The forthcoming legislative vote to renew a health-plan tax would seem to be good news for proponents of last year’s controversial bill legalizing assisted death.
That proposal, which will allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients, passed through the same special health care session where the tax deal is now pending, meaning it won’t take effect until 90 days after the session has ended.
But lawmakers aren’t ready to close the special session – which was called by Gov. Jerry Brown last June to deal with a funding shortfall – and start the clock ticking just yet. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Tuesday that Democrats will keep it open for at least a few more weeks in pursuit of several measure restricting tobacco.
“It is my hope that before we shut down the second extraordinary session on health care that we can resolve the tobacco bills,” he said.
The major prize would be an increase on the tobacco tax. Health advocates have been eyeing an additional $2-per-pack levy to boost reimbursement rates for doctors who treat patients on Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor.
It’s a long shot in the Legislature, where all Democrats and some Republicans would be needed to reach the requisite two-thirds vote. (A simultaneous effort to put an initiative on the November ballot in ongoing.) De León, however, is trying to make it happen “sooner rather than later.”