Rich Ehisen

Back Writer

Rich Ehisen writes Comstock’s monthly Discourse column, featuring insightful interviews with the Capital Region’s most influential leaders. He is also the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal. His work has appeared in print, online and on video in Government Technology, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, California Journal, Sacramento Magazine and the Lexis Legal Network. On Twitter @WordsmithRich.

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(Shutterstock)

Are Californians absorbing the state’s water message?

The state’s top water cop on the challenges CA is up against

After years of drought and increasing government demands to cut water use and allow lawns to fade, the Golden State moniker is taking on new meaning. It has fallen to Felicia Marcus, Gov. Brown’s appointee to the head of the State Water Resources Board, to set the water-use rules for farmers, water districts, homeowners and everyone else. We sat down with the state’s top water cop to better understand the challenges she’s up against and the messages her office is communicating.

Sep 10, 2015 Rich Ehisen

Side Effects

Right-to-try laws could give patients access to experimental drugs, but the risks are extreme

Many of us are familiar with Woodroof’s plight — it was the subject of the critically acclaimed movie “The Dallas Buyers Club.” But while Hollywood took many liberties in telling his story, Woodroof’s real-life dilemma is one still being shared by many terminally ill people today. That struggle is also at the heart of a movement to allow those patients access to drugs the FDA has not authorized.

Sep 8, 2015 Rich Ehisen
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Can Legal Pot Work for California?

Senate pro Tem Kevin de Leon ‘not there yet’ on recreational marijuana

At least one if not two ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana use are almost assured to be on the November 2016 ballot for California voters. But while many folks see the legal sale and taxation of pot as a way to pump big money into the state’s coffers, the experiences of legal-weed states like Washington and Colorado show the road from green bud to greenbacks has more than its share of potholes.

Aug 5, 2015 Rich Ehisen
California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh

Governing in the Digital Age

California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh talks tech and the need to improve financial literacy for all

At 34, Assemblymember Matt Dababneh is one of the youngest members of the California Legislature. During his short stint in the Assembly, Dababneh has forged a reputation as a tech-savvy, pro-business lawmaker and earned himself the chairmanship of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee. We sat down with him recently to talk about a few of his key agenda items.

Jul 15, 2015 Rich Ehisen
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Do Millennials Hate Government?

Assemblymember Matt Dababneh on how he appeals to young voters

With membership in both major political parties in freefall, it should come as no surprise that Dems and Republicans are trying desperately to get the attention of millennials, America’s 82-million strong contingent of mostly 20-somethings. But all the shiny bells, whistles and “we get you” come-ons don’t seem to be doing much good. Millennials remain the prettiest girl not at the party.

Jul 9, 2015 Rich Ehisen
Dave Jones is the California Insurance Commissioner. Jones is a former Sacramento City Councilmember, having represented the 6th District covering southeast Sacramento and College Greens. He represented California's 9th Assembly District from 2004 to 2011.

Restraining the Titans

California's insurance commissioner on the importance of veto power over rate hikes

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has spent much of the past decade looking to enact rate regulations on the health insurance industry, first as an Assemblymember and now as the state’s top insurance regulator. We sat down with him recently to talk about Proposition 45, a November ballot measure he supports that would give him the power to reject health insurance rate hikes.

Oct 27, 2014 Rich Ehisen
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Underhanded Dealings

The dark side of the “shadow economy”

Unscrupulous vendors are a small part of the so-called shadow economy – the unlicensed contractor for sure, but also a vast black market of businesses, often cash-only, working out of homes or garages, that don’t pay the taxes or licensing fees their competitors do. While profitable for the person getting away with it, this underground economy hits all of us right where it hurts – in the pocketbook.

Oct 24, 2014 Rich Ehisen

Patent Trolls

What are they, and what's being done to stop them?

Patent infringement lawsuits have long been the business version of a first world problem — a thorny matter for the Googles and Samsungs of the world. But in recent years, so-called patent trolls, shell companies that exist only to sue other companies for allegedly violating patents the shell company owns, have been going after much smaller businesses, from coffee shops to real estate offices.

Jul 1, 2014 Rich Ehisen

Realign. Redevelop.

Counties director Matt Cate thinks California is righting its course

No one can accuse Matt Cate of avoiding the hard jobs. During his four years at the helm of California’s state prisons, he guided the system through some of its toughest times, including historic budget cuts and the implementation of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial 2011 realignment plan, which shifted tens of thousands of offenders to local jails and parole supervision.

Apr 1, 2014 Rich Ehisen

Sweet Sorrow

California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg prepares for departure

Darrell Steinberg has been front and center on some of the biggest issues facing the state and our region, from historic land-use reform to mental health care funding.We sat down with him to discuss his current legislative priorities and possible future plans as he enters his final year in the Senate.

Feb 1, 2014 Rich Ehisen
U.S. Representative Ami Bera

Paging Dr. Bera

Seeking remedies in the halls of Congress

U.S. Rep. Ami Bera has spent most of his career as one of the Capital Region’s leading voices on health care, first as a doctor and later as Sacramento County’s chief medical officer and a dean of admissions for the UC Davis medical school.

Oct 1, 2013 Rich Ehisen

Air Ball

Arena plan, meet CEQA reform

When Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson appeared before NBA bigwigs last April to plead his case for keeping the Kings, there was a lot more to the pitch than whether investors could afford to buy the team.

Jul 1, 2013 Rich Ehisen
Christopher Abela, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, ascends a climbing rope during an inspection at New Hogan Dam near Valley Springs.

(photo: Courtesy U.S. army corps of engineers)

Engineering Solutions

Flood risk reduction in the real world

Although the United States Army Corps of Engineers is the largest public engineering, design and construction management agency in the world, most Americans identify it with flood protection. This is particularly true in the Sacramento Region, where the Corps is heavily involved in virtually every major flood control system.

Feb 13, 2013 Rich Ehisen

Levee Over Troubled Waters

Paying for repairs just got harder

It’s a calm, clear day on West Sacramento’s South River Road, a meandering two-lane route that runs atop a levee buffering houses and farmland from the placid Sacramento River. It’s hard to envision the chaos that would ensue if the great dirt barrier were to burst, pouring millions of gallons of water into adjacent homes and businesses, but that nightmare scenario just got harder to prevent.

Feb 12, 2013 Rich Ehisen

Payload Denied

Dwindling shipments jeopardize air cargo facilities

The air cargo industry has long been a valuable component in the Capitol Region’s economy. But in spite of some rosy growth projections, air freight traffic in the region has been in a steady decline for more than a decade with no sure signs it will return to its former prominence.

Nov 1, 2012 Rich Ehisen

Regulating High Rollers

New road networks proposed for truckers

Despite changes to the goods-movement industry, many transportation experts believe trucking will always be the nation’s primary mode of freight delivery. Now, transportation officials are looking for new ways to ease traffic congestion and improve the way heavy trucks interact with cars and communities.

Oct 1, 2012 Rich Ehisen

Teachable Moment

Education funding and the future of California schools

The California Teachers Association has long been one of the state’s most powerful political players. This year, the organization has thrown its weight behind Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise the state sales tax, in part to fund education. We sat down recently with CTA President Dean Vogel to discuss that support and other critical issues surrounding California schools.

Sep 1, 2012 Rich Ehisen

Action Figure

The Metro Chamber's formidable new figurehead

Last November, Roger Niello was named president and CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber. We sat down with him recently to talk about the city’s business and political climate and the Chamber’s collaborative Next Economy planning initiative.

Mar 1, 2012 Rich Ehisen

Past & Present Danger

A historied economist imparts warning

Peter Lindert is one of the preeminent voices in the “deep history” field of economics, which looks at the world economy over the scope of all human history. We recently talked with the UC Davis professor about the U.S. and global economies and the penchant for both to experience exhilarating highs and devastating lows.

Dec 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen

Judgment Day

The fate of federal healthcare

From the moment President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March of 2010, observers predicted the law’s fate would ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court. Now, almost two years later, the court is indeed preparing final arbitration of the most sweeping and controversial health law in a generation.

Dec 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen

Reformation Nation

The pros, cons and political climate of federal health care reform

In a nation full of hot-button issues, few are as torrid as federal health care reform. More than a year and a half since its passage, the law — officially dubbed the Affordable Care Act but derisively called “Obamacare” by its critics — is still being fought in the courts, Congress and statehouses across the country. But for all the political and legal wrangling, the law is marching forward.

Sep 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen

Folsom City Blueprint

A city manager plans for the future

California’s ongoing economic slump has been historically challenging to local governments, even in relatively affluent areas like Folsom, which has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Capital Region. We sat down recently with Folsom City Manager Kerry Miller to discuss the city’s current fiscal condition and plans it has to thrive as the economy improves.

Sep 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen
(courtesy of Delta Stewardship Council)

Changing Tide

Turf and money battles continue over California water reform

It’s been about 20 months since lawmakers and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger breathlessly announced a historic agreement called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, an ambitious plan to overhaul the state’s antiquated water system. Much has changed since then, but much more is still on the way.

Jul 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen