Today’s News: SEIU weighs mayoral endorsement; Push to expand Medicaid; Counting the homeless

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Healthcare evolution. Assembly Speaker John Perez has introduced a bill to expand Medicaid by more than a million people. It’s the first move as the state Legislature holds a special session dedicated to tackling healthcare reform. The money to pay for the expansion would come from the federal government under Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act. The bill would provide coverage for people who earn up to 138 percent of the federally defined cut-off point for poverty, which is about $15,400. More than seven million Californians do not have health insurance. Sacramento Bee

SEIU endorsement. One of L.A.’s most powerful labor unions will host a town hall meeting tonight to decide who it wants to endorse for mayor of Los Angeles. But the Service Employees International Union has invited just two candidates to the event – City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel – and that has some of the other candidates crying foul. After a Town Hall meeting last month, the SEIU declined to endorse a candidate. But the union now says that it finds Garcetti and Greuel to be the most viable candidates for mayor. L.A. Daily News

Mayoral debate. Pension reform was a major issue at a mayoral debate at UCLA last night. In addition to Garcetti and Greuel, City Councilwoman Jan Perry, lawyer Kevin James and technology executive Emanuel Pleitz took part. Many questions focused on how the candidates would end the city’s recent history of red ink. Councilwoman Jan Perry said she’s not afraid to take on powerful city employee unions. James, the sole Republican among the leading candidates, said dealing with the unions requires an independent voice. When it comes to growing the L.A. economy, Pleitz said he’d focus on development in neglected neighborhoods such as Pico-Union and the east San Fernando Valley. Greuel said she would fight “waste, fraud and abuse” in city government. Garcetti said that he’s helped improve the business climate in Hollywood and Silver Lake, and would do the same on a citywide basis if he’s elected. L.A. Times

Sheriff response times. A new audit finds that it takes L.A. County Sheriff deputies a minute longer to respond to emergency calls in unincorporated areas of the county than in cities that contract with the department. It took deputies 5.8 minutes to get on scene in unincorporated areas, compared to 4.8 minutes in contract cities. The audit follows complaints by L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina that the Sheriff’s Department has been deploying its resources in a way that favors contract cities. Sheriff’s officials say the extra minute of response time is due to unincorporated areas being more spread out and having more difficult road conditions. L.A. Times

Homeless tally. L.A. County for years has had the dubious distinction of being the homeless capital of the country. That’s partly due to the weather, but the state’s high cost of living and struggling economy haven’t helped. Every two years, officials try to count all of the region’s homeless, and the latest effort is now underway. The 2011 count found about 45,000 people sleeping on the street on a given night. That was about 2,000 less than in 2009. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin