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Essential Politics: The Obamacare court ruling is sending shock waves through California

Essential Politics: The Obamacare court ruling is sending shock waves through California
Essential Politics (Los Angeles Times)

The policy and political implications of a Texas judge’s ruling on Friday night couldn’t be any higher in the coming two years — for the nation at large and especially for California.

Get ready for what could be the ultimate showdown over the Affordable Care Act.

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THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE

The ruling that threatens the existence of the landmark 2010 law was in a case focused on one controversial provision: the requirement that Americans have health insurance coverage. But when the penalty for any citizen refusing the “individual mandate” was removed by Republicans in Congress, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the entire law to now be unworkable.

California, under state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, is poised to lead the way in an appeal of O’Connor’s ruling. And few states have as much on the line — given the aggressive implementation of both expanded Medicaid coverage through the Medi-Cal program and the insurance exchange run by Covered California. Gov. Jerry Brown called the ruling a “wanton and cruel action” that the state will fight.

From a political standpoint, the ruling poses major risks for Republicans in the 2020 election cycle. By throwing out even the parts of the Obamacare law that are popular — like coverage of preexisting conditions — healthcare coverage for tens of millions of Americans could be on the line.

SHUTDOWN COUNTDOWN

Friday is the deadline for a deal between President Trump and Congress to keep the federal government open — and the odds seem long.

The administration signaled Sunday that it would not compromise, as senior White House policy advisor Stephen Miller declared that “we’re going to do whatever is necessary” to secure money for the president’s much-vaunted border wall.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Lawyers for the family of a 7-year-old girl who died while in U.S. Border Patrol custody say she did not suffer from a lack of food or water before being picked up by authorities.

-- Trump on Friday named Mick Mulvaney, now his budget director, as his acting chief of staff, only temporarily solving a management and public relations problem that has consumed the White House.

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who was caught up in scandals and infuriated environmental activists, will likely be replaced by a former oil and gas lobbyist who served as his top deputy.

-- Both in court and in the wider realm of policy, Trump's untruths have begun showing real consequences.

-- The spray-painting of a swastika outside a suburban Indianapolis synagogue this summer was the final straw for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who quickly called for Indiana to join the 45 states that have hate crime laws.

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CALIFORNIA’S HOUSING LAW TESTED IN CUPERTINO

For years, a developer has been trying to build homes on a near-vacant mall in Cupertino, the home of Apple. But community pushback has stopped the plan.

Which is where last year’s Senate Bill 35 comes in, a law designed to ensure housing projects are completed when they comply with all existing government rules.

“This is what we wanted to see happen,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the author of the law.

NOVEMBER TURNOUT: SHADES OF 1982

It’s been 36 years since a higher percentage of California’s registered voters showed up for an election than did last month, a high mark confirmed last week in the official returns for Nov. 6.

More than 12.7 million voters cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election, representing 64.5% of the state’s registered voters. In all, 41 counties reported turnout above the statewide average.

Fifty-seven percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County cast ballots, a marked increase from the 31% of voters who showed up in the fall election four years ago.

Orange County, which saw fierce competition for four of the six congressional seats all or partially inside its borders, had almost 71% of its voters cast ballots.

THE GOVERNOR-ELECT

California’s new governor will take office three weeks from now in a Sacramento ceremony that won’t include one of the most influential people in his life.

William Newsom III, a retired appellate court justice and father of Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, died last week at age 84. The elder Newsom was remembered as a passionate environmental advocate and a longtime friend of the current governor.

Meanwhile, the inner circle of advisers to the governor-elect continues to take shape. Last week, Newsom selected both an aide during his time as San Francisco’s mayor and a longtime Sacramento labor lobbyist to be deputy cabinet secretaries. He also filled key communications posts for his new administration.

And then there’s this: Those who want to fete the incoming governor during his inauguration weekend will have ample opportunities, but it won’t come cheap.

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The Times’ coverage of the Newsom transition continues on our Essential Politics news feed.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- As recently as five years ago, the GOP held close to half the mayoral and city council seats in California. But after November, the party's local ranks have thinned and so have its hopes of a bench of up-and-coming prospects.

-- Dozens of retired Los Angeles employees are collecting such generous retirement pay that they exceed pension fund limits set by the Internal Revenue Service, saddling taxpayers with additional costs.

-- Fresno police arrested Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) last week on a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty to a child. The lawmaker later said it was because he had spanked his 7-year-old daughter.

-- Officials at the California Department of Motor Vehicles said Friday that the agency failed to send information for 329 new voters to state elections officers in time for the November election.

-- California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is defending a landmark new state law abolishing money bail, saying it was crafted to ensure courts “do not judge a person based on the size of their wallet or what they have access to in someone else’s wallet.”

-- Cantil-Sakauye also made news last week by confirming she has canceled her voter registration as a Republican.

LOGISTICS

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