Forde’s web site doesn’t list any endorsements.

Katie Porter, a Democrat, is just behind Forde with $741,000 raised. She’s been able to score some high-level endorsements, including Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Democrat Dave Min raised $678,000 last year. Min won the state Democratic party endorsement in late February, which means he’ll likely be able to increase his campaign fundraising ability. He’s been endorsed by Quirk-Silva and her husband, Fullerton Councilman Jesus Silva.

48th Congressional District

Voters in the 48th district will have 16 names on their primary ballot, including incumbent Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher has been in Congress for nearly 30 years. He’s going up against five other Republicans, including former state Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh.

Rohrabacher raised nearly $1.1 million last year, with a sizeable chunk coming from various political action committees like the California Victory Fund, a political action committee that doesn’t have any financial information on the FEC website yet.

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Harley Rouda Jr. also raised about $1.3 million last year. He self-funded most of his war chest at nearly $750,000. ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising organization, also has been giving to Rouda’s campaign.

Rouda is endorsed by former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Senator Henry Stern of Canoga Park.

While Baugh didn’t raise any money last year, he enters the race with $545,000 in campaign finances left over from 2016 when he was setting up a run. He just entered the race last week.

Democrat Hans Keirstead raised $872,000 last year and, like Rouda, Keirstead also is self-funded, but much less at about $210,000. He’s also received numerous contributions from ActBlue. The state Democratic Party endorsed Keirstead at its convention last month. Keirstead also has endorsements from two Congressmen and State Senator Bill Dodd of Napa.

The district spans the coastal cities of Orange County from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel and stretches east into parts of Westminster and Garden Grove. It also includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach.

Rohrabacher, who has been a member of Congress since 1989, won reelection in 2016 with a nearly 17-point margin over his opponent. But this year, the Cook Report and Crystal Ball classified the district as a toss up.

The district is home to 400,000 voters and the Republicans hold over 40 percent of the registered voters. Democrats are at just under 30 percent of voters, while the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of the district.

Like the rest of the districts, about half of voters turned out for the 2016 primaries, a presidential election year, up from about a quarter on average in primaries before that. In 2014, the turnout was just under 25 percent.

49th Congressional District

The 49th could have least 10 candidates heading into the primary election, after the district’s Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista said in January he won’t seek reelection. Most of the district is in San Diego County but it also includes south Orange County.

There are four Republicans running for Issa’s seat, four Democrats, one Peace and Freedom candidate and one candidate from the K-9 party. The candidate filing data was pulled from Orange County and San Diego County registrars of voters. San Diego’s list doesn’t list anyone as qualified for ballot, even the candidates who’ve filed their nomination papers. The registrar’s website calls it the “unofficial list” of candidates.

Like the 39th district, the deadline to file candidacy papers has been extended to March 14 because of Issa’s announcement. The Secretary of State will make an official candidate list after that.

Issa, whose first term was in 2001, won reelection in 2016 by less than a percentage point against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate. Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, is running again this election.

Democratic challenger Sara Jacobs raised the most money last year with $1.3 million. She self-funded over $1 million of that amount. She’s received endorsements from three members of Congress.

On Jacobs’ heels is Democrat Mike Levin, who managed to raise $1.2 million, mostly through individual contributions and money from ActBlue. He’s received endorsements from eight Congress members including Adam Schiff of Burbank, two state Senators and three Assembly members.

Democrat Paul Kerr isn’t far behind with just over $1 million in his war chest. He self-funded the bulk of that at around $700,000.

Meanwhile, Applegate is behind at $680,000. He’s been endorsed by Assemblyman Tom Daly of Anaheim and former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

Republican candidates don’t have any campaign finance data available yet from the FEC website.

Applegate isn’t the only former Marine in the 49th District race, which encompasses Marine Corps Camp Pendleton in north San Diego County.

GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, also a retired Marine colonel, is running. While there’s no campaign finance data available for his campaign yet, he’s started gathering endorsements from various city council members in San Diego county.

Another GOP elected official, Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey, entered the race after Issa’s announcement and has garnered an endorsement from 45th District Congresswoman Walters. Additionally, Orange County Supervisors Do, Michelle Steel and Lisa Bartlett are backing Harkey, as is Sheriff Hutchens.

The district touches the most southern cities in the county, including San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente. The 49th also stretches down the west side of San Diego county, ending before La Jolla.

The 49th district is home to 380,000 registered voters in Orange and San Diego counties. Republicans still hold the majority at 37 percent, while Democrats are at 31 percent. Like the other districts, the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of registered voters.

The Cook Report and the Crystal Ball classify the district as leaning Democratic.

GOP Insider Enters Congressional Race

By : Andrea Adelson

https://www.lagunabeachindy.com/gop-insider-enters-congressional-race/

Eighteen people qualified as June primary candidates in the congressional race for District 48 along Orange County’s coastal communities, including the last-minute entry of former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh.

Baugh, who served five years in the state Assembly 18 years ago, said his decision to challenge fellow Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher was partly compelled by the urging of co-workers, neighbors and supporters.

“This chorus of people encouraged me to run because Dana has said he wants to retire and I think it shows in where he places his current priorities,” Baugh said in an interview Wednesday, a week after he turned in his candidacy papers to the Orange County Registrar.

Scott Baugh

Scott Baugh

Rohrabacher, of Costa Mesa and currently serving his 15th term, is “preoccupied with Putin, Assange and marijuana,” said Baugh. “The chorus I’m hearing is that 30 years is enough.”

California’s “jungle” primary catapults the top two vote getters onto the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Republicans hold 40 percent of the district’s registration to 30 percent each among Democrats and no party preference voters.

Some party insiders have expressed concern that eight or more Democratic contenders in District 48 will splinter support and jeopardize the chances that any one of them will succeed in the primary. Now the county GOP, whose state party followed protocol by endorsing the incumbent, is in a similar situation with five Republicans on the June primary ballot.

“The fact that Scott Baugh is moving forward regardless of the party endorsement shows there is now division within the Republican party,” said Omar Siddiqui, 50, of Costa Mesa, one of the Democratic rivals in the contest. “Anything is possible; the key thing is to get out the vote. The no-party preference vote can make a world of difference.”

Dan Walters, in a post on the political newsletter Calmatters, suggested that Baugh’s candidacy exploits the lack of discipline among Democrats and the California primary system to block Democrats from reaching the November ballot and thus preserving an embattled seat for Republicans.

“There is a lot of talk here of the two Republicans winning,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, a friend of Baugh who nevertheless expressed surprise at his candidacy.

District 48 Democratic candidate Michael Kotick, 34, of Laguna Beach, disagrees with that scenario. He thinks Baugh lacks both name recognition outside of party insiders and a campaign infrastructure. “I don’t think this changes the game plan. I think it’s going to be won by who goes door to door and who puts in the work to connect with voters in the district.”

In anticipation of Rohrabacher’s retirement in 2016, Baugh, 55, of Huntington Beach, raised a campaign war chest that stands at $576,000, which now ranks third in the fundraising race among candidates, based on Dec. 31 Federal Election Commission filings.

Democratic challenger Harley Rouda, 56, of Laguna Beach, leads with $834,000, while the incumbent has $713,000 on hand, followed by Siddiqui with $540,000 and Hans Keirstead, also of Laguna, with $490,000. The district spans the coast from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach and includes Garden Grove.

“He’s proven he’s a money raiser,” Moorlach said of Baugh. “That’s impressive.”

As a lawmaker, Baugh developed good relationships with state Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg, now a state senator. “He displayed an ability to work across the aisle,” said Moorlach, but noted that Baugh’s candidacy upends the party protocol ceding deference to incumbents. “This is a rebellion,” Moorlach said.

Baugh denied trying to sabotage the chances of success by a Democrat in the primary in his own bid to unseat Rohrabacher. “That is not my intent,” he said. “This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made,” he said, citing mutual friendships, his own friendship with the lawmaker and party protocol. “All of those make it really difficult.” Even so, Baugh said, “the time is now to start working on things that matter and I think Dana’s lost that focus.”

Baugh said his decision was also partly shaped by a recently forwarded 1993 article where Rohrabacher voiced his support for term limits. In explaining his position, Rohrabacher said, “you’re actually part of the system here rather than representing your people back home.”

“He’s become precisely what he predicted,” Baugh said.

Rohrabacher did not respond to a request for comment about Baugh’s candidacy. Neither did OC GOP chair Fred Whitaker.

In a statement, Keirstead, who has received the endorsement of the state Democratic party, said “Orange County voters have zero confidence that Donald Trump, Dana Rohrabacher, or Scott Baugh are looking out for them.”

The district is one of several in the county where Trump lost in 2016 but Republican incumbents were re-elected.

About the Author

The author is the editor of the Laguna Beach Independent. Prior to taking the job in 2005, she worked previously as a reporter at five daily newspapers, including the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa, the Daily News of Los Angeles and the New York Times. Reach her by emailing andrea.

Congressional primary makes rivals of two old Republican friends

By BARBARA VENEZIA

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-barbara-venezia-column-20180314-story.html

A political insider goes rogue, challenges powerful friends and a core principle of his party: Thou shall not run against an incumbent.

An intriguing pitch for a TV pilot, sure, but this drama is actually the new reality facing the Orange County Republican Party.

Republicans have a renegade in the 48th Congressional District race with former O.C. Republican Chairman Scott Baugh challenging incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa.

In 2016 Baugh told me Rohrabacher made it clear to him that he was “looking for a departure in 2016 or 2018.” This prompted Baugh to file a statement of candidacy and start fundraising to the tune of about half a million dollars.

Baugh said he wouldn’t run for the seat unless Rohrabacher retired.

When that didn’t happen, Baugh backed off.

That was until last week, when he pulled papers to run against his pal and challenge his party’s principle.

Was his original strategy not to have a two-year fight with Rohrabacher, but rather a three-month primary battle now?

Baugh chuckles at that suggestion, saying that certainly wasn’t his long-term game plan, and tells me he didn’t make the decision to run lightly.

“We have big issues facing the country — from the debt, dysfunctional heath care, open borders — and we need everyone pulling together, working on solutions,” he says.

Baugh points to his work as party chairman, managing opposing viewpoints and coming to consensus.

“I have a record of reaching across the aisle with the Democrats and solving problems,” he says. “If you’re in public office and not doing that then you’re not doing your job.”

Baugh explains it’s not enough to “vote the right way, but more important to create the voting opportunities with coalition building,” to get things accomplished.

Squarely in Baugh’s corner is state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who understands his party won’t be happy with him supporting Baugh, but there are bigger issues at stake.

Both Baugh and Moorlach feel Rohrabacher has been in this seat too long, 34 years, accomplishing nothing monumental, and it’s time for a change.

Considering the current fractured state of the party, disenchanted Republican voters might welcome this shake-up, offering someone other than Rohrabacher to support.

Couple that with the fact Baugh and Rohrabacher have been long-time friends (who knows your strengths and weaknesses better than a close friend?), this is going to be an interesting battle.

As party chairman, Baugh was a maverick of political strategy and fundraising, using these skills to support his candidates, including Rohrabacher’s past reelection bids.

He’ll certainly be a force to reckon with.

I wondered how Rohrabacher felt about all of this, but he wasn’t available for comment, according to his press person.

Rohrabacher’s already facing a crowded field of Democratic opponents. If this herd doesn’t thin, they risk splitting the opposing vote, because of California’s open primary, which means the top-two vote-getters face off in the general election.

In this scenario Rohrabacher could win, unless he faces another strong Republican, which Baugh is.

The county party isn’t happy with the prospect of this Clash of the Republican Titans.

On March 12, OCGOP Chairman Fred Whitaker sent out an email statement saying he’s “fielded dozens, if not a hundred emails and phone calls, asking why the Republican Party would allow Scott Baugh’s challenge to Congressman Rohrabacher in the 48th Congressional District.”

