August 28, 2020 Edition

Rollercoaster Legislative Session Nears Completion, Landmark Flavored Tobacco Ban Bill Signed by Governor

In a legislative year that has constantly changed, this week was no different. On Wednesday, the Senate cancelled their planned floor session due to a member of their chamber testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the positive case in the Senate, the Assembly elected to continue their scheduled hearings and floor session. On Thursday, the Senate reconvened on their floor absent all members of the Republican Caucus, but one, as the remainder had all been exposed to the positive senator during a caucus luncheon and were self-quarantined in their Sacramento residences.

This morning, the Senate reconvened in their chamber with allowances made for Republican senators to participate remotely. As the Senate has the lion’s share of bills being considered in the last days of this year’s session, they will convene on Saturday as well. The Assembly is scheduled to reconvene on their floor Sunday afternoon. Please recall this is the second year of the Legislature’s two-year session and will end on Monday, August 31, upon adjournment.

Senator Jerry Hill took up his SB 793, that 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, on the Senate Floor this morning for its final concurrence vote. The measure advanced to the Governor on a 34-0 vote. Already this afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the measure into law.

The latest edition of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here. Below are a few of the bills of interest CHEAC is keeping an eye on during the last days of session.

Communicable Disease Control

AB 685 (Reyes) Watch with Concerns – On Senate Floor

Requires all private and public employers to notify all in writing employees, when notified of a potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, that they may have been exposed. Employers also required to report names, the number of employees, and occupation, of those infected with COVID-19, to their local health department (LHD). CDPH required to post that information on their public website and requires LHDs to link to that posted information on their local website.

Emergency Medical Services

AB 1544 (Gipson) Neutral – On Senate Floor

AB 1544, that would allow counties to establish community paramedicine and triage to alternate transport programs, was revived on the Senate Floor this week with amendments. The most substantive amendments split apart the governance of the community paramedicine aspects of the measure and the triage to alternate destination components. Of note, the bill requires local emergency medical services agencies (LEMSAs) to provide a first right of refusal to any public agency transport provider when establishing a community paramedicine program. If a LEMSA elects to establish a triage to alternate destination program, they must include all ALS providers that operate within the program jurisdiction; allows for an ALS provider to opt out of the program and includes ability for public agencies to contract with private providers or for private providers to enter into agreements with public agencies to provide these services.

Budget Committees Race to Finalize Remaining Budget Trailer Bills

This week, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process Oversight and Program Evaluation convened an informational hearing on remaining budget trailer bills just ahead of the end of this year’s legislative session. The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee was initially scheduled to meet on Thursday, but the hearing was postponed until likely sometime this weekend.

The Assembly subcommittee convened its hearing on Tuesday to examine budget trailer bills on the 2020 Budget Act, state government operations, and education finance. Notably, SB 115 and AB 86 include provisions that place into statute Realignment backfill to support critical county services amid the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and county affiliates worked closely with the Newsom Administration to finalize details of the Realignment backfill agreement.

Under the measures, three-quarters of the $750 million Realignment backfill must be distributed to counties within 15 days of the chaptering of the legislation. It would additionally require the $250 million amount subject to the federal trigger to be distributed within 15 days of the determination that the federal funding will be made available. Counties will be required to submit a monthly form to the Department of Finance certifying compliance with the state’s COVID-19 public health orders, and any county that is determined to be out of compliance with orders must be provided an opportunity to consult with the Newsom Administration and correct deficiencies prior to a redirection of backfill funding.

With only days remaining in the legislative session, lawmakers are expected to finalize all remaining budget trailer bills by the end of the day on Monday, August 31.

Newsom Administration Unveils New Statewide Reopening Framework, Acting State Public Health Officer Issues Updated Order

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a sweeping new framework that imposes risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how movement within communities affects the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Governor’s Office, the state’s new framework builds upon lessons learned from the first six months of the pandemic, as well as new scientific understanding that has been collected, to create a new system for regulating movement and COVID-19 transmission. The framework includes:

  1. At least 21 days to expand activities beyond the initial tier to ensure California better limits the spread of the virus;
  2. Mandatory metrics – case rates and test positivity – to measure how widespread COVID-19 is in each county and guide what activities are allowed;
  3. A uniform state framework with four categories instead of 58 different sets of rules;
  4. A more nuanced way of allowing activities – instead of open versus closed, sectors can be partially opened and progressively expand operations as disease transmission decreases; and
  5. A new process for tightening back up again quickly if and when conditions worsen.

The state’s new framework utilizes recent data to determine where counties will fall into one of four colored tiers – Purple (Widespread), Red (Substantial), Orange (Moderate), and Yellow (Minimal) – based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each jurisdiction and the extent of community spread. The color tiers will indicate how sectors can operate.

