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Capitol Roundup: Prop 30 "Fatal Flaw" Fixed; Drug Price Bill Stalls

Proponents Modify Ballot Initiative To Extend Prop 30

Backers of a November ballot initiative that would extend the Proposition 30 income taxes approved by California voters in 2012 have removed a provision that’s drawn scorn from Governor Jerry Brown. 

Public employee unions, doctors and hospitals all want to extend the income taxes on the wealthiest Californians that helped end the state’s persistent budget deficits. And they all want a piece of that revenue pie.

They also wanted to exempt the money from the Proposition 2 “rainy day fund” passed by voters two years ago. But when the governor was asked about that provision as he released his state budget plan last week, Brown did not mince his words.

"That, in my judgment, is a fatal flaw," says Brown.

Now, less than a week later, backers have amended the initiative to strike that clause. Democratic strategist Gale Kaufman is running their campaign.

"We’re very hopeful that with these amendments, we’ve got the best shot we can," says Kaufman.

Proponents hope even if the governor doesn’t campaign for the tax measure, as he did in 2012, he’ll at least remain neutral.

Drug Pricing Transparency Measure Stalls In California Legislature

The pharmaceutical industry has succeeded in fending off a push in the California Legislature to require that the costs of high-priced prescription drugs be made public.

Asm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) had planned to bring his bill up in the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday. But he told committee members he was pulling his bill from the agenda.

“Obviously, today, we are shy of a vote majority and we aren’t going to be beginning to lift the veil on skyrocketing specialty drug costs today,“ Chiu said during the hearing. “But this issue is not going to go away.”

The measure was supported by consumer advocates, some business groups and the health insurance industry.

The drug companies argued the bill would increase costs without achieving the intended results.

California Unions Bracing For Supreme Court Defeat

California public employee unions are already preparing for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would strike down a significant revenue source: partial dues from state and local government employees who choose not to become union members.

U-C Berkeley Labor Center director Ken Jacobs says unions began efforts even before Monday’s oral arguments suggested the court would prohibit such “fair share fees.”

“What you’re seeing right now in California is the public sector unions are very smartly putting in a significant effort in terms of signing up workers as full members and really going out and educating their membership about what this case is about and how declining membership could hurt their members, in terms of wages and benefits and working conditions.” Jacobs told Capital Public Radio's Insight with Beth Ruyak Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said this week that the California Legislature could consider taking action later this year if the Supreme Court strikes down fair share fees – though he did not elaborate on what lawmakers might propose.

 Election 2016

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio