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Entries in California elections (12)

Monday
Nov032014

Los Angeles County Ballot: "P" is for Parks, Prevention and Protection – or Profligacy?

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

The only initiative that affects all of Los Angeles County (there are 33 local/city ballot measures and six California propositions), Measure P covers a diverse range of interests.

The full title of Measure P is: Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches/Wildlife Protection Measure. The initiative seeks to ensure continued funding for these listed concerns via a $23 tax per parcel of land in Los Angeles County.

Proposition P aims to replace the expiring Proposition A, which was approved in 1992. Prop A generated $52M per year. The new measure will generate slightly more ($54M annually) for 30 years beginning July 1, 2015. The funds will be allocated as follows: 

  • 30 percent to maintain and develop open spaces, i.e. trails, mountains, rivers, wetlands and streams;

  • 20 percent to neighborhood parks and park projects, fields, gyms, playgrounds and restrooms;

  • 15 percent to beaches and clean water projects in beaches and parks;

  • 15 percent to maintain or improve existing and future parks;

  • 10 percent to increase parks, open spaces and recreational areas in disadvantaged communities;

  • 5 percent to nonprofit or public agencies that work with youth and seniors, those that plant trees or prevent graffiti, or those that work to increase public access to rivers and streams; and

  • The remaining 5 percent is allocated to administration. 

There seems to be few sources of opposition to Proposition P, but this side includes The Los Angeles Times and The Sierra Club. The editorial board at The Times decries the procedure employed to put P on the ballot, citing a secretive process excluding public hearings or a "needs assessment:"

It's irresponsible to begin divvying up more than $50 million each year without a clear sense of what the county and cities need most and how the money can most effectively be spent.

Additionally, The Times says explanations are needed, particularly regarding: 

  • Whether or not this tax will supplant some work covered by the storm water fee, given that some  Prop P funds are allocated to clean water projects;

  • Whether or not Prop P decreases the need for another parcel tax approved last year for districts around Hollywood Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains (which was also written to replace funds from the expiring Proposition A);

  • The change from a square foot tax formula to a flat per parcel tax. 

Support for Measure P is much greater. Organizations like AARP California, the City of Los Angeles, The Conservation Fund and many others are all in favor of voting yes because: 

  • City, state and federal budgets for parks and recreation has been cut – Prop P provides continuity of funding from an assessment already in place.

  • All funds remain local. The money generated stays in LA County and can only be allocated to the uses outlined in the measure. 

Whether or not Measure P will pass is anyone's guess, as it doesn't seem to be a priority question in polling.

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him directly via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com, or by phone  at 818.907.3299 for more information. 

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Oct312014

Proposition 48: A North Fork in the Road for Tribal Casinos

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental and Business Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

 

Continuing our series on the 2014 California election ballot, we now turn to Proposition 48, the Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts.

Tribal Casinos Prop 48

If voters approve the referendum November 4th, Native American tribes may be able to open casinos on properties not owned by the reservations – for the first time in California history. Specifically, approval would permit the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians (North Fork Tribe) to proceed with building a casino in an economically depressed area of the San Joaquin Valley.  

Essentially, Prop 48 will: 

  • Ratify California Assembly Bill 277: Signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013, AB 277 ratified a 2012 compact between California and the North Fork Tribe, as well as a 2013 compact between the state and the Wiyot Tribe.

  • Exempt Compacts from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): AB 277 would give the North Fork and Wiyot tribes an exemption from complying with CEQA, which normally requires a lead agency to obtain an environmental impact report for each project.

Prop 48 a Bad Deal for Some

The opposition to Proposition 48 includes Senator Diane Feinstein, a long list of large and small news publications, various state assembly members and representatives, some grass roots organizations and certain city officials. The essence of the opposition arguments are that: 

  1. Prop 48 breaks the tribes' promises (California Prop 1A) to build casinos only on tribal property.

  2. The North Fork Tribe wants to build a Vegas-style casino in the Central Valley closer to freeways – which could ignite a gold rush for even more casino building.

  3. The state won't benefit, as no gaming revenues will be allocated to California schools, or the general fund. Additionally, Prop 48 won't create new jobs, as the proposed new casino will simply take resources from already established casinos.

  4. A Las Vegas casino operator (Station Casinos) will actually run the proposed facility.

  5. Prop 48 will take away open spaces (the proposed plot for development is 305 acres) and create more air pollution and traffic. Additionally, it could significantly drain California's water supply.

All In for Prop 48

Needless to say, Prop 48 supporters rebut all of the above. On the "yes" side, we find Governor Brown, the Los Angeles Times, the California Democratic Party, several labor organizations, and "all" Madera politicians, government units and Chambers of Commerce. They claim Prop 48 will:

  1. Build on federally-held, historical tribal lands at no cost to California tax payers.

  2. Keep local control of a project that has strong community support.

  3. Benefit the government – revenues will be allocated at the local and state levels, but also with 70 other tribes that do not have casinos. The referendum could create approximately 4,000 jobs.

  4. Keep local control of a community-supported project.

  5. Protect lands in the Sierra foothills and near Yosemite, since the referendum will allow the North Fork Tribe (whose reservation is located in those areas) to develop an off-reservation casino.

  6. Promote self-sufficiency for the tribe.

Playing the Wild Card

Though the support team has the bigger names and organizations going to bat, it's the opposition that is flush with campaign funds: Team Yes raised just under $400K (primarily from Station Casinos), while Team No is closer to $9M (primarily from competing tribes with casinos).

 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Call his direct line at 818.907.3299, or email him for more information: sholzer@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Oct272014

Prop 47: $950 Difference Between Felony & Misdemeanor

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

 

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

California's Proposition 47 raises interesting questions in terms of how much certain crimes will cost law-abiding citizens, vs. how much those crimes financially burden our prison system. If approved by voters, some crimes that were once considered felonies will then be reduced to misdemeanors.

They include: 

  1. Shoplifting or grand theft, if property stolen is valued under $950;

  2. Receiving stolen property, if value of the stolen goods is under $950;

  3. Forgery, fraud or bad check writing, if the forged check, draft or other document amounts to less than $950; and

  4. Personal  use of most illegal drugs. 

Here's what Proposition 47 proposes: 

  1. Classify non-serious, nonviolent crimes listed above will be classified as misdemeanors, unless the perpetrator has prior convictions for rape, murder, gun crimes or specified sex offenses;

  2. Allow approximately 10 thousand prison inmates found guilty of the above felonies to be resentenced;

  3. Require an assessment of those inmates who may be eligible for resentencing to determine whether or not they may or may not pose a risk to the public;

  4. Establish the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund (SNSF).  If Prop 47 passes, the estimated $150-250 million in savings would be appropriated for this fund.

  5. From the SNSF, allocate 25 percent of the money accrued to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and the remaining 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction. 

Those who oppose Prop 47 tend to align with law enforcement groups. The opposition includes the California Police Chiefs Association, the state District Attorneys Association, and the California Correctional Supervisors Association. Add the California Chamber of Commerce; the state Republican Party; Senator Dianne Feinstein and media groups like the Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto Bees to those that do not endorse this proposal.

Here's why: Many opponents declare the measure has a fundamental flaw – that basing the seriousness of a crime on the value of the property involved could be disastrous. For example, opponents argue stealing a handgun worth less than $950 should not be classified a misdemeanor, since that theft may be a preparatory act to committing a more serious or violent crime. Further, theft of purses, wallets, cell phones, etc. from a victim's body should also not be considered a misdemeanor because of the potential for causing injury during the course of the theft.

The opponents hold the same argument regarding possession of date rape drugs, even if the quantity possessed is small.

Proponents for Proposition 47 do include members of law enforcement, but as individuals rather than whole groups or organizations. Those who recommend voting yes also have the backing of the California Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO, the California Teachers Association, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and media organizations like the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Orange County Register.

Their reasons for voting yes are that too many people are jailed for relatively minor offenses, prisons are overcrowded, and the state spends too much on running these prisons and not enough on education.

A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California taken in September shows a sampling of 62 percent of potential voters in favor, 25 percent opposed, and 13 percent undecided on Prop 47. 

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business & Environmental Litigation Attorney. Contact him via phone: 818.907.3299, or by email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com for more information.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Oct202014

Doctors, Lawyers and the Controversial Prop 46

Litigation Los AngelesBusiness & Environmental Transactions & Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

What's the most controversial measure on California's November ballot? The insurance regulation bill, Prop 45, may be a good contender – but more than likely the controversy over Proposition 46 will win the contest hands down. But can it win votes as well?

Before we can guess, let's look at all that Prop 46 strives to accomplish: 

  1. Raise California's cap on damages for medical malpractice (MedMal) suits to $1 million – currently the cap is $250 thousand.

  2. Requires doctors to undergo drug and alcohol testing. Positive test results will be reported to the California Medical Board (Board).

  3. Requires the Board to suspend doctors who test positive for drugs or alcohol pending an investigation. The Board will be required to discipline those doctors found to be working while under the influence.

  4. Health care practitioners will be required to report doctors they suspect of being on duty while impaired, or who otherwise perform duties negligently.

  5. Requires medical practitioners to consult a state prescription database before prescribing some controlled substances. 

­­Prop 46 Background

When Jerry Brown served as governor of California the first time, he signed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), in 1975. The act capped noneconomic pain and suffering damages for MedMal suits at $250 thousand. If we adjust the cap for inflation since 1975, the figure should roughly total $1.1 million this year.

Arguments For and Against Prop 46

Here are the groups opposing and supporting the measure, and some of their primary reasons for the stances they've taken.

The Prop 46 opposition gets full backing from numerous health professional organizations, including the: California Medical Association, California Dental Association and American Medical Association. Then add strong union backing from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Finally, count the political heavies like the California Republican Party, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the California NAACP – and you find some intimidating opposition to Prop 46.

The arguments against the ballot measure are as varied as the goals Prop 46 tries to achieve. Opponents say: 

  1. Bigger awards for malpractice suits means the doctors and insurance companies will defer those costs to the consumer – potentially hundreds of millions each year.

  2. A prescription database threatens consumer privacy. The government can't implement or maintain it, let alone protect it from hackers.

  3. You could lose your doctor – if the medical liability cap increases, your doctor may be forced to leave California to practice elsewhere, or reduce/eliminate services. 

Prop 46 supporters include: Consumer Watchdog, consumer advocate Erin Brokovich; the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Candace Lightner; Senator Barbara Boxer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, various democratic party leaders and patient safety advocates. Those behind the measure say: 

  1. Indexing the damages cap for inflation won't raise health care costs, as those awards account for a very small percentage of the costs of healthcare. Additionally, insurance companies earned a 6.5 percent return on net worth in the last decade, while MedMal insurers earned a 16.7 percent return.

  2. Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, and about 18 percent of doctors suffer from drug and/or alcohol abuse at some time in their careers.  

  3. A prescription drug database is already in place, the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES was established in 1997, and went digital five years ago. Additionally, 48 other states across the nation already have a prescription drug monitoring program in use. 

A Field Poll initiated in June reported 58 percent of respondents supported Prop 46, but in August poll numbers dropped to 34 percent. Whether you agree or disagree with the intended goals or this ballot measure, the controversy will keep the campaign interesting. 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com , or by phone: 818.907.3299

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Oct132014

California's Prop 45: Sticking it to "the Man" or to the People?

Litigation Los AngelesBusiness & Environmental Litigation  

 

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

 

 

Continuing our series covering the various measures Californians will see on the 2014 midterm election ballot, we now turn to Proposition 45, or the Public Notice Required for Insurance Company Rates Initiative.

 

The crux of the question is this: Should insurance company rate changes for small businesses and individuals be regulated? Here's how regulation would be enforced if Prop 45 passes. The measure will require:

  1. The California Insurance Commissioner to approve rate changes or any other changes that affect charges to policy holders.

  2. Public notices, hearings and judicial reviews regarding rate changes.

  3. Health insurers to submit sworn statements attesting to the accuracy of information they submit to the Insurance Commissioner regarding the need for rate changes.

  4. Exemptions of large group employer health plans

  5. Auto, health and homeowners insurance companies to cease denying policies or raising rates for consumers based on credit history and lack of prior coverage.

Though the question is simple, it appears the answer may be more complicated. The battle lines are drawn almost exactly as you would expect, though there are some surprises on each side.

Supporters of Prop 45 include a variety of consumer watchdog groups; labor unions such as the California Nurses Association and the California Federation of Teachers; the California Democratic Party; and the current Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones.

These groups argue that the cost of health insurance is running out of control, with no transparency regarding how insurers set their prices. Supporters of the measure claim health insurance premiums have risen 185 percent since 2002, and that one company in particular raised rates nearly 20 percent this year alone.

Opponents of Prop 45 encompass the California Medical Association; various hospital groups; labor unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the California Chamber of Commerce and the William Jefferson Clinton Democrats.

Those against the measure say Prop 45 giving one politician – the Insurance Commissioner – so much power is a bad idea, and that treatment decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not someone who takes campaign contributions. They also argue against creating more costly bureaucracy, and that this proposition is sponsored by special interest lawyers looking to profit from health care lawsuits.

The latest Field Poll estimates 48 percent of those surveyed support Prop 45, over 38 percent oppose, and about 14 percent are still undecided.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business and Environmental Litigation Attorney. Contact him via phone: 818.907.3299 or by email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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