Greetings from San Antonio, Texas (Bexar County), where I’m touring the Haven for Hope facilities (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Legislative Efforts — June 29, 2017).
It’s bill introduction season, and The Daily Breeze and Daily Democrat, in the first piece below, provide the details of an effort by Senator Pat Bates, that I endorse. And, it fits in with the reason for my being here in Texas.
The second piece, from the Pinetree Net, provides the details of an award I was presented this week. It’s very humbling and gratifying to be recognized by my former Supervisorial colleagues around the state. I am most appreciative of the relationships that I formed with them over my eight years as an Orange County Supervisor. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017.
The third piece provides another perspective on the Governor’s proposed budget and is found in the San Gabriel Valley News and the Press Enterprise (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and Legacy Priorities — January 11, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — 2018-2019 Budget Recommendations — January 4, 2018).
Bill aims to plug holes in addiction treatment industry
By tsaavedra,tsforza and sschwebke | Orange County Register
Outraged by reports of “patient brokering” and neighborhood turmoil, Sen. Pat Bates introduced legislation Wednesday to start addressing dangerous and deadly practices in California’s poorly-regulated addiction treatment industry.
“For more than 20 years, several bipartisan efforts to address the challenges surrounding the state’s drug rehab history have gone nowhere due to opposition from vested interests,” said Bates, R-Laguna Niguel.
“While I’m under no illusion that pursuing greater oversight will be any easier this year, doing nothing is not acceptable for constituents who have contacted me on this issue. The Southern California News Group’s thorough 2017 investigation into the industry makes it clear that reforms are needed.”
SCNG’s probe found that as opioid addiction has soared, unscrupulous rehab operators have rushed in to take advantage of mandatory mental health treatment coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Broke and homeless heroin addicts are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the form of insurance payments, and many are bought, sold and exploited in an underworld rife with kickbacks, drug use and fraud that can end in death.
Addicts around the country are enticed to California with offers of free travel, rent, cigarettes and even manicures, often landing in centers that would not be allowed to open elsewhere. California’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for almost anyone to open a treatment center and charge insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per client, without being required to show evidence that their treatment helps rather than harms. The concentration of facilities is so dense the Los Angeles basin has been dubbed the “Rehab Riviera.”
“Creating substantive and positive change in the drug rehab industry will take time,” Bates said in the statement. “But as a former social worker who once worked in some of our state’s most economically deprived neighborhoods, I take inspiration from Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘Never, never, never give up.’ And as long as I’m around, I won’t. Stay tuned.”
The bill, SB 902 is still a work-in-progress, she said, with language to be crafted with the help of those involved. She wants to improve patient well-being and increase public safety of neighborhoods hosting rehabs and sober living homes, she said, and aims to stop the industry’s bad actors, not those with strong records of helping people.
In 2016, the Senate Health Committee rejected her SB 1283 that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards specifically for sober living homes.
In November, a bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee asked California and five other states for information on allegations of patient brokering.
The parents of several young adults who have died in treatment centers have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to lead on this issue. Brown’s office declined to comment on Bates’ push for action.
“Our office does not typically weigh in on pending legislation,” said deputy press secretary Ali Bay by email. “If that changes in this case, I’ll let you know.”
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents an area that’s home to one of the densest concentrations of rehabs in the state.
“I will be as supportive as I can be,” said Moorlach. “As with any industry, there are bad players. And they’re the ones that need to be addressed.”
RCRC Installs 2018 Officers and Presents Rural Leadership Awards. TC Supervisor Hanvelt Installed as Vice Chair
Sacramento, CA…The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) installed its 2018 Officers and presented its Rural Leadership Awards at their annual reception in Sacramento yesterday. Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as Chair, Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt was installed as First Vice Chair, and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley was installed as Second Vice Chair. Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams remains an Officer as Immediate Past Chair. The newly installed 2018 Officers will lead the organization in championing policies on behalf of California’s rural counties.
“There are a lot of challenges facing California’s rural counties this year, and I am honored that my fellow rural county leaders have entrusted me to navigate RCRC’s efforts as Chair,” said Supervisor Bohn. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with RCRC Board Members and staff on strategies and opportunities that raise the level of awareness of rural communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and advance the policies set forth by the organization.”
In addition to the Installation of Officers, Rural Leadership Awards were presented to two officials who have demonstrated an understanding of, and leadership in, rural issues and the unique challenges that rural communities face.
Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-Monterey) was the first recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.
“We are honored to present Assembly Member Caballero with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award as her actions continue to reflect her passion for ensuring California’s rural counties have a voice,” said Anthony Botelho, San Benito County Supervisor. “From opposing AB 1250 and SB 649, to authoring AB 577, which would have secured a more equitable definition of disadvantaged communities, we thank Assembly Member Caballero for her leadership, and look forward to working together this year to continue fighting for California’s rural counties.”
“I am thankful for the opportunity to represent rural California, and honored to receive the RCRC Rural Leadership Award,” said Assembly Member Caballero. “Rural California plays an important role in our state, and those of us who live and work there contribute to the prosperity of California. Agriculture feeds the country, and the forests and rangeland provide important recreational opportunities and habitat. It takes advocates who appreciate and will defend rural communities. Thank you RCRC for giving rural communities a voice.”
Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange) was the second recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.
“It is my privilege to present Senator John Moorlach with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award,” said Bob Williams, RCRC Immediate Past Chair and Tehama County Supervisor. “In addition to his advocacy on several legislative proposals of importance to rural California, Senator Moorlach authored SB 1463, which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment. The Senator has also shown that he understands the importance of local-control regarding cannabis issues – a priority for RCRC. Rural advocacy from legislators representing more urbanized districts showcases true leadership, and we thank Senator Moorlach for his support.”
“With more than 20 years of experience at the county-level, I know firsthand the challenges faced by local government leaders,” said Senator Moorlach. “These challenges are only multiplied in our rural communities. In my current role, I rely heavily on my county relationships to inform my legislative priorities.”
In addition to the 2018 Officers, five regional representatives were appointed at the RCRC Board of Directors meeting in December 2017. These representatives join the RCRC Officers to make up the full 2018 RCRC Executive Committee. The regional representatives were appointed as follows:
Region 1: Supervisor Michael Kobseff (Siskiyou)
Region 2: Supervisor Aaron Albaugh (Lassen)
Region 3: Supervisor Diane Dillon (Napa)
Region 4: Supervisor Stacy Corless (Mono)
Region 5: Supervisor Daron McDaniel (Merced)
Details on RCRC’s 2018 Executive Committee and other Committee Chairs can be accessed here.
ABOUT RURAL COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES OF CALIFORNIA (RCRC)
The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is a thirty-five member county strong service organization that champions policies on behalf of California’s rural counties. RCRC is dedicated to representing the collective unique interests of its membership, providing legislative and regulatory representation at the State and Federal levels, and providing responsible services for its members to enhance and protect the quality of life in rural California counties. To learn more about RCRC, visit rcrcnet.org and follow @RuralCounties on Twitter.
Sacramento’s next battle – how
to spend a $6.1 billion budget
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed the biggest state budget in history. He wants to spend $131.7 billion from the general fund, about 5 percent more than is being spent from the $125 billion 2016-17 budget he signed last year. His 16th and final budget also includes a surplus, which some lawmakers are looking at the same way a starving man looks at cheeseburger.
“It’s a strange world where politicians are celebrating that the government took too much money from taxpayers, but that’s exactly what is happening with this budget surplus,” said Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle.
The celebrants aren’t in full agreement over where that surplus should be applied, though. There might be some rising tensions between those who want to put it away and those ready to spend it. But that would be the wrong argument anyway.
Brown’s proposed budget, which is actually a $190 billion spending package when bonds and special funds are included, projects a $6.1 billion surplus. Brown wants to use the surplus to boost the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which was the result of a bipartisan deal between Gov. Brown and then-Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway and was approved by voters in 2014. His proposal would boost fund reserves to $13.5 billion.
“It’s not exciting, it’s not funding good and nice things,” Brown said of the money he wants to shovel into the Rainy Day Fund, “but it’s getting ready and that is the work of a budget.”
Those should be welcome words, since most politicians are impulsive. They prefer to spend taxpayers dollars on new, shiny — “exciting,” in Brown’s words — objects as soon as they get their hands on taxpayers’ money rather than attending to the affairs that are already under their administration. This mindset is why California’s roads have become such a rolling disaster. They have been neglected while policymakers have focused on more high-profile projects.
Such as high-speed rail. It doesn’t take a grizzled cynic to think that Brown might be putting away money for his over-budget “bullet train.” Republican Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, certainly believes that could happen, and his suspicions are justified. The Assembly Transportation Committee recently rejected a bill written by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, that would prohibit lawmakers from raiding fuel taxes collected for road repair and using the dollars to make bond payments on the high-speed rail project. If they’ll move money from the state’s highway account to the train, they’ll take it from the Rainy Day Fund for the same purpose.
While Brown says he wants to bank money, some Democratic leaders are almost salivating over the prospect of spending the surplus right away.
“We have a very different approach,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and a San Francisco Democrat. “Our focus, the people who we think need tax relief, are the working Californians who are making less than $25,000. That’s where we want to spend our money, making sure they have money to pay rent, to pay for food.”
One might think that there would be an intense demand for the surplus to instead be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates. There isn’t. But this is where any argument about the surplus should be centered. The taxpayers were overcharged and that money belongs to them.
While lawmakers such as Ting believe the surplus belongs to them, the law says otherwise. Proposition 4, which established the “Gann limit” in 1979, not only imposes restrictions on state spending, it requires Sacramento to issue rebates when, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, revenues exceed the limit that Prop. 4 set “to keep inflation- and population-adjusted appropriations under the 1978-79 level.”
Though uncommon, rebates would not be unprecedented. Gov. George Deukmejian sent refunds in 1987. If none are issued for this surplus, the LAO says the state could be “highly vulnerable” to litigation because Brown is violating “the spirit of Proposition 4” by not counting “$22 billion of school-related spending toward the state’s appropriations limit” established by the law.
The threat of a lawsuit isn’t likely to move Sacramento. So if no rebates are coming, the surplus would be put to better use by dedicating it to paying down the state debt, which has reached $221 billion, according to the California Policy Center — and funding public employee pensions, which could be underfunded by $600 billion.
Sacramento, though, is programmed to spend. As usual, this won’t end well for the taxpayers.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.
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