August 21, 2020 Edition
On Thursday, the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees worked through their suspense files, with several short breaks taken during the meetings for this abbreviated legislative year. Both committees dispensed with the significantly limited number of bills moving through their houses this year – 180 measures considered in the Senate and 89 considered in the Assembly – within a few hours.
Unfortunately, one of the casualties was AB 3224 (Rodriguez), CHEAC’s sponsored measure along with the Health Officer’s Association of California (HOAC) and SEIU California. The measure would have required CDPH to contract with an entity to evaluate of local health department infrastructure and make recommendations for staffing, workforce needs, and resources, in order to adequately fund local public health. The Senate Appropriations Committee held the bill on their suspense file.
Next week, both houses will be meeting on their respective floors to take final action on bills for this legislative year. The deadline for both houses to conclude their work is Monday, August 31.
Below, we highlight other suspense file results of particular interest to CHEAC Members. The latest edition of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.
Access to Health Services
AB 2164 (Rivas) – SUPPORT – DO PASS AS AMENDED
Authorizes Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs) to establish a patient, located within the federal designated service area of the FQHC and RHC, through synchronous interaction or asynchronous store and forward as of the date of service, under specified conditions. Sunsets 180 days after the termination of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.
Communicable Disease Control
AB 660 (Levine) – WATCH – HELD ON SUSPENSE
Restricts the use of data collected for contacting tracing efforts. Prohibits law enforcement officials from engaging in contact tracing activities.
AB 685 (Reyes) – WATCH WITH CONCERNS – DO PASS AS AMENDED
Requires all private and public employers to notify all employees, when notified of a COVID-19 exposure, that they may have been exposed. Employers also required to report names and number of employees, by industry and occupation, who have COVID-19, to CDPH. CDPH required to post that information on their public website.
AB 1782 (Chau) – WATCH – HELD ON SUSPENSE
Regulates public health entities and businesses that provide technology-assisted contact tracing (TACT). Requires public health entities participating in TACT services to purge personal information within 60 days of collection, require any report of exposure to be verified by a health care professional, or public health entity, before notifying individuals who may have been exposed. Prohibits public health entities from offering TACT that collects, uses, retains or shares geolocation information. Imposes civil judgement on public entities for data disclosure violations for reasonable attorney fees, injunctive relief, and potentially damages.
SB 932 (Wiener) – WATCH – DO PASS
Requires any electronic tool used by local health officers to report communicable disease information to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to include the capacity to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data from individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. Requires health care providers to also report a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identify, if known, to local health officers when the provider is in attendance on any reportable communicable disease.
AB 2112 (Ramos) – SUPPORT – DO PASS AS AMENDED
Authorizes the Department of Public Health (CDPH) to establish an Office of Suicide Prevention with specified duties and responsibilities to address increasing suicide rates in the state. Subject to state budget or other appropriation.
SB 793 (Hill) – SUPPORT – DO PASS
Bans the sale or possession with the intent to sell flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers, including flavored “vaping” products and menthol cigarettes, and provides exemptions for the sales of flavored shisha tobacco product for use in a hookah, loose leaf tobacco, and premium cigars.
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to respond to numerous wildfires throughout the state which have been exacerbated by the effects of the historic West Coast heat wave and sustained winds.
Relatedly, the Newsom Administration announced it secured Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bolster the state’s response to wildfires in Lake, Napa, Nevada, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, Stanislaus, and Yolo counties.
A copy of the Governor’s emergency declaration is available here.
On Monday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services convened an oversight hearing to examine the Newsom Administration’s Long-Term Care at Home proposal and skilled nursing facility (SNF) COVID-19 emergency response activities.
In opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula urged the Newsom Administration to establish a public legislative process to consider and solicit input on the Long-Term Care at Home proposal. Assembly Member Arambula further discussed the importance of protecting vulnerable populations throughout the state, including older adults, and expressed the need to include the Legislature in these conversations. Other Assembly committee and subcommittee chairs, including Human Services Committee Chair Eloise Gómez Reyes, Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting, and Aging and Long-Term Care Committee Chair Adrin Nazarian additionally provided opening remarks.
The hearing featured a panel of Newsom Administration representatives, including the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Director Will Lightbourne, California Department of Aging (CDA) Director Kim McCoy Wade, and the Department of Finance, to discuss the potential new benefit. Recall, the proposed benefit was initially rolled out as a way to decompress SNFs statewide amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Subcommittee members queried the Newsom Administration around the relationship of the LTC at Home proposal with other older adult-related programs (e.g., CBAS, MSSP, IHSS), the fiscal implications of the proposal, and aging-in-place services and supports. The hearing additionally featured stakeholders, including from the California Association of Public Authorities for IHSS and SEIU California, to discuss the state’s LTC at Home proposal. During the member question and answer component of the hearing, several Assembly members pressed Newsom Administration officials on the perceived lack of legislative consultation and transparency of the LTC at Home proposal and COVID-19 outbreaks in SNFs.
The second component of the hearing featured an examination of COVID-19 emergency response activities among SNFs throughout the state. Representatives from Justice in Aging, Independence at Home, the California Long Term Care Ombudsman Association, and the California Association of Health Facilities discussed experiences of SNFs in responding to and mitigating COVID-19 transmission risk in congregate living settings. Newsom Administration representatives from DHCS, CDA, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) rounded out the discussion, detailing activities of the Administration in providing oversight of and supporting SNFs.
The hearing agenda and supplemental materials are available here. A video recording of the hearing is available here.
On Saturday, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee convened a hearing to examine the state’s COVID-19 response spending. The first component of the hearing featured representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and the Department of Finance (DOF) to provide an update on COVID-19 expenditures to date, the level of funding included in the FY 2020-21 state budget, and the mechanics of how funding is accessed and how spending decisions are made.
The LAO provided Senators an overview of COVID-19 spending by the state, consisting of $5.7 billion in allocated and planned spending. The LAO detailed the sources of funds that have been made available to the Newsom Administration to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, expected uses of the funds, uncertainties associated with funding and expenditures, and legislative oversight opportunities. Notably, as the LAO indicated, the Newsom Administration has significant flexibility to determine how to allocate and spend COVID-19 funds. However, the LAO determined that the Legislature often lacks adequate information from the Newsom Administration and additional information is needed to practice legislative oversight of the funds made available to respond to COVID-19. The LAO recommended a series of potential options to improve oversight of COVID-19 funds, including legislative member briefings, written notification, and monthly or quarterly expenditure reports.
DOF representatives further discussed the Administration’s spending and transparency efforts. The DOF issued an August Fiscal Update just prior to the hearing, detailing expenditure assumptions and estimates as compared to the 2020 Budget Act estimates. Notably, the Administration estimates its COVID-19 response expenditures are tracking $1.2 billion lower than previously estimated primarily due to lower than anticipated supply procurement costs and decreasing medical surge cost assumptions.
During the question and answer component of the hearing, Senators inquired about a series of issues, including the Administration’s COVID-19 surge projections, the perceived lack of information sharing on COVID-19 spending with the Legislature, PPE procurement, workplace protections against COVID-19, activities to protect vulnerable populations, food bank support, and funding sources available to the Newsom Administration. Notably, Senator Richard Pan raised concerns around the lack of adequate funding provided for public health, including for testing and contact tracing activities, pressing Newsom Administration officials for more details around how funds were allocated.
In closing the COVID-19 spending component of the hearing, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Chair Senator Holly Mitchell reiterated the Legislature’s requests for transparent, frequent, and regular communication with the Newsom Administration on pandemic-related expenditures.
A hearing agenda is available here. A video recording of the hearing is available here.