Sen. Ron Calderon returns to Capitol following office search
06/11/2013 12:00 AM
07/02/2013 8:08 AM
Sen. Ron Calderon returned to the Capitol on Monday for the first time since the FBI searched his offices last week.
The Democrat from Montebello spoke for about a minute and a half to a throng of reporters outside the Senate chambers, saying he and his family had "gone through a lot in the last several days," and that he wouldn't answer any inquiries from the media.
"We're all anxious to put this behind us and carry on with a normal life," Calderon said.
"My intention at this point is to do my job I was elected to do, attend my hearings, get my bills passed out of committee to the floor and do the work of the state."
Legislative officials have said they expect authorities to question many people in the Capitol as part of the Calderon investigation. So far, Sen. Kevin de León is the only one to acknowledge that he's been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney's office.
De León, a Los Angeles Democrat, talked to The Bee on Monday but wouldn't say why the federal government wants him to testify before a grand jury.
"They have some questions and they want to see if I can assist in some of the questions," de León said. "They have requested that the information be kept confidential, and I do plan to honor that request."
De León has carried legislation that would have a financial impact on some medical businesses that are clients of Tom Calderon, a former assemblyman who is Ron Calderon's brother. The FBI attempted to contact Tom Calderon the same day agents searched his brother's Capitol offices, and in April it raided two businesses that have been his clients.
Tom Calderon, who is running for Ron Calderon's Senate seat next year, works as a government-relations consultant. His clients include water agencies and health care companies that specialize in workers' compensation cases.
One of them that the FBI searched, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, does surgery on patients going through the state's workers' compensation system. Tom Calderon serves on the hospital's board of directors, according to a campaign flier from his unsuccessful campaign for Assembly last year.
De León introduced a bill in 2011 that didn't pass but would have helped such surgery centers make more money from doing spinal surgeries on workers' compensation patients by increasing the amount they can bill when they implant medical hardware.
Last year, de León carried a bill that became law and made major changes to the workers' compensation system. It reduced the amount that surgery centers like Calderon's clients can bill the workers' comp system for performing such back surgery. Among other things, SB 863 eliminated an extra payment hospitals were getting for implanting hardware in the spine.
Getting rid of that payment was an idea originally carried in a bill by another Los Angeles Democrat, Sen. Ted Lieu D-Torrance. Lieu's SB 959 last year attempted to save the workers' compensation system $23 million to $60 million by eliminating the extra payment bureaucrats call the "spinal pass-through."
Supporters of Lieu's bill argued that the extra payment was "unnecessary and promotes destructive incentives," according to a bill analysis. They said some hospitals "cash(ed) in on the high reimbursements and, in the process, intentionally inflated the cost of medical devices in order to profit even more handsomely," the analysis says.
The concept in Lieu's bill ended up getting absorbed into de León's larger workers' compensation bill, SB 863, which was rewritten in the waning days of session.
Lieu spokesman Ray Sotero said he was "unaware of him receiving a subpoena" and referred questions to the senator himself. Lieu declined an interview request from The Bee on Monday, saying on the Senate floor that he would have "no comment."
Sen. Ricardo Lara, another Los Angeles-area Democrat the Bee sought to interview Monday, would not make himself available when approached on the Senate floor. His spokeswoman said later that the office would have "no comment" on whether Lara has been subpoenaed.
Lara, of Bell Gardens, is carrying a bill that would alter de León's workers' comp law. Lara's SB 146 removes a requirement that pharmacies submit a copy of a prescription to get reimbursed by the state's workers' compensation system.
"After the passage of SB 863, several stakeholders reached out to the Legislature regarding the challenges of this requirement," the bill analysis says.
Backers of the legislation include several pharmacies as well as a Connecticut-based company called Comp-Pharma that specializes in workers' comp pharmacy issues.
Tom Calderon has a client, Industrial Pharmacy Management, that dispenses drugs to workers' compensation patients. The company, which has not responded to a call from The Bee, was searched by the FBI earlier this year.
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @laurelrosenhall. The Bee's Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report.
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