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Forest Management

The Little Hoover Commission is reviewing the state’s forest management in response to the tree mortality crisis in the Sierra Nevada.  The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in November 2016 that approximately 62 million trees have died statewide on federal, state and private lands this year, up 114 percent from the 29 million that died in 2015.  The tally brings to 102 million the number of trees that have died in California forests during years of drought and bark beetle infestations since 2010.  Most of the dead trees, the USDA stated, are in the southern and central Sierra region, though northern counties are showing increasing tree mortality. In October 2015, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency and issued an executive order in response to the crisis.  A Tree Mortality Task Force was created to “coordinate emergency protective actions and monitor ongoing conditions to address the tree mortality resulting from four years of unprecedented drought and resulting bark beetle infestations across large regions of the state. ” As of May 2016, 10 counties and 28 state, eight federal, 10 utility and 23 nongovernmental entities had joined the task force to address the 19 directives in the executive order.  Working groups focus on forest health & resilience, mapping & monitoring, prescribed fire, public outreach, regulations, resource allocation, and utilization (bioenergy and market development).  Through its public process, the Commission will study the state’s response to the crisis, including the tree die-off’s intersection with catastrophic wildfire, greenhouse gas emission and watershed health.  The Commission also intends to look beyond the crisis and examine the state’s plans for recovery and its strategy to position itself ahead of future crises.  The Commission will build on previous and ongoing work, including its 2014 climate change adaptation study and testimony from the Fire Districts Association of California and others in its study on special districts.  If you would like more information regarding this study, please contact project manager Krystal Beckham at krystal. beckham[at]lhc. ca. gov or at (916) 445-2125.  To be notified electronically of meetings, events, or when the review is complete, please send a request to littlehoover@lhc. ca. gov. Previous StudiesGoverning California Through Climate Change(Report #221, July 2014) Timber Harvest Plans: A Flawed Effort to Balance Economic & Environmental Needs (Report #126, June 1994)
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Voter Participation

The Little Hoover Commission is reviewing voter participation in California.  According to the California Secretary of State, more Californians – some 19 million – registered to vote in the November 2016 presidential election than ever before.  And more of California’s registered voters – approximately 14. 6 million – exercised their right to cast a vote.  Despite the historic high registration and turnout for the 2016 presidential election, 25 percent of registered voters and nearly half of California’s 24. 8 million eligible voters did not participate in the election. In recent years, California lawmakers have consistently passed reforms intended to increase voter registration opportunities, improve access to the electoral process, and ensure that vote-by-mail ballots are counted, among others.  Some notable reforms include pre-registration for 16-year-olds, conditional same day voter registration at certain locations, a new Motor Voter program to automate voter registration for individuals when obtaining or renewing identification cards or driver licenses with the DMV and a new option for counties to conduct all-mailed ballot elections and use vote centers and ballot drop-off locations prior to election day rather than operate polling places only on election day. With this study, the Little Hoover Commission will review the landscape of voter participation in California to better understand who is participating in California’s elections, who is not and some of the reasons individuals who are eligible to vote do not register or turn out to cast a ballot.  The Commission also will review the status of recently enacted reforms aimed at easing the voter registration process and consider what else can be done to ensure that new programs intended to make it easier for eligible Californians to vote get implemented effectively.  Through its public process, the Commission also intends to study best practices in other nations, states and localities to explore and consider opportunities to further increase voter registration and turnout rates in California. If you would like more information regarding this study, please contact Tamar Lazarus at tamar. lazarus@lhc. ca. gov or at 916-445-2125. To be notified electronically of meetings, events, or when the review is complete, please send a request to littlehoover@lhc. ca. gov.  
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Follow-Up Study Concerning Denti-Cal

The Little Hoover Commission is examining the Denti-Cal program as a follow up to the Commission’s report Fixing Denti-Cal (April 2016). That report found the state program, which cares for half the state’s children, fell disastrously short. Primary reasons for poor utilization rates were the lack of providers and dismal reimbursement rates. In response to the Commission’s findings California lawmakers passed SB 1098 (Cannella, 2016), which requires DHCS to issue a report on October 1, 2017 on progress made towards the goal of raising the Denti-Cal utilization rate to 60 percent and AB 2207 (Wood, 2016), which made several reforms intended to improve access to the 6 million children who are eligible for the program. On October 26, 2017, the Little Hoover Commission heard an update from DHCS Director Jennifer Kent on the improvements underway based on the Commission’s recommendations and recent law. Following the meeting, the Commission on November 20, 2017, issued a letter to the Governor and Legislature documenting continued concerns regarding the level of reform still needed to fix the broken Denti-Cal program.   The Commission will continue to monitor developments made by DHCS and will hold a public meeting in the spring. If you would like more information regarding this study, please contact Tamar Lazarus at tamar. lazarus@lhc. ca. gov or at 916-445-2125. To be notified electronically of meetings, events, or when the review is complete, please send a request to littlehoover@lhc. ca. gov. Little Hoover Commission LetterDenti-Cal Program Still Broken(Letter, November 20, 2017) Previous StudiesFixing Denti-Cal(Report #230, April 2016) 
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Artificial Intelligence: Applications and Implications

The Little Hoover Commission is reviewing the impacts of artificial intelligence.   While there is no singular definition, artificial intelligence encompasses a broad range of technologies that seek to approximate some aspect of human intelligence or behavior.  In a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, the vast majority of the 1,896 experts anticipated that robotics and artificial intelligence will “permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025. ”  The Commission’s artificial intelligence project will investigate the shape and speed of these changes in California and in society. Through its public process, the Commission intends to study the key challenges of artificial intelligence in California, its economic implications and how it can be used to solve societal ills.   The Commission will review issues such as justice, equity, safety and privacy. The project will consider recent studies on workforce impacts, which could include both job creation and job displacement.   Possible mitigations and worker protections will be discussed as will examples of efforts to plan and prepare for innovations and labor transformations.   In addition, the Commission will review how artificial intelligence can be used as a key tool to address social problems such as HIV prevention. Throughout its study, the Commission will consider the potential policy role of California state government in areas such as regulation, workforce development and retraining. If you would like more information regarding this study, please contact Terri Hardy at terri. hardy@lhc. ca. gov or at 916-445-2125. To be notified electronically of meetings, events or when the review is complete, please send a request to littlehoover@lhc. ca. gov.
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