Notably, the state’s new framework relies on two leading health indicators: the number of cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive. Counties will additionally be required to demonstrate they are targeting resources and making the greatest efforts to prevent and fight COVID-19 in communities and with individual with the highest risk. Counties must remain in every tier but purple for a minimum of 21 days before being eligible to move into the next tier.

The framework will take effect August 31, and each Tuesday, the state will update each county’s data for the previous week and make corresponding adjustments to tiers. In order to move into a less restrictive tier, a county must meet that tier’s criteria for two straight weeks. Conversely, counties that fail to meet metrics for their current tier for two consecutive weeks must move to the next most restrictive tier. The plan also includes an “emergency brake” where the state can intervene more immediately for concerning factors such as a sharp increase in hospitalizations.

The purple (widespread) category of the new framework takes place of the CDPH County Data Monitoring List. Schools in the purple category are not permitted to reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive a waiver from their local health department for TK-6 grades. Schools are able to reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the red (substantial) category for at least two weeks.

To implement these changes, Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan issued a new statewide public health officer order available here. CDPH guidance on the new framework is available here.

Additional information from the Governor’s Office is available here. The state’s COVID-19 website also features a tool to determine the status of allowable activities available here.

Newsom Administration Announces $1.4B Testing Contract with PerkinElmer

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California has entered into an expansive $1.4 billion contract with major diagnostics company, PerkinElmer. The contract aims to establish a new laboratory facility, expand COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity, address supply chain challenges, and reduce the cost of tests for all Californians. Specifically, PerkinElmer will increase the state’s capacity to process an additional 150,000 COVID-19 PCR diagnostic tests per day with a contracted turnaround time of 24-48 hours. PerkinElmer will begin processing tests by November 1 and will run at full capacity by no later than March 1, 2021.

The contract also includes provisions enabling PerkinElmer to adopt new emerging testing technologies and expand other testing modalities with multiple laboratory partners. The per-test cost will be $30.78 at 150,000 tests per day. Further, the state will enter into contract for a third-party billing service to recoup testing costs from health insurance companies or other payers.

CHEAC joined the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the Health Officers Association of California (HOAC) in applauding the Newsom Administration’s activities in expanding testing capacity and reducing costs. The statement is available here.

An announcement from the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom is available here. The Department of Finance additionally made available an overview of the agreement with PerkinElmer, as well as acopy of the contract.

State Auditor Determines Federal COVID-19 Funds a High-Risk Issue

This week, California State Auditor Elaine Howle designated the state’s management of federal funds allocated in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic a “high-risk statewide issue.” The State Auditor made her determination based on a series of factors including but not limited to the significant amount of funding granted to the state, the expansion of or changes to programs’ eligibility requirements, program changes that could necessitate additional outreach by departments to ensure awareness of and access to available funds, past audit findings on management of federal funds by state departments that will receive or expect to receive these funds, and the rapid nature of the allocation and urgent need of the funding.

The State Auditor identifies 18 state agencies that will each be responsible for managing a portion of the federal COVID-19 funds. The State Auditor’s Office maintains a “High Risk Government Agency Audit Program” that enables the Auditor to take specified actions to prevent an adverse outcome among an agency or department that is at risk of suffering or producing waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or major challenges associated with economy, efficiency, or effectiveness. The Auditor’s report identifies all state agencies and departments and federal funding received to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. State agencies and departments had the opportunity to respond to the State Auditor’s finding, and most indicated the management of such funds is not a high-risk issue for a variety of reasons, citing existing financial management practices and processes. Despite the responses of the state agencies and departments, the State Auditor’s Office maintains its assessment and conclusion to add the state’s management of federal COVID-19 funds as an issue on the state high-risk list.

The full State Auditor report on federal COVID-19 funding is available here.

Newsom Issues Executive Orders Addressing Various Issues on COVID-19, Elections

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued two executive orders amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we provide a brief summary of the orders.

Executive Order N-75-20

On Monday, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-75-20 addressing a series of issues and areas related to COVID-19. Notably, the order authorizes the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), in consultation with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), to issue waivers permitting pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to conduct CLIA-waived COVID-19 tests. Additionally, the order addresses items related to adoptions, the Community Service Block Grant, CalWORKs benefits, CARES Act “Recovery Rebates,” and healthcare capacity of home health agencies, pediatric day health facilities, and respite care facilities.

Executive Order N-76-20

On Wednesday, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-76-20 extended the deadline for county elections officials to count and verify signatures submitted for initiative petitions seeking to qualify for the November 2022 ballot, giving elections officials flexibility to focus on preparations for the General Election this November.