Capitol Alert

Will Anthony Rendon pay a price for blocking universal health care bill in California?

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon observes the activity on the Assembly floor on the first day back from holiday break on on Jan. 4, 2017.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon observes the activity on the Assembly floor on the first day back from holiday break on on Jan. 4, 2017.

It was the Capitol’s $400 billion question: Would the Assembly try to pass Senate Bill 562, potentially forcing a veto from Gov. Jerry Brown, or find somewhere to park the universal health care measure while supporters came up with a way to pay for the system in California?

Proponents got their answer last Friday when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that he would hold the “woefully incomplete” proposal “until further notice,” urging his Senate colleagues to take the opportunity to sketch out the details.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Rendon said of the bill. “It just didn’t seem like public policy as much as it seemed a statement of principles.”

His decision was not received well by liberal activists, who have pressed to make universal health care a litmus test for California Democrats and threatened to run candidates against opponents of the bill in 2018 primaries. Swift condemnation arrived from bill sponsor the California Nurses Association, which slammed Rendon’s “cowardly act,” and even an “extremely disappointed” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is pursuing similar legislation in Congress.

It could cost Rendon politically in the long run, especially if SB 562 ultimately fails. (Its authors confirmed the bill is finished for the legislative session, but could return next year.) While Rendon has stressed that he supports universal health care in concept, proponents of SB 562 are already angrily portraying him as a stooge for the insurance industry and other wealthy donors.

Led by the nurses’ Healthy California coalition, protestors have launched a campaign pressuring Rendon to take up the measure after all. They held an “Inaction Equals Death” rally at his district office in South Gate yesterday, and are planning another event today, 11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol, demanding that he stop delaying the bill. The risk, they warn, if he does not listen? A recall.

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Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff