This is a tricky one, and I’m running off fumes (#gradskoollyfe) at the moment, so I’ll try to keep it simple.
Basically, in response to Sutter Health’s announcement that it would close Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, Senator Nancy Skinner authored a bill that would require the attorney general to review closures of nonprofit medical emergency services. According to Sutter Health’s statement, the closure is due to new regulations on earthquake safety.
As the news sources I’ve cited below point out, the closure is controversial mainly because Californians in communities along the I-80 corridor north of Berkeley rely on Alta Bates for emergency services. If you’ve ever driven along that stretch of freeway, you can imagine the extra time it would take to get from the Ashby exit in Berkeley to Oakland might make a huge difference in an emergency.
The bill is a fairly pre-emptive measure as Sutter has not laid out timing for the closure. They have said it will be some time before 2030.
Who to call
Here’s the bill text, it’s on the assembly floor and if it clears that hurdle, it’s on to the governor’s desk. Call your state assembly member.
SB 623 passed out of the senate unanimously, an impressive feat for a bill proposing a widespread tax hike. The bill would place a tax on access to clean water–for most Californians in the amount of $0.95 a month–ironic considering that it’s written on the principle that access to clean water is something all Californians are entitled to, but bear with me, it’ll make sense in a minute.
Evidently, the state needs the $200 million in tax revenues the law would raise annually because some populations have been left high and dry by the state in trying to get contaminants out of their water supplies. Many Californians in the Central Valley have been affected, creating an alliance behind the bill between lawmakers representing both rural farm communities and coastal environmentalists.
Who to call
Apologies for the major hiatus: I am in transition, from my full-time job back to freelance writing and grad school! I’m getting my MPH/MJ at UC Berkeley. But anyways, no one reads this blog for updates on my life. In fact, I haven’t written in so long, I’m afraid no one reads this blog at all.
I’m currently working on a story about increases in Hepatitis C in California, particularly among young adults. Hep C is primarily transmitted through contaminated needles, meaning injection drug users are highly at risk and that an increase in injection drug use is probably to blame for the spike in transmission. This is a health issue that interests me a great deal, so I’m surprised I hadn’t written about this one before, but I caught it in the nick of time. The Legislature is on summer recess and will be back on August 21. After that, bills only have until September 15 to get passed before they are dead.
AB 186 has made it through both the assembly and senate committees–all that’s left is a senate vote.
- Would authorize eight counties to pilot safe injection site programs. These facilities would be hygenic and supervised by medical professionals. They would also provide opportunities for referrals to treatment and harm reduction education.
A couple weeks ago when I was down in San Diego talking to Robert Lewis, who is Director of Special Populations at the Family Health Centers of San Diego. When I asked about the efficacy of syringe service programs, his response was basically, “Well, that was a softball question.” He cited research saying that syringe exchanges and other programs that help people get clean needles have been proven again and again to reduce Hepatitis C transmission rates. In the research I did for my article, I found this study that indicated that the vast majority of people with Hep C live more than 10 miles away from a safe syringe service.
What I’m particularly interested in is the cost. Who is funding this? Is it sustainable if we find it to be successful in the eight counties where it is piloted? Would we save money on other healthcare costs? Where would those savings come in (this Sacramento Bee article addresses this a bit)? Less Hep C or other injection related infections? Here are some of the answers I’ve found in my cursory research: The bill doesn’t mention funding for the facilities–it is just an authorization for them to exist, since using the illicit substances people will inject there is technically illegal. This begs the question–how will implementation happen? Are there already facilities that exist?
Check out the bill’s text for more information. The main opposition comes from law enforcement organizations concerned about increases in drug-related crime and conflict with federal law. Check out the analysis for specifics of arguments in favor and opposition.
Who to Call
- Your state senator. If it gets voted on, it’ll be some time between August 21 and September 15.
With all the hoopla about the Paris Agreement, I thought I’d post about a little more state-focused climate/energy policy. Though I suppose we are all breathing the same air. A point that California and many other liberal state government leaders have pointedly made to President Trump since his withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
- An obvious question you might have: what is California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program? Basically the Public Utilities Commission (PUC or CPUC here in California) administers this renewable energy standards program, that determines what percentage of the state’s utilities should come from renewable sources. So basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
- Here is the full bill text.
Who to Call
- Your state assemblymember. We’re at that point in the year that all the bills that are gonna make it to the governor’s desk are out of their house of origin, so anything that starts with SB is in the Assembly and anything that starts with AB is in the Senate.
I’ll start this one with a little anecdote. When I lived in Morocco, only about half the country did daylight savings time. That meant, for about half of the year, you had to ask anyone who gave you the time of day: “Old time or new time?”
Anyways, this proposal could throw California for a similar loop, but given the state’s geographic magnitude, I’m not sure it would make a huge difference–basically California would be it’s own time zone for half of the year.
The Basics, Who to Call, News Coverage, and Full Bill Text
Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. lately,.I could go into the reasons why (they’re actually pretty valid considering that typically when I’m ‘busy’ I’m really just watching Dateline reruns with my dog, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or brewing beer), but my life isn’t that interesting.
Politics on the other hand…I guess I should start by saying something about healthcare. It’s odd, I never knew how many of my acquaintances were experts on pre-existing conditions until this week. That’s me being a little snarky, but in all seriousness, it makes sense that everyone is paying attention to this one–unless you’re of the income bracket that you can pay all necessary or desirable healthcare costs out of pocket (you’re not reading my blog)–you have a horse in this race. So now what? While it may be satisfying to leave Darrell Issa a nasty message about how much you hate him for playing politics with our well-being and you’ll see him at the ballot box in 2018, I’m not sure that will improve anyone’s healthcare. If you have the inclination or wherewithal to read and understand the ACA and AHCA, definitely do that and try to present your reps with constructive ideas on what your needs are and what kind of health care policies would help you and your family. Sure, it’s not a rep’s job to cater to the hyper-individual needs of each constituent needs, but based on what I’ve read, a personal touch may stick out among vitriolic voicemails. Also, at this point, the bill is headed to the senate where it will likely undergo significant changes–make your voice heard! Also, if a measured educated opinion on healthcare is not something you feel you have the capacity for, simply informing your Senator of your position is better than nothing.
That’s enough about the rest of country, let’s return to the Golden State, where we need to consider the all important issue of….postage!
- Right now, if you get a mail ballot, you may have to put postage on it–this bill would require all state election vote-by-mail ballots to have an envelope with prepaid postage.
- I realize that next to the healthcare fight happening out east this bill seems sort of ‘mehh’, but think about it for a second.
- No, really, think about it. Voting is a basic civil liberty, should it be contingent on your ability to pay for stamps? Why should we pay money for something that is by definition a freedom? Also, to be honest, as someone who cares a great deal about voting, even I find mailing my ballot in to be an often cumbersome errand–it would be nice if I was guaranteed a prepaid envelope statewide.
- On the flip side, this would cost local voter registrars money. How much? Would be burden be too great? Is it worth it? Could it lead to more people voting in districts where they no longer reside? (Research says no, voter fraud is not a major problem. Again, voting can be a pain in the ass, and when one vote means so little, there’s little incentive to game the system).
Who to call
- Your state assemblymember. The bill passed out of its initial committee and is in the assembly appropriations suspense file, so a hearing date is TBD–not urgent, but when it comes up, it would be worth registering your support or opposition.
I’ve been traveling over the last two weeks–expect a post by Saturday!
This bill has already passed through the Senate Public Safety committee and had its hearing in Appropriations committee today. I’m writing this on the go, but I would be willing to guess it will make it to a floor vote and you’ll be wanting to call your Senator soon and Assemblymember down the line.
- This bill would get rid of some administrative fees for certain criminal justice programs forminors under the age of 21.
- These fees include adminstrative fees for house arrest, drug testing as a condition of probation, damages to house arrest monitors, and other administrative costs that are typically passed onto the offender or their guardians.
Who to call
In-depth and News Coverage
Excuse the cheesiness of writing about a pot bill today. But I’m in the Bay, so it’s sort of inescapable.
- AB 1578 would prohibit state and local agencies from assisting with the enforcement of federal marijuana laws unless coerced by a court order.
Since California legalized recreational cannabis last year with the passage of Prop 64, it’s had the same struggle with implementation that other states that have legalized face: weed is considered illegal federally, in the United States, of which California is one…weed is legal and illegal at the same time…hope those of you partaking in today’s festivities take a moment to soak that paradox in. In fact, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug federally (basically meaning the federal government has categorized it as one of the most harmful and addictive substances) alongside heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.
This is problematic as the state considers how to commercialize and gain tax revenue from its newest cash crop.
The bill text is here.
Who to call