Capitol Alert

Universal health care debate returns to California Capitol

Bob Hart of Roseville demonstrates during a rally supporting Senate Bill 562 on the west steps of the state Capitol on May 19, 2017.
Bob Hart of Roseville demonstrates during a rally supporting Senate Bill 562 on the west steps of the state Capitol on May 19, 2017.

Perhaps no measure generated more interest at the Capitol this past legislative session than Senate Bill 562, as activists led by the California Nurses Association mounted a massive campaign in support of the proposal for a statewide, government-run health care system.

They scored a significant victory when the bill passed the Senate in June, but their efforts were ultimately quashed a few weeks later when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved the “woefully incomplete” plan “until further notice” to work through its shortcomings, including the lack of a funding mechanism for the estimated $400 billion annual price tag.

That process begins this week with two days of hearings, 1 p.m. today and 2 p.m. tomorrow in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Announced by Rendon in August to determine how the Legislature can move forward on improving health care access in California, the discussions led by Assemblymen Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, will focus on current gaps in coverage and universal health systems in other countries.

Supporters of SB 562 have been highly critical of Rendon’s approach, suggesting that he killed the single-payer proposal to protect health insurance and pharmaceutical companies that contributed to his campaigns. They’ve held numerous protests at the Capitol and even launched a recall campaign against him, though it has yet to gain traction. Rendon said he also received death threats for his decision.

The nurses union will be back at the Capitol for both days of hearings, holding rallies on the north steps at 11 a.m. to urge the Assembly to move the bill forward.

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Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff