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.
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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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CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?: A battle is brewing over the expansion of California’s wireless network capacity. Senate Bill 649, by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, would guarantee that telecommunications companies receive permits for new “small cell” facilities, which provide coverage to a targeted area, if they meet certain size and location requirements. The bill is sponsored by the wireless industry, which argues that the more exhaustive process for approving obtrusive cell towers is a barrier to keeping up with the ever-growing demand for mobile coverage, and supported by dozens of chambers of commerce and business groups. But more than 120 cities across California, worried about losing local authority to decide where these facilities are placed in their own communities, are leading a charge against the measure. Other groups concerned about the health effects of increased radiation near people’s homes have also raised alarm. SB 649 passed the Senate in May by 32-1 vote, so opponents are trying to turn up the heat in the Assembly. They will denounce the bill as a “massive rip-off” and a giveaway to telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon at 1 p.m. outside Room 447 of the Capitol, where it is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Local Government Committee at 1:30 p.m.
WORTH REPEATING: “Our democratic system depends, for its survival, on deeper consensus about the fundamentals. Health care ... is a fundamental.” – Brown, calling the U.S. Senate Republican health care bill “hateful”
DAVID V. GOLIATH: Getting “big money” out of politics has become a rallying cry for many voters since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that independent political expenditures are protected speech. But even in California, which has nibbled around the edges of limiting major donors’ influence on elections, campaign spending reached a record $681 million last year, driven in large part by 17 initiatives on the November ballot. Do these stratospheric sums drown out the political will of the ordinary citizen? And can any changes to election finance laws truly make a difference? Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, Republican political consultant Thomas Hiltachk and Democratic fundraiser Kristin Bertolina Faust discuss at the Sacramento Press Club monthly luncheon, 11:45 a.m. at the State Building & Construction Trades Council office on I Street.
BY THE NUMBERS: In the first six month after California’s assisted death law took effect last June, 111 terminally ill patients died from ingesting lethal drugs prescribed to them by a physician, according to the state Department of Public Health. The agency on Tuesday issued its first annual report on the program, with data from June 9 to Dec. 31, 2016. During that time, 191 individuals – mostly senior citizens and overwhelmingly white, a majority with some form of cancer – received the drugs from 173 different doctors.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: California has mandated cleaner energy sources and pursued cuts to gasoline use to fight climate change. But what about changing people’s diets? The food system contributes a quarter or more of greenhouse gas emissions, according to UC Santa Barbara environmental studies Professor David Cleveland, who will discuss why what’s on our plates is critical to successful climate action, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.