One of the things we like about Adam Gray is that he refuses to shy away from being disagreeable – with a newspaper, other politicians, the governor or, we suspect, anyone else. We wouldn’t have it any other way, especially when he’s being disagreeable with the State Water Resources Control Board.
Unopposed (so far) for a fourth Assembly term, Gray had time to visit with editorial board members of the Merced Sun-Star and Modesto Bee this week. This time, at least, we found only a little to disagree about.
On just about every issue, Gray is on the right track. If you’d like to see the discussion, visit The Modesto Bee’s Facebook page. This is the first joint editorial board we’ve posted through Facebook Live. With election season upon, there will be more.
Gray was most interested to talk about his three ideas to improve healthcare – starting with a push to build a UC Merced medical school. Pre-med students already have online access to courses at UC Davis and UC San Francisco. But that’s not the same.
“Ultimately, I want to see a full-blown, brick-and-mortar medical school” in Merced, Gray said. He knows it will take “5, 10 even 15” years to get moving, but delaying means it will take that much longer. And it won’t be cheap; he estimates $500 million. We figure that’s a nice down payment.
Gray also wants to increase Medi-Cal payments to doctors. Might sound like he’s kissing the hands of people in white coats, but he’s not. Nearly half of his constituents are enrolled in Medi-Cal. With the state paying doctors $18.10 for a Medi-Cal office visit, few doctors will take new Medi-Cal patients. So even with insurance, Medi-Cal recipients end up in emergency rooms. Matching the Medicaid rate – around $45 – could fix this.
Finally, he wants to expand the hours for satellite community clinics. Now, they’re limited to 30 per week; Gray wants it to be 40. Good idea. Other topics:
▪ A law requiring lawyers to either provide 25 hours of free legal service a year or pay a fee to fund it. Good luck getting a room full of lawyers to agree.
▪ Rules limiting how much political appointees can contribute to those confirming them. Duh.
▪ A state tax deduction for union dues. Double duh.
▪ A rule to extend the life of housing maps, cutting red tape. OK.
▪ Lowering prices for big-game hunting tags. As we said, we don’t always agree with the Assemblyman.
Best moment of the conversation? Watching Gray get riled up over the state water board’s treatment of our region. If he sounds belligerent in addressing the board, rest assured the board deserves it.
Gray led a Freedom Of Information Act request for the board’s meeting logs dating back to 2012. By mid-April, this appointed board will demand twice the amount of water flowing away from our farms and cities and out to the delta – where much of it will be sucked to points south. Gray is demanding to know exactly who has been talking to the board and influencing its priorities, policies and decisions. Good move.
Naturally, the board denied his request, saying divulging such information would “have a chilling effect” on deliberations. They’re preparing to cost our region literally billions of dollars a year, and they’re worried about a “chill”?
This issues scream for transparency as we try to find out the state’s actual motives in demanding so much water – especially since there is strong scientific evidence the board’s demands for more water won’t produce more salmon.
Mike Dunbar is the Opinions Page Editor of The Modesto Bee. Phone: 209 578-2325.