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E-177 - Sunday, September 8, 2019
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
TRUMP TAX RETURNS: Lawsuit information page for SB 27 (McGuire and Wiener): Primary elections: ballot access: tax returns.
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
¡Buenos dias y feliz domingo! After my too-long Nooner yesterday, I stepped away from the computer for awhile and enjoyed the beautiful September afternoon with the wonderful Crawfish and Catfish festival in Woodlland with friends, and boy did we enjoy it. After that, it was another great home-cooked meal from a part-time home chef.Friday. Last night was bún bò with all the fixins. You likely know it as bún bò Huế from menus here, but I've learned that in Vietnam, the now-national dish is bún bò, in the style of Huế, but you just order bún bò in most other cities in the country. Anyway, email me if you want the Facebook page of this local culinary wonderland. He has expanded beyond Saturdays and the array of dishes is amazing.
Oh, this space is about policy, politics, and process and not food? Forgive me, it's the day of rest before sunrise, my mind is already on food while I build my farmers market shopping list and today's Nooner in my head.
Let's get to it!
UNDER PRESSURE - THE POD: Thank you for your eyes and ears on the podcast we recorded Friday. Yesterday was by far the biggest first day of a podcast release yet and many emailed us to let us know it was the first time listening to ours, let alone any podcast. As many of you know, I've been listening to podcasts since the first iPods came out and, believe it not, listen to as many technology, music, and culture podcasts in my walks around downtown as I do political ones.
The most listened to pod overall this far was with political data expert Paul Mitchell. While some pods don't age well because subjects are disposed when we talk about legislation, Paul was talking a lot about redistricting and what to look for in 2020. In short, Paul ages well. I can say that since I've known him for over 27 years.
What a Week episodes have been very popular, and top guest episodes after Paul have been Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, and Councilmember Steve Hansen, and Assemblymember Jim Gallagher, but Senator Bill Dodd from ten days ago is on the rise. That's not necessarily fair to our earlier guests, as the number of listeners has been increasing each week. Anyway, unlike Popeye's chicken sandwiches, we're open 24/7 for your listening and viewing pleasure during your chores, workouts, etc.
THE SCHED (SO FAR): Lobbyist and Friend of The Nooner Chris Micheli emails us with an outline of the session schedule and deadlines for the week, as we know it right now. The schedule part of it will of course change.
SENATE FLOOR (convenes Monday at 12 noon)
ASSEMBLY FLOOR (convenes Monday at 1pm)
334 + 350 = 684 total measures
In short, what Chris is saying is, my friends, enjoy your day as you are about to enter The Twilight Zone. Let's look at some of the "episodes" we'll see this play out this week.
SB 1 (Atkins): California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.: I wrote about this one yesterday after ignoring it for far too long after Senator Feinstein and four Valley House Democrats wrote a letter to author Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) objecting to two provisions of the bill.
When I wrote the Nooner yesterday, I hadn't seen an op-ed was published in the Fresno Bee by Congressman Jim Costa and TJ Cox, both Democrats of Fresno.
In CA16, Costa is facing a challenge from the left by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria (D), while Cox is facing a rematch against David Valadao (R) in CA21, who he unseated last year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is concerned about both. While Costa has been secure since redistricting, the threat from the left of an "AOC-type" candidate is a serious challenge. CA21 has been a perplexing district for some time (along with SD14, also a 2018 pick-up), and Cox has had some ethics issues pop up since his election relating to his business dealings, both disclosure issues and political ones such as investments in not-so-clean energy.
I'm working on both those races for Nooner Premium, but let's just say the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which works to ensure re-election of vulnerable incumbents as much as to flip seats, would like to take these two off their worry lists.
In other words, the letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein sent Friday morning won't be ignored and it's not because of policy. She doesn't represent the DCCC and has regularly sided with agriculture and water interests more so than Barbara Boxer did when the two were first elected in 1992.
Don't be surprised if SB 1 is amended to give a "pro-ag" win for these two vulnerable incumbents and, if so, it would have more to do with those two races. I'm guessing the author would rather fight for the standards of the the California Endangered Species Act, but many people in Washington are paying attention in addition to heavy lobbying by water and ag interests here.
My goal is to try to give you an understanding why some things may happen this weekend that on the surface may not make sense to the casual observer, and we'll have a lot of such situations.
Note: While Esmeralda Soria is a UC Davis Law alum, she was well after me and I've never met her or otherwise talked to her--yet. Go King Hall!
SB 276/SB 714 (Pan): Immunizations: medical exemptions.: Just a quick aside on this today since I wrote extensively yesterday about the deal under which Governor Gavin Newsom will sign the two bills. I shared yesterday the tweet by comedian/actor Rob Schneider that appears overtly racist against author Dr. Richard Pan's (D-Sacramento) "Chinese" heritage (he's the son of Taiwanese immigrants).
Anyway, several anti-vaxx Twitter accounts cited Schneider's Asian heritage (maternal grandmother was a Filipina) as proof his tweet was solely about Maoism and "Chinafornia" had nothing to do with Pan's heritage. If you think there is not racism within the Asian community among different ethnicities, then you likely would suggest that my British and Dutch ancestors did not discriminate against Italian and Polish immigrants arriving in later waves.
Grasping at straws at this point, whether they are plastic or Kamala's "falling apart" biodegradable straws (see climate change debate).
AB 824 (Wood): Business: preserving access to affordable drugs. (with a side order of AB 290 (dialysis)): I've written a lot about the high-profile AB 290 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) relating to the third-party insurance premium subsidies in the dialysis clinic industry, mostly because many Nooner readers are interested because of the ballot showdown last November in Proposition 8 (whole different issue) and the television advertising campaign that has the bill on the issue generally on the minds of most Nooner readers, even though you wouldn't know what the bill actually does from the commercials opposing it.
By the way, the commercials featuring patients saying they will lose their dialysis treatment are misleading, as amendments taken when the bill passed out of Senate Appropriations on August 30 and in print September 5 clearly provides:
"(d) (1) Reimbursement for enrollees for whom a nonprofit financially interested entity described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (h) that was already making premium payments to a health care service plan on the enrollee’s behalf prior to October 1, 2019, is not subject to subdivisions (e) and (f) and the financially interested entity is not required to comply with the disclosure requirements described in subdivision (c) for those enrollees."
Anyway, accuracy in advocacy is not expected this time of year.
An equally high priority for Wood, a dentist who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, is AB 824 and likely has a broader impact on Californians than the dialysis bill (not meaning that the latter is of less importance in policy). I neither have the time to research pharmaceutical patent law and business practices this morning let alone try to explain it. So, here is the analysis (click on Senate Floor Analysis), and I'll try to make it as simple as I can this beautiful Sunday morning.
There's a criticism of the pharmaceutical industry by health insurers, physicians organizations, and consumer advocacy groups of a practice they call "pay to delay."
For homegamers who woke up with a headache, you may have grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen, which may have been either Advil or generic ibuprofen with the name of one of those drugstores that will continue to be able to hand you mile-long receipts with innumerable ads. (Why didn't that come up in the 7 hours of CNN town halls earlier this week? I digress.) I use that as an example because ibuprofen has long been generic while still available as Advil and Motrin (and other brands).
Newer drugs that have been developed, a very costly and long pharmaceutical research, testing, approval, and brand establishment practice, they are protected for awhile under a patent. As you know, patents are used across product categories to recognize the innovators cost of development before the others may imitate the product, but pharmaceuticals are a bit different than many other products.
First, like medical devices, because of the additional cost of developing pharmaceutical products, they are generally protected longer and stronger. Second, in many cases, pharmaceuticals can be minimally modified to technically not be identical to the submitted patent.
We see it in other products all the time, such as the constant fight between the technology companies, such as Apple and Microsoft or Apple and Qualcomm or Samsung. They often get along and license from each on product while at the same time are fighting over patents in court.