“Let me reiterate, we are a republic, not a dictatorship,” he wrote. “We can persuade, but we cannot prevent, nor should we want anyone to have that type of power. Party leadership actively communicated with Scott Baugh and others that challenging an endorsed Republican incumbent in good standing would not be well held.”

Whitaker acknowledges he holds the chairmanship in part because of Baugh.

“I would not be chairman, but for him asking me to run to succeed him,” he says. “I consider Scott to be my friend. I hope to work with him for our cause in the future. However, this path he’s taken is pitting Republican against Republican, taking dollars, donors and volunteers from our efforts to fight Democrats.”

Attached to Whitaker’s email notice was the letter sent to Baugh urging him not to run.

“Proceeding on your current path is destructive to the Republican Party of Orange County, which you helped build,” the letter warns. “It is divisive and presents an unnecessary distraction.”

As I read the release and the letter, nowhere did Whitaker call out specific accomplishments of Rohrabacher over the past three decades, but rather hung on to the principle that Republicans shouldn’t challenge incumbents.

​Baugh’s reaction to Whitaker’s letter?

“It was very immature,” and dropped at his doorstep at 10:30 at night, Baugh says.

Baugh questions an attached list of names, including Orange County-area elected officials, supposedly endorsing the letter.

“About half the people either never heard of the letter or called to apologize for the letter,” he says. “I also received several calls from people who were being pressured to sign it but declined. The party has some well-meaning people but they are following dogma that protects all incumbents, even those that have been there for 30 years and should retire. It’s time for a change. My campaign is focused on voters, not back rooms where schemes are hatched.”

Feet to the Fire plans to explore this interesting race, giving all parties an opportunity to face each other, with a candidates forum at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Orange Coast College Robert B. Moore Theater.

BARBARA VENEZIA is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at bvontv1

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MOORLACH UPDATE — I Told You So! — August 26, 2017

It’s time to seriously discuss the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, also known as CIRM (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Millstones and SCA 7 — March 30, 2017 march 30, 2017 john moorlach).

When Proposition 71 was on the ballot in 2004, I was one of the three signatories to write the argument against this ballot measure and campaigned against it.  So let’s see what I said and wrote some 13 years ago.  Here are three published interviews and a copy of the ballot argument for a refresher course.

—–

“It’s financially unsound,” Moorlach said in a Friday interview.  “It doesn’t have a guaranteed revenue stream other than the state budget to pay off the bonds.  The state’s budget as of yesterday is already under water by $8 billion.  To add another $3 billion over 10 years is poor stewardship.”

Arguments that government funding is needed to do research private companies aren’t willing to tackle are a “rationalization,” Moorlach said.

If the pharmaceutical companies conclude it is too long a time or there is a high risk that we won’t see a benefit, that should be telling the rest of us something really loud and clear,” Moorlach said.

(“California’s ambitious embryonic research program gets going.”  North County Times, December 19, 2004)

—–

“We’re adding debt when our state is in the worst shape it’s ever been historically,” Moorlach said.  “If the research does not produce any royalties or residuals, then the payments have to come out of the general fund.  Most of the patents on stem cell research have already been pulled.  We’re not talking about anything dramatic here . . .  Some of the holders of the patents are the biggest funders of Prop 71, so it’s sort of a big money grab.”

(“Prop 71 opposition opinions vary—While churches oppose the proposition for several reasons, Orange County treasurer’s resistance to the measure is purely fiscal.” Daily Pilot, October 26, 2004)

—–

Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach:  “I see it as another financial boondoggle.”

George Skelton, columnist for the LA Times“Is Stem Cell Research the Next Big Thing for California?”, October 14, 2004

—–

ARGUMENT Against Proposition 71

WE SUPPORT STEM CELL RESEARCH, NOT CORPORATE WELFARE

It’s wrong to launch a costly new state bureaucracy when vital programs for health, education, and police and fire services are being cut. We cannot afford to pile another $3 billion in bonded debt on top of a state budget teetering on the edge of financial ruin.

General Fund bond debt will grow from $33 Billion on May 1, 2004, to a Legislative Accounting Office projection of $50.75 Billion in debt by June 30, 2005-a staggering 54% increase in just 14 months!

WHO BENEFITS?

Backers will cynically use images of suffering children and people with disabilities in their commercials, but pharmaceutical company executives and venture capitalists contributed $2.6 million to put this measure on the ballot. By getting taxpayers to fund their corporate research, they stand to make billions with little risk.

NO ACCOUNTABILITY

And who will oversee how this money is spent? According to the fine print, the proponents give themselves power to exempt their “Institute for Regenerative Medicine” from aspects of our California “open meeting” law (specifically passed to stop this kind of backroom deal-making).

Why do proponents want to keep what they are doing a secret? If we’re being asked to pay for this research, then it should be freely available to all, not just to those who will be “awarded” special contracts by the “Institute.” The initiative also grants the “Institute” power to rewrite California’s medical informed consent safeguards.

Most importantly, the fine print specifically prohibits the Governor and Legislature from exercising oversight and control over how this money is spent-or misspent. Even if the state teeters on the brink of financial ruin, our elected representatives will still have to borrow and spend this money, because the proponents are putting this money grab into our Constitution.

BAD MEDICINE

Opponents of this boondoggle include liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, medical professionals, and stem cell researchers. We all strongly support Stem Cell Research, but oppose this blatant taxpayer rip-off that lines the pockets of a few large corporations.

If there was any doubt about the true motives of the corporate promoters of this bond debt, one need only look at what it doesn’t fund. The fine print does not initially fund adult and cord blood stem cell research. Adult and cord blood stem cell research has already produced more than 74 major medical breakthroughs, but this measure excludes support for these proven areas of research, without a two-thirds vote of the Institute’s “working group.”

Consider just one example: Cord blood stem cells are being used to treat sickle cell anemia with a staggering success rate of 90%. That’s real progress, helping real people, but it may not receive one penny from this initiative.

Join with millions of your fellow citizens in demanding an end to “corporate welfare” and bonded debt. This is no time to spend billions we don’t have on a self-serving sham.

Vote “NO” on Proposition 71. It’s not what they say it is.

www.NoOn71.com

TOM McCLINTOCK, California State Senator

JOHN M.W. MOORLACH, C.P.A.
Orange County Treasurer

  1. REX GREENE, M.D., Cancer Center Director and Bioethics Consultant

—–

Thirteen years later, and my fears were realized.  CIRM did not generate any revenues and left the taxpayers holding the debt “bag,” with payments in the 2017-18 Budget of some $728 million!!  Can you imagine how many roads that could fix.  This time I’m saying it:  I told you so!

The San Francisco Business Times provides some amazing news below.  Miracle of miracles, a royalty check will finally be forwarded to the State of California.  It breaks my heart to see the public sector abused like this.  False promises. Personal enrichment.  No accountability.  Leaving innocent taxpayers holding the bag.  Wait.  Innocent taxpayers.  Not really.  They voted for Proposition 71.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature want to force drug companies to divulge price increases with SB 17.  Its ironic that its own “lab” couldn’t get anything accomplished in 13 years, but the monopoly party has the audacity to rail that private sector pharmaceutical companies are gouging patients.  And, even more absurd, the Democrats want to extend this heart-tugging financial boondoggle that is compensating former legislators with massive salaries.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Let’s hope a crack journalistic investigative reporter team starts to peel this onion.

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1st CIRM royalty check in mail — 13 years after California voters OK’d $3 billion stem cell agency

By Ron Leuty

California’s stem cell research funding agency will send a royalty check to the state’s general fund soon — the first such payment since California voters 13 years ago approved the sale of $3 billion in bonds to support stem cell research.

It is a big deal for the Oakland-based California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, and for California taxpayers. Spinning grants and loans made to researchers and companies into product gold, generating revenue, royalties and a payback to the state’s general fund, could have huge political, financial and PR benefits for the agency.

CIRM continues to face political pressure against the backdrop of an already-stressed state general fund that must make principal and interest payments — potentially totaling $6 billion — to the buyers of CIRM bonds.

To date, CIRM has spent more than $2.5 billion since voters passed Proposition 71 in 2004, and officials are looking at making their last grants by mid-2020. The agency has funded more than 30 clinical trials, most of which are ongoing, and has aggressive plans to fund 40 more over the next four years. But bringing products out the other end of that pipe is tough.

Those trials still must make it through the rough-and-tumble clinical trial process — not to mention win Food and Drug Administration approval, get uptake from doctors and patients, and are covered by insurers and other payers — that can take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We are expecting the first check to be delivered to the state very soon,” CIRM spokesman Kevin McCormack said in an email.

Yet even as a public state agency, CIRM officials are holding tight to key information about the first royalty check: How large (or small) is the check? When will the check actually be forwarded to the general fund? And from which CIRM-funded project did it spring?

“The royalty check is something that is still being worked out so it’s premature to say anything at the moment,” McCormack said in a followup email. “Sorry to sound so secretive but it is a big deal, the first of what we hope will be many such repayments for the state’s investment.”

CIRM has reason to seek maximum PR benefit from the royalty check. The Prop. 71 campaign was highly charged, coming out of President George W. Bush’s restrictions on federal stem cell research spending on certain embryonic stem cell lines.

Religious conservatives fought that work because it involves the destruction of embryos, which they consider human life, to extract the vital stem cells. Fiscal conservatives were against the eye-popping $3 billion figure. Researchers saw the money as vital, given the federal limitations, since they were prohibited, for example, from using federally funded equipment on restricted stem cell lines that were funded by CIRM or others.

Challenges to Prop. 71 effectively delayed the agency from getting up and running until 2006 and much of CIRM’s early work was just that — early in a just-emerging field. The agency also spent hundreds of millions on new buildings — at Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Buck Institute for Research in Aging in Novato, among other sites — so CIRM-funded projects on restricted cell lines could continue without worrying about who paid for which piece of equipment.

CIRM has funded basic research on stem cells even as the field expanded beyond embryonic to the emerging field of induced pluripotent stem cells. Those cells — created from adult, or mature, stem cells that are engineered to be embryonic-like and prodded by researchers to become another type of mature cell — have provided scientists with flexibility.

CIRM also has funded translational research. But, as CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas pointed out at a June board meeting in Burlingame, the timeline to move experimental stem cell therapies from basic research to human trials is eight years; non-stem cell therapies take 3.2 years.

“We want to cut that time in half to four years,” Thomas said.

Then there is CIRM’s funding of clinical trials — more than 30 to date. CIRM leaders are betting on those trials, including one at UCSF dealing with a genetic blood disease that is deadly for fetuses, to produce results. That means new therapies as well as revenue/royalties.

“We don’t want these clinical trials just to be run,” Thomas said. “We want them to go and impact patients and patient lives.”

But putting money into the state’s general fund means a lot — so does the size and rate of those payments — as CIRM considers whether to ask California voters to support a new round of bond sales. Other options could be a combination of philanthropic and venture capital cash or a straight-up funding from the state.

All of those roads are long and tough if there’s no sign of CIRM-funded work producing revenue.

And the political road hasn’t gotten any easier. Earlier this year, for example, Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa introduced a bill that would have put a Prop. 71 repeal on the ballot.

The state, according to a fact sheet from Moorlach’s office, has spent $1.2 billion servicing Prop. 71 debt.

Moorlach believes Prop. 71 “did not live up to its promises,” spokesman Jacob Ashendorf said in an email. “Therefore, it would make sense to stop future debt from being incurred for that program.”

The bill, supported by the California Pro Life CouncilCalifornia Catholic Conference and the influential Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association among others, was halted after Thomas spoke at a Senate health committee meeting in Sacramento. Accompanying Thomas on the trip was Art Torres, a powerful former state senator who is vice chairman of CIRM’s board.

The bill could be reconsidered.

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This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.

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