Special Session Bills Keep On Coming

Three more bills were introduced last week in the California Legislature’s special session on health.

That brings the total to 30 bills in the special session — and counting. Bills on tobacco regulation, bills on end-of-life issues, on food labeling and on what to do with cadaveric fetal tissue.

All of that is a far cry from the statement issued by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) when he first opened the Second Extraordinary Legislative Session on Health on June 16. He clearly wanted to convene a session to deal with the impending loss next year of the managed care organization tax.

The special session on health, Brown wrote in his proclamation, was formed to “consider and act upon legislation necessary to enact permanent and sustainable funding from a new managed care organization tax and/or alternative fund sources” to deal with three specific things: the MCO tax; the 7% hike in In-Home Supportive Services hours; and any possible funding ideas for provider rate increases.

It opened a Pandora’s Box of legislation, however.

The diverse set of health-related issues began with introduction of six anti-tobacco bills. Two regulatory bills (to change the legal tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 21, and to require electronic cigarettes to follow some of the same regulations followed by traditional cigarettes) had hit serious snags in the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization, and legislative leaders used the special session to bypass that committee. A package of six tobacco bills was introduced in the special session.

In the case of a bill seeking to give California consumers more end-of-life options, the bill — ABX2-15 by Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) — had been stuck in the Assembly Committee on Health when it became clear there wouldn’t be enough votes in committee to pass it. So the bill author moved it to the special session on Aug. 17.

The three bills introduced last week:

• ABX2-16, by Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), would expand the legal definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes;

• ABX2-17, by Assembly member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would repeal a provision of law involving nonprofit hospital corporations regulated under the Knox-Keene Act; and

• SBX2-13, by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), would add a tax of $2 per pack of cigarettes. This bill is much closer to Brown’s originally intended goals of the special session, since it could use the $1.5 billion raised by the tax for provider rate increases — or possibly even to replace the elapsing MCO tax.

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