For our purposes think overly simply of pharmaceutical companies as two categories, the brands and the generics. The criticism is that the brands have recognized the ability of generic companies to slightly modify the molecular composition of a brand-name drug to the point that it can escape the brand's patent protection with a "biosimilar" drug. Generic companies can either do that or basically work with the brand to agree to not put such a product on the market for a period in time with what I'll for Noonerific sense a "reverse-license."
I'm Advil. You are generic ibuprofen company. I've spent big dough developing, getting approval, manufacturing, and building my Advil brand. I see that you are ready to put your generic next to mine on the shelf at Potter's Drug Store and because of my legacy costs and current advertising costs, you'll undercut me by 25-35%. Obviously, I want to protect my profit. So, instead of seeing my more-expensive brand name next to yours on the shelf, I pay you to wait several years. Let's say that I pay you the equivalent of 10% of that price differential.
We both win in that scenario. I protect my brand space and price on the shelf and you take that 10% I'm paying you to keep that generic off the shelf. You're like, "Cool, that's money in my pocket without having to manufacture or distribute a product." Winner winner chicken dinner.
Who loses? Well, the government, health insurance companies and consumers. Without the generic on the market, that competitive forces that control prices in basic economics is out the window.
A physician or pharmacist will tell you that there is no molecular difference between the two. The only difference on the shelf are price.
I'm not criticizing you for buying brand names. I do it sometimes too and maybe sometimes the psychological difference of having the product that made the woman on teevee feel better quickly will actually have the somatic and totally legitimate effect of doing so, although that's in our mind and not our blood.
That's your right to pay an extra $2 for that effect. However, to opponents of "pay for play" they see the huge collective cost not from one drugstore purchase but rather millions. If you're a Kaiser patient, you're not making that choice. Almost always, you're getting a generic.
AB 824 seeks to address whether or not "pay for delay" amounts to anti-competitive behavior that the Attorney General of California can seek recourse in court an in anti-trust sense, something of which you likely have undoubtedly at least cursory knowledge. No, I didn't take that class in law school and, like Water Law, pretty much only those who think that they will work in the arena take. Lots of case and statutory law and something on which I in no way proffer to have knowledge.
So, this is less about exactly what the bill does vis a vis current law but rather my plain and totally not thorough description of the issue. It's like you trying to explain to me fantasy football. I would just want enough to understand why I lost my $20, not the quarterback rating of those I was unfortunate to choose.
As I wrote above, the bill is on the Senate Floor and passed with 56 aye votes on May 24 and has a Democratic author with Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) as the principle co-author. Melendez is one of the most conservative and outspoken members of the Assembly Republican Caucus. There were 24 members that took a duck and didn't vote on the Assembly Floor, including 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Five Republicans, including Melendez, voted for the bill and the other 51 "aye" votes were from Democrats.
Reportedly, the opposition of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), which generally represents the brand names, has been removed with an amendment taken in Senate Appropriations. The amendment basically says that the parties of a "pay-to-delay" agreement between a brand and generic company would not have the burden of proof that, when showing the agreement has pro-competitive benefits, they could not have been achieved with other, less noncompetitive means.
However, many generic companies like the current system because, as we say above in our example above of me owning the Advil brand and you threatening a generic, we have a winner winner chicken dinner arrangement.
The bill needs to pass the Senate and go back to the Assembly. Requiring a simple majority, it is likely to pass. However, it is unknown what Governor Gavin Newsom will do when it sits on a desk. After all, the Legislature is gone after Friday and he gets the final say in a high-stakes battle between big interest groups, but also helps the state's bottom line as one of the largest purchasers of prescription drugs behind the federal government.
After that, I have a headache. I'm going to take some generic ibuprofen and go get some menudo. Go Broncos and 49ers!
CAKEDAY and CLASSIFIEDS after the jumpity jump that helps pay the rent...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Barry Jantz, Evan McLaughlin, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, and Cathy Unger!