Opening Day

The Congress is off to a busy start; the House passed 14 bills on its first day, the Senate passed 5.

The Senate’s were entirely pro forma:

S. Con. Res. 1: A concurrent resolution extending the life of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
S. Con. Res. 2: A concurrent resolution to provide for the counting of the electoral votes
S. Res 1: A resolution informing the President that a quorom of each house has assembled
S. Res 2: A resolution informing the House that a quorom of the Senate has assembled
S. Res 3: A resolution fixing the hour of daily meeting of the Senate
So were most of the House’s:

H. Con. Res. 1: grants the Speaker and Majority Leader the power to ask the Congress to assemble outside DC if they believe the public interest warrants it (apparently this is almost always HCR1, and the power is never actually used)
H. Res 1: electing the officers
H. Res 2: informing the Senate that a quorom has been assembled, and of the officer election results
H. Res 3: authorizing the Senate to notify the President that Congress has assembled
H. Res 4: authorizing the Clerk to inform the President of the officer election results
H. Res 5: adopting the rules for the session
H. Res 6: electing members to standing committees
H. Res 7: electing other members to other standing committees
H. Res 8: naming employees of the minority caucus
H. Res 9: fixing the daily hour of meeting
S. Con Res 1: extending the life of joint congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies
S. Con Res 2: authorizing the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6
But there were two non-pro-forma bills passed. The text is not available online yet.

HR 27: Amend 38 USC to require the VA Secretary to retain a copy of any reprimand or admonishment received by an employee of the Department in the permanent record of the employee
HR 28: Amend 38 USC to require the VA Secretary to adopt and implement a standard identification protocol for use in the tracking and procurement of biological implants by the VA

Both were agreed to by a voice vote.

No on 52

I have to admit, I’m really puzzled by Proposition 52, and I am seriously tempted to vote against it on those grounds – if I, a licensed-in-California lawyer who has followed ballot initiatives closely for 26 years, am confused, then it’s probably not something the voters should be voting on in its current form.
According to the ballot label, Proposition 52 “Extends indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health care services, care for uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage”. That’s clear enough. But in order to do this it seems to require both an amendment to the state constitution AND a change in statute, and it’s not clear why; worse yet, it’s not clear to me *how* the change to the law does what the Legislative Analyst says it does.
——–
Looking first to the law (http://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2016-general/prop52-text.pdf), it appears that Proposition 52 does the following things:
(1) it amends the California Constitution to say that, if the legislature wants to change a particular law (Welfare and Institutions Code Article 5.230, the  Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Improvement Act of 2013), those changes must be approved by the voters, unless the legislature either (a) the changes are passed by a 2/3 vote AND (b) either (1) the changes further the purposes of the original law or (2) the changes repeal the law in its entirety (without replacing it with a similar law that imposes a new tax, fee, or assessment).
(2) it amends the California Constitution to require that the fee raised by the original law is not considered revenue for the purpose of things like the overall spending limit or for the rule that says that roughly 50% of revenue must be spent on schools.
(3) it amends the Welfare and Institutions Code to automatically terminate Article 5.230 (the Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Improvement Act) if the legislature fails to appropriate money in the Hospital Quality Assurance Revnue Fund in either the budget act or in a seperate bill enacted within thirty days of the budget act.
(4) it clarifies a rule so that Article 5.230 will automatically terminate given “a net general fund cost incurred due to the act” rather than “a cost to the general fund that is equal to or greater than one quarter of one percent of the general fund expenditures authorized in the most recent annual budget act.”
(5) it repeals the expiration date of the law.
Without even getting into my confusion about how this does what the LAO says it does, this is *bizarre*. It says the legislautre can’t change the underlying program without voter approval unless it does certain things by a 2/3 vote, but it makes it possible for the legislature to effectively repeal the underlying program by majority vote simply by failing to appropriate money from a certain fund. And it makes it *easier* for the underlying program to be automatically cancelled due to financial concerns, in the name of ensuring that the money raised is used for its intended purpose.
——-
The Legislative Analyst has a decent explanation of the background. (http://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov//statewide-elections/2016-general/prop52-leg-analysis.pdf). Apparently the state has been collecting a fee, levied against hospitals, since 2009, with the proceeds going (in part) to help fund the state’s share of Medical expenses and (in part) to underwrite the general fund; the part going to medical is currently matched by federal money. The fee will expire in 2018, but it’s been set to expire in the past, and the legislature keeps extending it; however, extension must be approved by the feds.
The LAO claims that the law does the following things:
* makes the program permanent.
* makes it harder for the legislature to end the fee
* makes it harder for the legislature to change the fee
* excludes the fee from the calculation of school funding
I can see how the law makes the program permanent; see (5) above. I can see how it makes it harder to change the fee; see (1) above. I can see how it excludes the fee from school funding; see (2) above.
But it does NOT make it harder for the legislature to end the fee. It *pretends to*, by requiring that a bill to do that pass by 2/3 or be approved by the voters, but because it *explicitly abolishes the program if the money isn’t appropriated*, it doesn’t *in fact* make it any harder – it just requires that the legislature play convoluted games to do so rather than doing so straightforwardly.
WTF?
—–
It’s pretty clear that the intended result of this initiative is to ensure that, if the federal government allows the fee to be extended, the program will continue in perpetuity, thereby securing a huge financial base for Medical, and that it will make it harder for the legislature to decide to divert the money or abolish it.
It’s also pretty clear to me that the initiative doesn’t actually have that result, probably because it’s a voter initiative and was likely drafted by a sloppy lawyer.
But *even if it did what it said it would do*, I would vote against, because this violates one of my strongest policy preferences for initiatives: it writes a *particular allocation of dollars into the state constitution*. By doing so, it decreases the ability of the legislature to respond to developments, and ossifies and hardens the budget structure. The more we mandate, at a constitutional level, that things be spent a certain way, the less flexibility the state has to deal with economic or environmental catastrophes.
The official argument against, in typical useless fashion, wants to decry hospital ceos who make too much money, but that’s not the problem with this initiative. The problem with this initiative is that it’s an extremely well-intentioned plan to implement bad policy which, due to flawed drafting, doesn’t even accomplish it’s intended goal.
Vote no on Prop 52.

Remain a mere talk show at the playing square!

More, from the website of the same candidate (http://www.americamustregainitsgreatness2016.com/wpimages/wpb6d4c125_06.png) (yes, yes, a PNG image of text rather than actual text):

My Top Legislative Issues:

In the preivous legislative dispensations, there are several key issues left unattended to. And this has greatly stunted the economic growth of the Great American nation which hitherto has remained the hub of global development in the promotion and defense of democracy, frontally fighting terrorism through military and intelligence cooperation, championing human rights activism and offering financial aids and support social services to other nations especially the Third World countries otherwise known as Developing Nations. As a prospective Senator of the United States of America, my primary assignment is to initiate ddecisions target at revamping the sliding economic fortunes of America. And in tandem with the executive arm, we will arrest growing unemployment index through job creation while dealing w ith the issue debt ceiling among sundry challenges. I will sponsor a bill to mitigate the effects of threatening unemployment rate in the country. On the economy, I will be in the forefrong for tax reform a nd job creation campaign as we strive to stem the rising debt profile in the system.

Healthy people are wealth people: therefore, since the Obamacare health service delivery have become jinxed with unprecedented controversy, I will proffer a better healthcare package through a bill that will benefit every American starting from California State which I represent. I will be instrumental to forging mutual understanding between the Presidency and the legislative aim in resolving every knotty issue that had created impasse in the previous legislative dispensations in the overall interest of American people. Such critical issues like our foreign policy, same sex marriage, immigration, gun control, and war on drugs among others will receive immediate attention if i’m voted in to ably represent California in the next legislative dispensation. American work force will receive commensurate wages in line with increassed minimum wage as approved by president Obama. This would ultimately help millions of Americans support their families and lessen reliance on government assistance. I will present bills to further raise the minimum wage in terms with the economic reality in our country. Finally, I want to reassure you good citizens of America that the diminishing status being ascribed to America as a “Glorified Third World Nation” in some quarters will remain a mere talk show at the playing square and not the truth about our dear America!

