Senate Returns to Sacramento, Flavored Tobacco Bill Advances

This week, the California State Senate returned to Sacramento following its unprecedented joint recess amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Recall, last week, the Assembly returned to Sacramento to resume its in-person legislative activities, albeit in a significantly modified way to support physical distancing.

With both chambers now back in Sacramento, the Senate and Assembly face compressed legislative and budget timelines to advance measures and pass a state budget. Notably, policy committees have winnowed their bill loads by either not setting bills for hearings or directing lawmakers to prioritize their proposed measures.

Below, we highlight several bills of interest to CHEAC Members. This week’s full CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here. As with last week, bills that are not moving forward per authors’ offices are indicated.

Tobacco Control

SB 793 (Hill) as amended May 5, 2020 – SUPPORT

SB 793 by Senator Jerry Hill was heard in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday. The measure would prohibit a tobacco retailer from selling or offering for sale any flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer, including mint and menthol. The measure further specifies that the prohibition does not preempt or prohibit local ordinances restricting such products; if there is an inconsistency between state and local measures, the greater restriction on tobacco access shall prevail.

CHEAC joined a coalition in support of the measure, including sponsors American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Common Sense. During the hearing, Senate Health Committee members discussed the concerning trends in youth tobacco use and tobacco marketing tactics, as well as the importance of preventing tobacco consumption. The measure had a significant number of individuals who spoke in opposition to the bill, largely representing hookah retailers and businesses. Despite the opposition to the bill’s inclusion of hookah, SB 793 was advanced from the Senate Health Committee on a bipartisan 8-1 vote. Senator Shannon Grove was the lone ‘no’ vote. The measure now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Public Health Workforce

AB 3224 (Rodriguez) as amended May 4, 2020 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez’s AB 3224 will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Monday, May 18. AB 3224 is jointly sponsored by CHEAC, HOAC, and SEIU California and would require the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to contract with an entity to conduct an evaluation of the adequacy of local health department infrastructure, including future staffing, workforce, and resource needs.

Access to Health Services

AB 2164 (R. Rivas) as amended May 11, 2020 – SUPPORT

AB 2164 by Assembly Member Robert Rivas would establish the E-Consult Services and Telehealth Assistance Program within DHCS to award grants to health centers to facilitate doctor-to-doctor consultation services. The measure was amended this week to incorporate language from Assembly Member Rudy Salas’ AB 2007 which would specify that a federally qualified health center (FQHC) and rural health center (RHC) “visit” includes an encounter between a provider or patient using telehealth in synchronous real-time or asynchronous store-and-forward. The measure now further specifies that FQHCs and RHCs would not have to establish an individual as a patient via a face-to-face encounter prior to providing telehealth services. AB 2164 will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Monday, May 18.