We did a double-take last week when @NCamposAssembly -- that's Nora Campos, the Democratic Assembly speaker pro tempore from San Jose -- tweeted this: "Co-authoring important bill to keep Regional Med Center open, the only hospital serving Downtown & East San Jose. pic.twitter.com/gGwyict9UG"
What's this? Another Bay Area hospital on the brink of closing? As IA readers know, the current sale -- or possible closure -- of four Bay Area hospitals owned by the Daughters of Charity Health System, including San Jose's O'Connor Hospital and Gilroy's Saint Louise Regional Hospital, already is making folks uneasy about their future access to emergency health care.
But a few phone calls quickly confirmed that Regional isn't exactly about to fold.
"We just put $350 million into this hospital," said Regional Hospital CEO Mike Johnson, "so we're not closing."
Turns out Campos (or her staff) was just being a bit alarmist in promoting her legislative heroics. The former San Jose city councilwoman is among the co-authors of AB2557 to allow Regional and four other hospitals around the state an extra eight months to complete state-mandated earthquake safety upgrades. The current deadline is Jan. 1, 2015, and the bill gives them until Sept. 1, 2015.
Are state stormtroopers standing ready to padlock Regional's busy emergency room should it miss the deadline? Hardly.
Not that the state law mandating earthquake upgrades lacks teeth. Hospitals potentially could lose their state licenses for failing to complete the seismic work on time and be excluded from Uncle Sam's Medicaid and Medicare programs, a financial blow few could withstand.
Still, it's not like Regional was about to close in four months just because its seismic work is running a bit late. Johnson blamed construction delays for putting Regional -- owned by the Hospital Corporation of America -- behind schedule on the seismic work, which includes an updated radiology department, emergency room and new tower that is mostly finished.
The legislation, sponsored by the California Hospital Association, is authored by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who also is a pediatrician. State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, is another co-author. We didn't see any tweets from Beall suggesting he'd saved Regional from closing.
Blue Shield's luxury box at Levi's Stadium fuels Proposition 45 backers
The campaign for a ballot measure that would let the state insurance commissioner veto health insurance rate hikes is pointing to Blue Shield of California's pricey luxury skybox at the new Levi's Stadium as a sign that insurers' spending is out of control.
Consumer Watchdog and the Yes on 45 campaign sent a letter Tuesday to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate "Blue Shield's abuse of its non-profit status" and crack down on its spending.
The letter cites a San Francisco Chronicle article, which said suites of the type that Blue Shield got at the San Francisco 49ers' new home are "priced at between $250,000 and $400,000 a year and require a 10- or 20-year commitment. That puts the price at anywhere from $2.5 million to $8 million."
"We urge you to investigate Blue Shield's abuse of its non-profit status and use your authority to impose a 'charitable trust' on Blue Shield's assets and block any additional wasteful spending that robs taxpayers and average California patients of their financial health," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote to Harris.
Proposition 45 "will ensure that companies like Blue Shield are not increasing premium charges to patients to fund excessive executive compensation, lavish entertainment and excessive reserves," Court wrote. "Under current law, the California Department of Insurance does not yet have the authority to block excessive rate increases that funded Blue Shield's skybox. Before November, only you have the power to protect California taxpayers."
Neither the No on Proposition 45 campaign, known as Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, nor Blue Shield of California answered our requests for comment.
9th Circuit Court judge will set up chambers at S.J. courthouse
Michelle Friedland, one of the newest judges on the prestigious San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, apparently is not much for commuting. As a result, she is soon to become the first 9th Circuit judge to ever base her chambers in Silicon Valley.
Friedland, a Mountain View resident, plans to put her robes and gavel in the San Jose federal courthouse, bypassing the 9th Circuit's ornate San Francisco headquarters, the usual address for the court's Bay Area-based judges (9th Circuit judges are spread throughout the West Coast, from Alaska to Arizona).
Friedland, who joined the court in April, probably will have to wait about a year to make the move. Court officials plan to carve out her chambers from space on the fifth floor of the San Jose courthouse now devoted to a law library, according to Cathy Catterson, the 9th Circuit's chief executive.
Given that law resources can now be found with the click of a mouse, law libraries are going the way of the dodo bird (or, um, newspapers) generally, making the space expendable. Catterson had no estimate on what the new chambers might cost to construct.
Through a court spokesman, the 42-year-old Friedland would only say of the planned San Jose office: "I look forward to interacting with the district, magistrate and bankruptcy judges who will be my new neighbors."
Of course, Friedland may have to buy lunch if she reverses one of them.
A Constant presence on the ballot: Councilman seeks West Valley seat
Two-term San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant will be termed out of office at the end of this year. But Constant has always been ambitious politically, so it should surprise no one that he's not fading away. The councilman is running against attorney Anne Kepner for an open trustee's position on the West Valley-Mission Community College board.
"It's a way of keeping my hand in," said the 50-year-old Republican, who has been mentioned before as a candidate for Assembly or sheriff.
Kepner, 45, is a Democrat and a personal injury lawyer who has served on the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Committee for the city of Santa Clara. They are running for the seat being left open by veteran trustee Buck Polk. (For political insiders, it's noteworthy that there are no contribution limits in trustee races: It's still the Wild West.)
Constant, incidentally, is not the only member of his family running for a school board. His wife, Julie Constant, is running for re-election to the Campbell Union School District board. The Constants, you may remember, have five children.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Tracy Seipel, Josh Richman, Howard Mintz, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-920-5782.