Most of the time, California lawmakers deliberate, debate and decide on bills in public for every Californian to see.
August 11 was not one of those days.
In simultaneous marathon hearings, the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees considered hundreds of bills in a single discharge of rapid legislation. Many proposals have lived to see another day. Among them: Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal for new courts force more homeless people to seek treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues, and bills strictly limit the use of solitary confinement in California jails and jails, allow composting of human remains and increase family leave payments for the lowest paid workersalthough it does not take effect until 2024.
But many other closely watched bills ended unceremoniously, killed in one of Sacramento’s most opaque legislative processes. They included a Republican-backed bill that would have capped copayments for insulin, a proposal backed by the California Medical Association to make it easier for doctors to approve procedures and prescriptions without first getting permission. from an insurance company, and a bill allowing prosecutors to suing social media companies for knowingly addicting children.
This is called the waiting folder. For months, the credit committees, responsible for assessing the fiscal impact of any bill outside the annual budget, collect any legislation whose cost is more than negligible. and set it aside. Then twice a year, after legislative leaders decide which bills survive and which die behind closed doors, they announce the results in a single hearing. In most cases, no public vote takes place and no debate takes place.
In theory, this arcane procedure allows lawmakers to quickly sift through the hundreds of tax bills they need to consider by the end of the legislative session, which arrives at the end of this month. Today, the two committees considered more than 820 bills.
In practice, it’s also a good way for Democratic lawmakers, who hold supermajority power, to kill legislation without having to take a public, and potentially politically difficult position. The stakes were particularly high on August 11. The legislative session ends this month and many lawmakers will retire or be replaced before the next one begins, making this the last opportunity for some lawmakers to leave their mark on state policy. Politically, it was also a tense period: the The November general election is less than three months away.
Thus, bills requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance and requiring law enforcement to let the public listen to police radio transmissions were also quietly killed. Who pulled the trigger? The public often has no way of knowing for sure. We can only count the laws that have succumbed.
In this case, more than 200 were killed, while nearly 600 remained alive.
Here are some of the other bills that were defeated – and the advocacy and interest groups that lobbied them:
No help for diabetics
Dead for the session: A bill of Senator Pat Batesa Republican from San Clemente, that would have capped insulin copayments at $35 per prescription per month for diabetics. Current insulin prices rising on average 15 to 17 percent per year since 2012, some state and federal leaders have lobbied for action with little success. A similar effort for privately insured patients has been also recently dropped in the U.S. Senate; Congress, however, is moving forward with a cap of $35 per month for Medicare patients.
“The decision by Democratic House leaders to uphold the bill blocked meaningful relief for millions of California residents struggling to afford the rising cost of insulin. It was a missed opportunity for the legislature to the State of California to accomplish what Washington, DC, has failed to do,” Bates said in a statement.
His bill has faced opposition from the health insurance lobby, which has long argued that copayment caps do nothing to lower the actual list price of the drug and would only shift the cost under the form of higher premiums.
Proponents said such a bill could have brought more immediate relief to patients. California plans to manufactures and distributes its own, more affordable insulin, but it could take years. As of last week, the governor’s office said it initiated a “request for information” process from drugmakers interested in partnering with the state. In California, 3.2 million people have been diagnosed diabetics and many of them depend on insulin to survive.
— Ana B. Ibarra
A mixed bag for tech regulation
Amid fervent opposition from the tech industry, lawmakers have been killed a bill followed at the national level co-authored by a member of the Republican Assembly Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo and member of the Democratic Assembly buffy wicks of Oakland that would have allowed prosecutors, such as the state attorney general and county district attorneys, to bring civil lawsuits against social media companies for deploying products or features that they know ‘they will make the children addicted. The bill had already been amended to remove a clause that would have also allowed parents to file civil suitsbut that obviously wasn’t enough to overcome the pushback from powerful industry players, some of whom reunited last week with influential lawmakers at a posh Napa Valley resort.
Cunningham, who called the bill the most important of his career, introduced it in response to a youth mental health crisis exacerbated by social media companies conducting “an unfettered social experiment on children”. But tech companies have countered that there are better ways to address children’s mental health than infringing on online platforms’ First Amendment rights.
“As we’ve said all along, protecting children online is a priority but must be done responsibly and effectively,” said Dylan Hoffman, TechNet’s executive director for California and the Southwest, in a statement. TechNet, an industry group that represents companies such as Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram), Apple and Google, lobbied aggressively against the bill. “We are happy to see that this bill will not go forward in its current form. If so, the companies would have been punished for simply having a kid-friendly platform. It wouldn’t have done much to improve the safety of children.
Also dead: Another Cunningham Bill this would have authorized a study to find out if the use of blockchain technology could help the beleaguered California unemployment department verify the identity of applicants and prevent fraud – two things he’s struggling to do amid the pandemic.
However, other closely watched bills aimed at regulating the tech industry have moved forward with amendments. They would like extend children’s privacy rights onlineforce social media companies to be more transparent about their terms of serviceallow people targeted by violent messages online to seek an order requiring social media companies to remove themand increasing scrutiny of the nascent cryptocurrency industry.
No leeway for doctors
The doctors’ lobby took an “L” on one of its priority bills for the year. Senate Bill 250 by Senator Richard Pana Democrat from Sacramento, sought to simplify administrative procedures for doctors. Specifically, the bill would have required health insurance plans to exempt certain medical providers from prior authorization rules.
Prior authorization is seen as a cost control tool that prevents physicians from providing and charging for unnecessary care. Health insurance plans must consider certain drugs and procedures to be “medically necessary” before a doctor can prescribe or render services.
The California Medical Association argued that cutting red tape would allow doctors to spend more time caring for patients and less on paperwork – more importantly, it would help patients get faster access to the care and medications they need. need. A good example: a An Orange County pediatrician shared on Twitter this morning that one of his premature babies does not have access to “life-saving drugs” because he cannot reach the patient’s insurer.
health insurance plans, against the billargued that the SB 250 could instead lead to overprescribing and ineffective care, ultimately driving up costs.
— Ana B. Ibarra