Capitol Alert

Does pausing the death penalty save money? + $100 to fight tyranny + 2020 health care rates

Governor explains his personal and passionate view behind halting death penalty

Gov. Gavin Newsom put a moratorium on the death penalty in California on March 13, 2019, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom put a moratorium on the death penalty in California on March 13, 2019, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates.

Good morning, California! Thanks for starting your week with the Capitol Alert.

No sessions today.

DEATH PENALTY DOLLARS

Back in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that placed a moratorium on the death penalty in California, he cited the system as a multi-billion dollar waste of taxpayer dollars.

But per The Sacramento Bee’s Sophia Bollag, there’s no evidence that halting executions has saved the state money.

“In general, death penalty trials are far more expensive than those for people facing a maximum sentence of life without possibility of parole,” Bollag writes. “It’s also more expensive to house inmates on death row than in a regular prison unit.”

The executive order didn’t permanently end the death penalty in California, which is why capital cases can still proceed.

District attorneys told The Bee that they’re following the law “still on the books.” So prosecutors are still pursuing the death penalty, which “can cost millions of dollars.” And, according to Bollag’s reporting, the state budget still appears to allocate the same resources to capital punishment-related costs.

In fact ⁠— Dollars set aside for the state-funded Habeas Corpus Resource Center increased from about $16.64 million to nearly $16.8 million.

The temporary reprieve shut the state’s execution chambers and ended the lethal injection protocol. But Newsom is aiming for something more.

He said he hopes for a ballot initiative to permanently end the death penalty in California, which he failed to accomplish in 2016. Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, wrote legislation intended for the November 2020 ballot that, if approved by California voters, would enshrine in the California constitution a permanent end to capital punishment.

$100 TO FIGHT ‘TYRANNY’

What’s behind allegations by animal rights activists who claim people were paid to testify against California’s proposed fur ban bill?

Supporters of Assembly Bill 44, which would make it illegal to sell or manufacture fur products in California, said they found Facebook posts from three men who advertised payments for protests against the measure.

Reporter Elizabeth Shwe took a deep dive into the posts, and found that all three men have leadership roles in Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student activism organization.

“Anyone in LA down to make an easy $100 this Tuesday in Sacramento and fight tyranny?” one post advertised two days before the June 25 committee hearing.

A volunteer, posing as an opponent of the fur ban bill, received a contract from one of the Facebook posters.

“You will be compensated $175 total for the program,” the contract says. “You agree to not speak publicly about the internal operations before, during, or after the operation.”

Can you do that? — Per Shwe, “It does not appear that those who testified violated the law, even if they were paid. Lobbyists are prohibited from creating a ‘fictitious appearance of public favor or disfavor of any proposed legislative action,’ but those who wrote the Facebook posts are not registered as lobbyists.”

“To learn that groups are taking advantage of the public hearing process in this way when so many individuals take time off of work and away from their daily lives to voluntarily advocate for or against any number of issues is disappointing because it doesn’t give policymakers an accurate impression of public opinion,” Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, the author of California’s fur ban bill, said.

GOTCHA COVERED

Covered California released a report on Friday with news of a low 0.8 percent rate change expected in 2020.

Some Californians could save an average of 9 percent on their insurance, according to the agency, if they “shop and switch to the lowest-cost plan in the same metal tier.”

More than 2 million Californians are enrolled in the individual market. The report shows that several regions, including West Los Angeles, San Diego County and the Inland Empire, won’t see much of a rate change at all. Northern counties and the Central Valley will likely see decreases, and the Bay Area and the Central Coast will see “modest increases.”

But even the highest rate increase, 6 percent in San Francisco County, will be lower than the statewide average increase of 8 percent last year.

This is good news, according to Health Access California, a health care consumer advocacy coalition.

“Most in Covered California will pay less next year, more people will get affordability assistance, and even those who buy coverage without subsidies will be paying less, especially if they shop around,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the group. “This news of historically low rate increases is proof positive that California’s actions to shore up and expand on the Affordable Care Act are working, and are having a direct positive impact on the health and financial well-being of Californians.”

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND

Best of The Bee:

White racial resentment is a winning Republican strategy, this UC Davis professor says by Andrew Sheeler

‘Nightmare of a case’ continues for former CHP officer. Why is he still facing trial? by Rosalio Ahumada

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.
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