Capitol Alert

Death threats directed at Assembly leader over universal health care bill

Anger over Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s decision to shelve universal health care legislation in California has boiled into aggressive protests and even violent rhetoric against the Democratic leader. Rendon said Wednesday that he and his family have experienced “distressing” death threats since announcing late last Friday that the “woefully incomplete” Senate Bill 562 would not move forward this year.

“The threats that I’ve received are threats that, unfortunately, seem to be sort of a standard part of American politics these days,” he said of the messages, which have primarily come through social media. One tweet prays that “someone checks his schedule for baseball practice,” a possible reference to the shooting of Republican congressmen and aides at a baseball field in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Rendon said the animosity toward him is “misdirected” and should be focused on stopping the Republican health care bill in Congress that is projected to strip millions of their insurance coverage. He blamed proponents of SB 562 for hyping up legitimate anxieties over what is happening at the federal level while pushing a proposal in California that is lacking basic details, like how to pay for the estimated $400 billion price tag.

“I’m concerned about the fear that exists out there,”’ Rendon said. “What’s really bothersome for me is to read some of the threads and some of the comments from people who really believe that this bill would have actually provided services. What’s disappointing is that those folks seem to have been sold a bill of goods.”

Earlier Wednesday, dozens of protesters crowded outside Rendon’s Capitol office, carrying signs that proclaimed “Inaction Equals Death” and chanting “Rendon, Rendon, shame on you. Action now on 562.” One demonstrator carrying a fake knife with “Rendon” written on it pretended to stab another, dressed as a bear, in the back.

It was the second event this week, led by bill sponsor the California Nurses Association, aimed at pressuring Rendon to take up SB 562 after all or potentially face a recall campaign. Outspoken union President RoseAnn DeMoro has denounced Rendon for carrying out the will of corporate donors, and on Wednesday, tweeted a parody Time magazine cover dubbing him the “Insurance Industry’s Man of the Year.”

Other labor groups, including the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, have come to Rendon’s defense. On Wednesday, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents construction workers in California, urged proponents of SB 562 to “tone down the rhetoric.”

“The unfair and unwarranted attacks on him are distractions that undermine the real fight to defend and improve access to quality healthcare that are now pending in Congress,” Robbie Hunter, president of the union, said in a statement. “Instead of attacking Speaker Rendon, they should work with him and other legislative leaders to develop workable policies and to present ideas on how to finance them.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff. Hawken Miller contributed to this report.

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