Los Angeles County is suing over a new state law it says discriminates against more than 1 million voters while taking away the power of the Board of Supervisors to draw its own political boundaries
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles County is suing over a new state law it says discriminates against more than 1 million voters while taking away the power of the Board of Supervisors to draw its own political boundaries.
The lawsuit aims to block the 2016 law that creates a 14-member commission to draw boundaries for county supervisor districts after the 2020 census.
Commission members would be chosen from political parties, the lawsuit says, unfairly excluding about a quarter of county voters who register with no party preference and comprise the fastest-growing portion of newly registered voters.
Aides to state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Los Angeles, who wrote the law, said Tuesday that the intent of SB958 is to include those independent voters on the commission.
“If the citizens redistricting commission is good enough for the state Legislature and Congress, it should be good enough for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,” Lara said in a statement.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court says the law illegally takes away local control, unfairly applies only to Los Angeles County and makes the process more political. Based on current registration, 70 percent of commissioners would be Democrats, 25 percent Republicans and 5 percent from smaller political parties, the lawsuit states.
“I think that’s a valid concern, but it’s also a valid concern that politicians shouldn’t be drawing their own district lines. So there are competing benefits on both sides,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation. She was not involved in passing the law.
A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the State of California can’t move forward in enforcing a law that makes it illegal for the entertainment news site IMDbPro to publish actors’ ages.
At the beginning of the year, IMDb filed a federal lawsuit against then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris seeking an injunction to stop enforcement of AB 1687, which went into effect January 1. Today, Judge Vince Chhabria found enough to grant the injunction, saying “it’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment” and that the government has not shown how the bill is “necessary” in achieving the goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood.
“Accordingly, the government is enjoined from enforcing AB 1687 while this lawsuit is
pending,” he wrote (read the ruling here.)
SAG-AFTRA responded quickly to today’s ruling in the U.S. District Court for the North District of California. The guild had been a major proponent of the bill, which was signed into law in September.
“We are disappointed that the court has chosen to temporarily halt the State of California’s legal efforts to fully protect its citizens from employment discrimination,” said SAG-AFTRA COO and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “We look forward to the upcoming opportunity to present evidence to the Court of how this law will reduce or eliminate the age discrimination facilitated by IMDb.com.
“This is an early skirmish in what will be a long-term battle to ensure that entertainment industry workers are granted the same minimum employment protections as all other workers. SAG-AFTRA will continue to fight until we achieve for actors and other entertainment industry professionals, the same rights to freedom from age discrimination in hiring enjoyed by other workers in other industries.”
AB 1687 was narrowly crafted to apply only to “commercial online entertainment employment providers” that charge a “subscribers” fee, as does IMDbPro. Online publications such as Deadline Hollywood – which can be viewed for free – are not subject to the law.
November’s law legalizing recreational weed has added a new set of challenges for regulation
Marijuana for medical use has been legal in California since 1996, but efforts to regulate it like a normal product have been elusive.
For nearly two decades the production, distribution, sale and taxation of cannabis has operated through a patchwork of local rules that can differ from one city or county to the next. What one grower or pot dispensary does in one part of the state could be illegal in another, from the number of plants producers can grow to whether or not cannabis-based edibles require warning labels.
Now that voters have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use through November’s Proposition 64 referendum, officials involved with working out regulations are scrambling. They must establish statewide rules before the start of next year, when licenses are supposed to become available for the sale of recreational-use marijuana.
Some are doubtful that state policymakers will have everything in order by then.
“They can’t get it together about what they want the laws to be,” Alicia Darrow, chief operations manager of Blum Oakland, a 13-year-old Bay Area medical marijuana dispensary, told Salon. “I’ll be shocked if it goes live in 2018.”
The problem, she said, is that Prop. 64 threw a wrench into regulators’ efforts that began in October 2015 after the passage of Assembly Bill 266, the state’s first successful attempt to pass a law regulating medical marijuana.
Prop. 64 and AB 266 have considerable differences in the way marijuana is regulated that must be worked out. For example, AB 266 requires a small number of third-party companies to control distribution and oversee testing for pesticide contamination, something dispensaries argue is unnecessary and would increase costs. Another unanswered question pertains to how dispensaries that sell medical-use marijuana and the more heavily taxed recreational-use weed will be required to track and manage their inventories and sales. Under Prop. 64, dispensaries must have two separate inventories and tracking systems.
“It’s a big job, but we’re working hard and have every intention of meeting our goals,” Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, said in an email to Salon. “The work we’ve done on regulations for medical cannabis have given us a great start.”
Meanwhile established growers, many of them mom-and-pop operations, are worried about being muscled out by bigger, well-financed ventures backed by deep-pocketed investment groups that are chasing the potential for big gains in the years to come. California’s medical marijuana business generated nearly $2.7 billion in sales in 2015 and that’s expected to balloon to $6.45 billion annually by 2020, including sales from recreational-use marijuana, according to cannabis industry investment network Arcview.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on a variety of bills in September that aim to protect patients and health care consumers.
The following laws are set to go into effect in 2017.
AB 72: “Surprise medical bill” legislation by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) was among the most-talked-about measures of the year in Sacramento. It promises to better protect consumers against unexpected medical bills.
Patients can receive such bills when they use a hospital or clinic considered in-network by their insurance plan but are treated by a provider who does not contract with the insurer such as radiologists, anesthesiologists and pathologists. With the goal of keeping patients out of the fight between providers and insurers, the new law essentially sets a reimbursement rate requiring insurers to pay out-of-network doctors 125 percent of the amount Medicare pays for the service or the insurer’s average contracted rate, whichever is greater.
“With his signature, Governor Brown has enacted some of the strongest patient protections in the nation against surprise medical bills. This issue has been debated but has gone unresolved for decades,” Bonta said in a statement.
SB 482: Amid a national opioid epidemic, Brown approved legislation that requires doctors to check a patient’s prescription history in a state database before prescribing any potentially addictive drugs.
The bill, by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), calls for doctors to consult California’s prescription drug monitoring database when prescribing controlled substances. Failure to do so under the new law could result in disciplinary action, although there is no way to ensure that doctors actually use this tool before prescribing.
The new law is meant to put a stop to “doctor shopping” — the practice of visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescription for opioids.
Currently, severely ill children with conditions like cancer or cerebral palsy receive care through an 89-year-old state program known as California Children’s Services. The Department of Health Care Services announced its plan last year to move these children into Medi-Cal managed care plans to streamline their care. Parents and child advocates argued that the transition was too quick and poorly planned, and could interrupt care for these children. The bill adds changes demanded by parents and advocates to improve case management and coordination for children affected by the transition.
The bill, introduced by the head of the state’s Senate Health Committee, Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), allows DHCS to implement the transition to 21 counties by July 2017. The remaining counties will follow. The full transition of the state’s 190,000 children should be complete by 2022.
Ann-Louise Kuhns, president and CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Association, said the new law “both protects the high quality of care assured by the California Children’s Service program and promotes a careful, phased integration with managed care.”
SB 908: This bill will allow consumers to learn when their health insurance premium rates have been considered “unreasonable” by state officials. Current law requires that unreasonable rate hikes be posted online by one of the two state agencies that regulate insurers — the Department of Managed Health Care or the California Department of Insurance. But consumers don’t check online, the bill’s supporters argued.
The new law will require insurers to notify individuals and small businesses directly in writing — at least 60 days before the rate changes — so that consumers can shop around if they choose.
“This law will discourage unjustified health plan rate hikes and empower consumers to make informed decisions about the coverage they are choosing,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a Sacramento-based consumer advocacy group.
SB 1076: This law, sponsored by the California Nurses Association, was designed to protect hospital patients in “observation” care. It requires that observation units meet the same staffing standards — nurse-to-patient ratios — as those in the emergency room.
Outpatient services are not covered by the same patient protection regulations as inpatient units, and many times patients are left in an observations status for a long period of time, according to supporters of the law. In addition, such treatment is not counted toward the three days of hospitalization that Medicare requires for a patient to be covered for nursing home care once they are discharged from the hospital.
The new law will also require that hospitals report summaries of the care they provide during observation status to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development for data collection.
Sourced From – http://californiahealthline.org/news/california-governor-signs-flurry-of-health-laws/