Capitol Alert

Universal health bill unlikely given need to ‘heal relationships,’ says new Senate leader

Sen. Toni Atkins says constituents' fear of losing Obamacare is 'heartwrenching'

Sen. Toni Atkins, arguing for universal health care on the Senate floor in June 2017, told her colleagues that hearing from constituents who fear losing Obamacare brought back her own experiences. Video courtesy of The California Channel.
Up Next
Sen. Toni Atkins, arguing for universal health care on the Senate floor in June 2017, told her colleagues that hearing from constituents who fear losing Obamacare brought back her own experiences. Video courtesy of The California Channel.

The infamous image of the California grizzly bear stabbed with a butcher knife inscribed with the last name of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon may have done more than blow up the Twittersphere last year.

The chances of reviving the Legislature’s universal health care bill don’t look good this year, said Sen. Toni Atkins, the incoming Senate leader and a co-author of Senate Bill 562.

“It doesn’t look like it right now, but I never give up,” said Atkins, who knows firsthand how hard it is for low-income families to afford care. “I think given the dynamic that exists as a result of SB 562, we’ve clearly got a lot of work to do to heal relationships and I don’t know how well that will go given circumstances on the ground.”

Atkins was careful to toe the line. She didn’t mention the California Nurses Association or its guns-blazing lobbying tactics that may have done more harm than good. The picture, posted by the nurses’ outspoken leader RoseAnn DeMoro, is emblematic of the association’s strategy to enact universal health care in the Golden State. They rallied Berniecrats, interrupted speakers at the state party convention and threatened to launch primary battles against Democrats who didn’t vote for their legislation. Rendon, who halted what he called the “woefully incomplete” bill after it cleared the Senate without a funding model, said he received death threats.

There were other problems, too. Gov. Jerry Brown expressed deep skepticism and never engaged with leaders of either house on the matter.

“My goal and my desire and what I think I’m good at and what I think I’m strong at is building bridges, is bringing people together, being a facilitator,” Atkins said. “But you’ve got to have willing parties to facilitate and come together. And I don’t think we’re at that place right now.”

The Assembly’s Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage meets for its fourth hearing Monday at 2 p.m. in room 4202 of the Capitol.

Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning rundown on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.

WORTH REPEATING: “Our process and our system let everybody down.” – Atkins on the Senate’s handling of the sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Tony Mendoza.

OFFSHORE DRILLING: Members of the Assembly whose districts border the state’s coast are set to take up a joint resolution today formally opposing the Trump administration’s plan to allow new offshore oil drilling leases in the coastal waters off California. The measure, from Assemblywoman Monique Limon, D-Goleta; and Assemblymen David Chiu, D-San Francisco; Al Muratsuchi, D-Manhattan Beach; and Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, states that the Legislature “strongly and unequivocally supports the current federal prohibition on new oil and gas drilling in federal waters offshore California.”

The resolution urges Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to grant California the same exemption it granted Florida following its Republican governor’s request to remove the state from the list of states the Trump administration said he’d open up to new offshore drilling. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also called on Zinke to withdraw the proposal.

The Senate has a similar resolution, introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, awaiting action.

Angela Hart of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this story. Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments