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New gig for the sheriff; campaign updates

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In Northern California, water fell from the sky all weekend. They tell me it was called "rain."...

SHERIFF DEAN LANDS SIGNIFICANT APPOINTMENT -- Gov. Jerry Brown last week named Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean to a little-known, but fairly significant state board called the Board of State and Community Corrections. In this age of public safety realignment, the board, established in 2012, plays an important role in carrying out that program. It is the independent body that provides realignment leadership and technical assistance to the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. It also is involved in allocating jail-construction money to the counties.

Dean tells me he was asked by the County Sheriffs Association to allow his name to be nominated to replace Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who announced last month his intent to retire when his term ends at the end of the year.

Dean has been among the more progressive sheriffs in the state in his commitment to making the realignment program, in which lower-level offenders are sentenced to county jail and county probation supervision instead of state prison, work.

The position pays no salary, but his appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

When I caught up with him last Friday (he said he was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at the time), I asked Dean whether he intended to use his new position to try "to steal some money" for Ventura County. Lamentably, he did not dignify that question with an answer. He did note that because Ventura County has a pending application for $42 million in jail-construction funds to build mental health and medical facilities at the Todd Road Jail, he will have to recuse himself from considering the funding applications and will not be allowed to be a member of the evaluation team.

Still, his presence on the board certainly won't hurt the county as it continues to try to assemble programs and facilities to help achieve the goal of realignment -- the delivery of more intensive, targeted probation services designed to reduce recidivism.

CLEAN SWEEP FOR JACQUI IRWIN -- As the only remaining Democratic candidate in the 44th Assembly District, Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin pretty much wrapped up all the significant endorsements last week. She was the unanimous choice of the Central Labor Council last Wednesday, secured the backing of the county's three Democratic legislators (Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Fran Pavley, and Assemblyman Das Williams) last week, and on Sunday got enough votes of Democrats participating in the party's local pre-endorsement caucus to essentially guarantee that she will get the state Democratic Party endorsement at its convention in early March.

In the other local race featuring a non-incumbent Democrat, Simi Valley podiatrist Lee Rogers was the unanimous choice at the pre-endorsement caucus in the 25th Congressional District.

HOSPITAL PRICING HORROR STORIES -- Hoping to get an early start at generating voter concern about hospital pricing practices (they vary all over the map), the sponsors of an initiative that would limit prices hospitals can charge to 25 percent more than the actual cost of goods and services today launched the first of what they say will be series of regional TV ads addressing the issue. The first ad is airing in the Sacramento market.

Sponsors are also reaching out to find personal stories to tell at their website, Healthcarecosts2much.org.

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West vows to wage a vigorous campaign to qualify the initiative for the ballot. If the union is successful, California hospitals could be spread fairly thin this campaign season, trying to fight a measure to lift the cap for non-economic damages in malpractice suits, pass their own measure to limit the Legislature's discretion in how to spend revenues from a hospital Medi-Cal tax and also combat this effort.

If it qualifies, the measure stands a chance of at least somewhat changing the debate about health care costs in California this fall from Obamacare to the charges levied by providers.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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