On Tuesday, the Senate voted on some 80 bills. One of them was my bill, SB 653, which passed with 38 votes in support and none in opposition (see MOORLACH UPDATE — PACE and HERO — April 30, 2017 april 30, 2017 john moorlach).
Yesterday, we voted on more than 100 bills. I also participated in the Budget Conference Committee meeting, to which I was appointed last Friday, which kept me off the Senate Floor for three hours. However, I was permitted to cast my votes for the bills that were presented while I was dealing with the one bill the Legislature is required to pass every year, the annual budget. The Budget Conference Committee meets to reconcile all the differences in the budget between the Senate and the Assembly. It includes three Democrats and two Republicans from both houses.
The Senate voted on the remaining bills today, to finish up before the deadline of passing bills to the Assembly, known as the house of origin deadline. We completed this task around 5 p.m. Unfortunately, the Assembly was still not done with their bills, which postponed today’s Budget Conference Committee meeting to Friday morning, instead of the afternoon. It should also run most of the day on Saturday. So, it looks like I may not be home this weekend, as I enjoy this critical role.
The State of Reform, in the first piece below, picked up my laying off of SB 17 during Tuesday’s Session. The bill had supportable attributes, but because of the significant opposition from my Caucus, I did not vote on it.
In the second piece, the electronic version of the LA Times picked up some of the action yesterday morning from the debate on SB 268 (Mendoza). The transportation departments in Los Angeles have not been very impressive to me. While serving on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors, I was horrified with the sloppy accounting exhibited by MetroLink, the rail service between both counties.
While I may be disappointed with the Los Angeles transportation management structure, I am not a fan of having local boards modified in Sacramento by the Legislature. I was out-numbered by my colleagues from the Los Angeles area, who were also frustrated with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. But, I joined in the debate and was one of the 12 votes in opposition.
The Mercury News provides the final two electronic pieces with the results of the fun today and this week. The blow-by-blow on the single-payer health care bill is illustrative of the fun I enjoy here in Sacramento. I informed my colleagues about the state’s financial position and that California is not financially situated to take on such an endeavor. It reminded this accountant that Sacramento was headed for a fiscal cliff.
BONUS: We recently filled the Deputy Chief of Staff position with Pasquale Talarico. Pasquale will be working from our Costa Mesa office, in concert with my District Director, Scott Carpenter, and he also brings strengths in the areas of communication and social media platforms.
Senate passes drug cost transparency bill
The California Senate has passed a bill that would help increase transparency for increases in drug costs.
Senate Bill 17, introduced by Senator Hernandez, Health Committee Chair, would require prescription drug manufacturers to notify purchasers of an increase in the wholesale acquisition cost if the increase exceeds a specified threshold. The notice would be given at least 90 days before the increase occurs. The manufacturer would also have to notify the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development why the increase is happening. The OSHPD would then publish that information online.
The bill would also require health care service plans or health insurers to report specified cost information regarding covered prescription drugs to the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance. The DMHC and DOI would publish a yearly report on the overall impact of drug costs on health care premiums.
The bill passed out of the Senate with a 28-10 vote. The vote was split along party lines, with Senator Wilk the only Republican voting in favor of the bill. Senators Cannella and Moorlach abstained from voting.
“Patients who need access to a particular drug don’t have the option to forgo treatment or find another option when the price gets too high,” said Senator Hernandez in a press release. “They are forced to choose between paying for their prescriptions or paying their mortgage – and the public has had enough.”
The bill is similar to Senate Bill 1010, which Senator Hernandez introduced last year to increase transparency around drug costs. The bill was heavily amended in the Assembly to only apply to cost increases of 25 percent or $10,000. Senator Hernandez asked that the bill be pulled after these amendments.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly but has not yet been read.
California Senate moves forward with bill that would overhaul Los Angeles County MTA
The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would expand and reshape the agency that oversees mass transit in Los Angeles County.
Opponents of the measure include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the city and county of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
The bill by Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) was sent to the Assembly for consideration after squeaking by with a 22-11 vote in the Senate.
The measure would expand the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board from 12 to 15 members. It would also reduce the number of county supervisors on the board from five to two, remove the appointment of two public members and increase Los Angeles City Council member appointments by the mayor from two to five.
“This will allow for proportional and fair representation,” Mendoza told his colleagues, adding that the board currently is made up of "haves and have-nots fighting to get their share.”
Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) opposed the measure because he said he saw it as Sacramento meddling in local policymaking.
But Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Palmdale) supported SB 268.
“Too much power is concentrated in too few people,” he said of the current board.
California bills: What’s advanced
this week in the state Legislature
Bay Area News Group
SACRAMENTO — The California Assembly and Senate are voting on hundreds of bills this week before Friday’s deadline to pass measure out of their houses of origin. These bills have cleared that hurdle and will now move to the other chamber for more scrutiny:
You can watch the running debates live at CalChannel.com.
Criminal justice reform:
— A package of four bills introduced by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, to reform treatment of youths and young adults in the criminal justice system. Senate Bill 394 ends life without parole for juveniles; Senate Bill 393, sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, seals arrest records for those arrested but not convicted of a crime; and Senate Bill 395 would require those under 18 to consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights in police interrogations. And Senate Bill 132, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, would allow those convicted of crimes before their 17th birthday to ask the court to seal those court records.
— Bail reform bill by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, Senate Bill 10, passed with support from some Republicans, including Sen. Joel Anderson and Sen. Moorlach.
— Another bill by Hertzberg would prevent the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for those who are unable to pay minor traffic tickets. It would also require courts to determine violators’ ability to pay before setting fine amounts.
Male, female, nonbinary:
— Senate Bill 179 by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would make California the first state in the nation to create a third gender marker — “nonbinary” — on official state documents.
— Senate Bill 63, by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, would require smaller businesses — those with at least 20 employees — to give job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks for new moms and dads.
— Employers would not be able to ask a job applicant for salary history under Assembly Bill 168, by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, which aims to reduce the gender-pay gap.
— Some middle and high schoolers would be able to sleep in a little longer under Senate Bill 328, by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, which would prohibit their schools from starting before 8:30 a.m.
— Assembly Bill 46, by Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would ban for-profit charter schools in California.
— Senate Bill 769, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would extend — and expand — a pilot program allowing a small number of community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees.
— Assembly Bill 450, by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, seeks to protect workers from immigration raids by requiring employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE access to a workplace. Also prevents employers from sharing Social Security numbers and other confidential employee information without a subpoena.
— Senate Bill 30, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would block the state from doing business with any contractor that has build a wall or fence along the California-Mexico border wall.
— Senate Bill 3, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell, is for a $3 billion bond that the senator said will help pay for the construction of thousands of affordable housing units through existing programs such as CalHome. It passed with a two-thirds vote and some Republican support.
— Senate Bill 100, by Senate Leader Kevin de León, would make California the second state, after Hawaii, to commit to 100 percent renewable energy and zero-carbon sources for electricity, which it would need to do by 2045.
— A package of bills to shield California from any rollbacks in federal environmental regulations, including Senate Bill 49 by Sens. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, which makes current federal standards enforceable under state law, even if they are later weakened. Senate Bill 50 by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, is an effort to protect federal lands in California.
— It may be legal in California smoke recreational weed, but it’s still illegal to get high and drive. Senate Bill 65, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would crack down on driving under the influence.
Senate Bill 66, by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, would block companies from reaping state tax benefits on court-ordered punitive damages they are forced to pay for misdeeds, such as a drug company not notifying customers about side effects or an auto manufacturer hiding a dangerous defect that results in death.
A proposal to require pet stores to sell only dogs, cats and rabbits acquired from shelters and nonprofit rescue operations — Assembly Bill 485, by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach. The bill is aimed at eliminating “puppy mills.”
Shorter summer nights:
A bill by Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, has again persuaded his colleagues in the Assembly to pass a bill that could end Daylight Saving Time in California by putting the question to voters. It now heads to the Senate.
California Senate passes single-
payer health care plan
SACRAMENTO — As a legislative deadline loomed, California senators Thursday — in some cases, reluctantly — voted to pass a $400 billion plan to create a government-run health care system without a way to pay for it.
Senate Bill 562, by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, passed 23-14 and will advance to the Assembly, where it will likely be amended to include taxes — which would require two-thirds votes in both chambers.
“This bill, I know, is a work in progress,” Lara said before the vote.
The California Nurses Association, the bill’s lead sponsor, has pushed the proposal hard, organizing demonstrations at the California Democratic Convention last month and promising to “primary” incumbent Democrats who don’t jump on board. On Wednesday, a study commissioned by the nurses concluded that Californians could save tens of billions of dollars under such a system by lowering drug prices and eliminating administrative overhead.
Most California families and businesses, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, study said, would pay less for health care than they do now, even with the new taxes, as they would no longer pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays.
A Senate committee analysis released last week, however, estimated the state would have to raise $200 billion in private funds each year, which it said could be raised through a 15 percent payroll tax.
Republicans argued forcefully against the bill, questioning its cost and the very idea of a government-run program.
“How do we possibly pay for this thing?” asked Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale.
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said he felt like he was in the car with “Thelma and Louise.”
“Colleagues, cliff, dead ahead,” he said.
One of the big questions left unanswered in the thin, 38-page bill is whether the federal government would permit California to use existing Medicare funding for such a plan — or whether Congress will slash health care funding by repealing the Affordable Care Act. It’s also possible that voters might need to approve such a change because of a rule called the “Gann Limit,” a 1979 statewide measure approved by voters that limits the growth in spending of the state and local governments.
The vote put Democrats in an awkward position, and a number of lawmakers made that clear on the floor. Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso, of Chula Vista, said he could not support the proposal because it lacked so much detail that if it passed, the Senate would be “kicking the can down the road” to the Assembly, where, he predicted, it would die.
“The people of our state deserve a more substantive discussion,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m voting on.”
Fellow Democrat Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician from Sacramento, also withheld his support, saying he wasn’t comfortable voting for the bill in its current form. And Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, called it “premature.” He argued that the best course was to hold off on the vote, “finish the policy work,” and put the proposal on the ballot in 2018.
But Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, argued that a single-payer plan “may be a necessity. We may be faced by a circumstances where our health system as we know it is decimated by actions from D.C.”
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, conceded that the bill — facing a Friday deadline for clearing the Senate — was “not cooked.” Legislative deadlines put senators in a tough position, he said, by forcing it to either kill the measure or “say I’m going to hold my nose” and pass it to the other house, despite its enormous open questions.
But, he said, he came down in favor of the proposal.
“We have a lot of work to do. This is going to be hard,” Hertzberg said. “But it is necessary, and it is necessary because the system is upside-down.”
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