Therefore, I urge you good people of California to please entrust me with your mandate to give you a worthy and productive representation at the upper legislative chamber in Washington DC come next year. I promise to keep faith with you as my words remain in my covenant with you.

I don’t actually know why these things exist.

An actual statement in the ballot handbook from a candidate for Senate (name redacted by me):

“Rescue America! Rescue America!! Rescue America!!! Californian! Let us together rescue America from turning into a third world country. Enough is enough of American deep suffering. People in Washington has collapsed this country. Therefore, electing [redacted], as your next United States senator representing the golden state of California 2016 is the answer in order for our country to be reclaimed back.”

Farewell, Dr. Carson

The word today is that Ben Carson is stepping out of the Presidential race and is endorsing Donald Trump.

I never understood Dr. Carson’s campaign. I watched him in the debates, before my life fell apart again in December, and it always seemed like he didn’t belong there – that he was a smart man who was totally out of his depth because he was trying to operate outside his domain.

There’s a kind of arrogance really bright people are often subject to, where they assume that because (a) they’re really smart and capable and (b) they’re really good at domain [x], they must also be really good at domain [y], which they care about but have no experience or knowledge in.

Dr. Carson seemed to be suffering from that; as demonstrated in the debates, his policy ideas and pronouncements were usually “not even wrong”, but he was very, very confident in them.

So I’m not sad to see him go; he was not contributing much of substance. I am surprised to see him endorse Mr. Trump, and I’m not sure it matters; I don’t think endorsements mean much in most years, and less in this one.

But I continue to find it odd how much success he *was* having in the race. What were the people who were voting for him seeing that I wasn’t, and how were they not seeing what I was?

Hello again, Mrs. Fiorina.

Carly Fiorina is running for President.

This is hilarious, considering how badly her run for Senate went.

She is attacking former Senator Clinton quite harshly, hoping (perhaps) to stake out a position as the most anti-Hillary candidate.

But she’s also citing, as one of the reasons to support her, her tremendous success as a leader at HP (where she oversaw a misguided merger with Compaq, introduced mass layoffs for the first time in the company’s history, and was eventually fired by the board of directors – a stint for which she is widely disliked by those in Silicon Valley with long enough memories to remember it).

Her tremendous success as an executive of a technology firm. Her executive leadership abilities.

Which is why her staff failed to secure carlyfiorina.org – a site that, as of this writing, consists of the text

“Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain.

So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard.

It was this many:”

followed by one :{ for every person laid off, and the concluding text:

“That’s 30,000 people she laid off. People with families. And what does she say she would have done differently?

“I would have done them all faster.”
—Carly Fiorina”

Leadership at its finest.

This is a very, very, very bad idea.

An attorney in southern California has filed a petition with the Secretary of State, asking that he be allowed to circulate an initiative called the “Sodomite Suppression Act” (which would, among other things, mandate the death penalty for any same-sex sexual conduct, and would authorize vigilantes to enforce the law if the state refused to do so). Under California’s system there’s basically nothing anyone can do to prevent the petition from circulating.

According to http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-anti-gay-measure-20150324-story.html, *seventeen thousand* angry activists have signed an online petition asking the California Bar to disbar him.

As one might expect, I detest this initiative and am angry that anyone would circulate it or sign it.

And yet – asking the state bar to disbar him because he’s circulating an initiative that you are horrified by? I can’t get behind that. The state bar should *not* be in the position of punishing lawyers for their involvement in political activism.

Demonstrate that he refused a client because of their sexual orientation – or, worse, accepted that client and then deliberately sabotaged the client’s interests – and you’ve got grounds for disbarment. But this? Not a chance.