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.
California State Senator Holly Mitchell can be an imposing figure. While most people presume that term evokes physicality, it is Mitchell’s intellect and passion for defending those she believes have little or no voice in the political process that make her such a formidable figure around the Capitol. We talked with her about her effort to turn that passion into policy.
Most people look at the civil unrest recently seen in places like Ferguson and Baltimore as strictly a matter of law and order. But to California state Sen. Holly Mitchell, those events are the inevitable result of a long-simmering frustration within much of the African-American community — not only at what they see as heavy-handed treatment of young black men by police, but of a general shortage of economic opportunities available to communities of color.
Before coming to Sacramento, Nelsen was instrumental in turning around the struggling University of Texas Pan-American — growing enrollment, raising revenue and boosting the university’s role in the community. We sat down with him recently to discuss his vision for California’s only true capital university.
Sacramento State has long been known as a campus rich in cultural diversity. According to the U.S. News & World Report, it is the 15th most diverse campus in the west, while Collegefactual.com ranks it 24th in the nation. Robert Nelsen, Sac State’s new president, says that diversity is precisely why he came to the university.
We sat down recently with CEO Lisa Rowland Basher, the fifth generation of her family to run the company, to learn a little bit about the Jelly Belly philosophy of sustaining a family business.
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.
It’s a story as old as marketing itself: A company looking to sell more widgets pays a famous person gobs of money to pitch their product and drive up sales. Some celebrities pimp so many products — we’re looking at you, Peyton Manning — we almost forget what made them famous in the first place.
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.
Senate pro Tem Kevin de León is California’s first Latino Senate leader in more than 130 years. He has championed an aggressive agenda centered on transitioning the state away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon, high renewable energy economy. We sat down with him recently to discuss that transition.
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.
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.
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.
As California’s banker, Treasurer John Chiang has the responsibility of managing the state’s investments and financing. We sat down with him recently to talk about the California economy and his calls for the state to increase affordable housing and for corporate boardroom diversity.
California State Treasurer John Chiang is on a mission to make California’s corporate board rooms more diverse. Chiang believes greater board diversity is simply good business, saying that those which choose to remain what Forbes once deemed “pale, male and stale” are “just not capturing the opportunities of the 21st century.”
Newly minted Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen has developed a well-earned reputation around the Capitol as a woman on the move.
Newly minted Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen has developed a well-earned reputation around the Capitol as a woman on the move.
Almost three decades after the implementation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, many California companies are embroiled in lawsuits or out of business altogether. With that in mind, Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen has made ADA reform a pillar of her legislative agenda.
A long-time small-business owner before entering politics, California Senator Ted Gaines has become a key figure in some of the most important political crusades facing the Sacramento region in recent years, including the battle to save the Kings and efforts to keep electric carmaker Tesla in the Golden State.
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.
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.
Kish Rajan is the director of GO-Biz, the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Previously, he was the director of North American sales for SanDisk, was an aid to Phil Angelides during his ’94 run for state treasurer and was a legislative aide to California Sen. Barbara Boxer.
A report recently released in New Jersey shows that, of the $4 billion in tax credits the Garden State has given to companies since 2010, a whopping 43 percent have been for jobs that already exist. Kish Rajan, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development,says that is definitely not going to happen in California
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.
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.
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.
It’s been quite a year for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, topped in most people’s minds by his stunning, come-from-behind effort to block the Maloof family from selling and relocating the Sacramento Kings. We sat down with him recently to discuss basketball and several other topics important to the Capital Region.
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.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone with a greater breadth of understanding and experience in navigating the complex Golden State health care system than Diana Dooley, California’s secretary of Health and Human Services.
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.
Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. is still fairly new to his position, but he is hardly fresh to Sacramento or law enforcement.
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.
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.
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.
The trucking industry is facing a significant driver shortage as baby boomers retire and younger people are unwilling to replace them.
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.
Due to its port connectivity and excess of freight companies, West Sacramento encounters a disproportionate amount of truck traffic.
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.
For Lori Raineri, getting from place to place is a team effort involving both human and canine commitment.
For business owners like Zennes Faljean, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s federal health care overhaul marked far more of a beginning than a conclusion.
Assemblywoman Connie Conway, a Tulare County Republican, made her presence felt immediately in the California Legislature.
When Dr. Dena Davidson graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry in 1995, she thought her income expectations were pretty reasonable.
Long into early spring, hiking the rocky trail to Loch Leven Lakes required little more than a good pair of boots.
Barely a month into Barack Obamas presidency, his administration announced a major effort to help millions of underwater homeowners refinance into mortgages with lower interest rates. But the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, came with limitations that stifled its effectiveness.
While much of the local and national talk around pension reform is directed at public employees, the biggest current changes are occurring in the private sector.
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.
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.
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.
For most business people, a market-based solution to providing health care coverage to uninsured Americans is a no-brainer.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, all but a small number of Americans soon will be required to have health insurance. But having insurance is one thing; getting the medical care it is intended to cover may be entirely another.
If current trends continue, solo medical practitioners could go the way of the dinosaurs.