December 7, 2018 Edition

California Legislature Convenes for the 2019-20 Legislative Session

On Monday, the California Legislature convened in Sacramento for their organizational session, the first of its business for the 2019-20 Legislative Session. Monday’s session consisted of the swearing in of legislative members, appearances from state constitutional officers (including Governor Jerry Brown), and the opening of the Senate and Assembly desks for bill introductions. The legislature will return to Sacramento on January 7 to witness the swearing in of the new gubernatorial administration and officially begin its business of the 2019-20 Legislative Session.

Notable Changes and New Members

Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly have historic supermajorities, occupying nearly three-fourths of the seats in both houses. The composition in the Senate includes 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans, while the Assembly includes 60 Democrats and 20 Republicans. California legislative rules require a two-thirds supermajority (27 votes in the Senate and 54 votes in the Assembly) to pass any tax increase and to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that his leadership team will remain the same as last session – Asm. Kevin Mullen as Speaker pro Tempore, Asm. Ian Calderon as Majority Leader, Asm. Mike Gipson as Democratic Caucus Chair, and Asm. Ken Cooley as Rules Committee Chair. The Assembly Republican Caucus selected Asm. Marie Waldron as their Minority Leader, Asm. Heath Flora as Floor Leader, Asm. Jay Obernotle as Caucus Chair, Asm. Phillip Chen as Chief Whip, and Asm. Devon Mathis as Whip.

The Senate Rules Committees was also assembled on Monday and includes Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Senators Scott Wilk, Shannon Grove, Bill Monning, and Richard Roth.

Several caucuses announced leadership changes, of which many were women. Notably, the Latino Legislative Caucus unanimously elected Asm. Lorena Gonzalez as chair and Sen. Maria Elena Durazo as vice chair. The Latino Legislative Caucus notes that this will be the first time in the history of the caucus that two women will lead the group. The Legislative Black Caucus installed Asm. Shirley Weber as its chair and Sen. Steven Bradford as its vice chair.

In total, there are 17 new members of the legislature – 8 new assembly members and 9 new senators. Out of the 17 new members, 10 are women. Among the new members are several former county supervisors, former city council members, and former members of the legislature. Previous experiences and interests among new members include business, education, labor, and environmental law.

Full legislative rosters for both houses, detailed by counties represented, are available on online: Senate | Assembly

Legislative Priorities

During Monday’s organizational session, legislative leaders took an opportunity to highlight priority issues. Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins used her address to discuss the differences in opportunities between the “haves and have-nots,” as well as other urgent matters including climate change, homelessness and housing, and education. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, during his remarks, took a moment to remember victims of the recent wildfires and victims of gun violence. Rendon went on to discuss high-level priorities for the two-year session, including economic issues, homelessness, technology, education, and climate change.

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom also presided over the Senate’s inaugural session one last time in his role as lieutenant governor. Recall, the lieutenant governor serves as the president of the California State Senate. In brief remarks, Newsom spoke to the challenges facing the state, from climate change and wildfire risk to disparities in economic and educational opportunities. Despite his party’s legislative supermajority, Newsom spent much of the week seemingly tempering expectations of members of the Legislature, particularly related to spending matters.

New Bills of Note

With the commencement of the new legislature on Monday, new bill proposals have begun to flow. Members of the legislature have until February 22, 2019, to introduce bills for the first year of the 2019-20 Legislative Session. Approximately 200 bills have already been introduced, those most notable are highlighted below:

  • Medi-Cal Expansion for Undocumented Residents: Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula and Senator Ricardo Lara introduced companion measures this week that would expand Medi-Cal coverage to low-income undocumented adults over the age of 19. Recall, last year lawmakers unsuccessfully sought this expansion through the budget.
  • Early Childhood Education: A number of proposals have been put forward related to early childhood education. Among the most significant is a package by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty aimed at expanding state-subsidized preschool for up to 100,000 3- and 4-year-olds from low- to middle-income families. Other measures include a bond measure for preschool facility improvements and reimbursement rate increases for preschool programs. In introducing his measures, Asm. McCarty pointed to Governor-Elect Newsom’s campaign talking points of prioritizing early childhood education.
  • Wildfire Prevention and Response: Several legislators have introduced measures to assist jurisdictions impacted by the recent devastating wildfires, including a proposal to allow California to issue bonds for future wildfire prevention efforts. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is back this year with additional emergency preparedness proposals to allow additional entities, including local jurisdictions and universities, access to contact information for the purposes of emergency notifications.
  • No Smoking in State Parks or Beaches: Senator Steven Glazer has introduced a measure that would ban smoking or disposal of tobacco products in state parks or on state coastal beaches. Governor Brown has vetoed similar proposals the past three consecutive years.
  • New Tobacco Restrictions: Senator Jerry Hill has proposed two measures that would impose the first statewide retail ban on flavored tobacco products (including menthol and electronic cigarettes) and establish tighter restrictions on age verification requirements for online, mail, phone, and fax sales of tobacco products.
  • Tax-Free Feminine Products and Diapers: Assembly Member Christina Garcia introduced a measure to repeal sales tax on tampons and menstrual products and Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez introduced a measure to repeal sales tax on diapers. These proposals carry a significant price tag and have resulted in vetoes in previous years.

The CHEAC Legislative Committee will begin its work reviewing measures, assessing impacts to local health departments and public health, and taking positions on bills beginning in February 2019. As a reminder, the CHEAC Bill Chart will be published on a weekly basis following the bill introduction deadline.

Assembly Releases Budget Blueprint

This week, Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting held a press conference to release the Assembly’s  budget blueprint. Asm. Ting’s blueprint, “Funding Progress, Protecting Tomorrow,” details actions necessary to ensure fiscal responsibility while funding key Democratic priorities. During his press conference, Asm. Ting discussed the importance of placing funds in the reserve, directing funds to one-time expenditures such as pension obligations and infrastructure, and considering other long-term goals and priorities such as universal health coverage and early childhood education.

Governor-elect Newsom will release his proposed budget by January 10. The Legislature and then-Governor Newsom will have their budget-related work cut out for them come January. A running total of measures already proposed this week carry a significant price tag of approximately $40 billion ongoing. Some of the costliest proposals include increasing funding to K-12 schools (approx. $35 billion over an undetermined amount of years), Medi-Cal expansion to undocumented individuals (approx. $3 billion), Cal Grant increases ($2 billion), and menstrual product and diaper tax exemptions (approx. $55 million).

Despite California’s approximately $15 billion budget surplus, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recommends the upper limit of spending available to the Legislature is $3 billion ongoing if it wants to avoid future deficits, particularly in difficult economic times. Heeding that advice, Governor-Elect Newsom following meetings with legislative leaders on Tuesday noted that, “All of this will be whittled down and we all will live within our means. We’re not going to deviate from being fiscally prudent.”

Gov. Brown Appoints Deputy Director of CDPH Center for Health Care Quality

On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown announced his appointment of Heidi Steinecker as the Deputy Director of the Center for Health Care Quality at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Ms. Steinecker previously worked as a consultant at Global Health Consulting and prior to that, served in various capacities at the University of California, Davis Medical Center. Ms. Steinecker’s first day with CDPH was Thursday.

CDPH Announces New CCLHO Executive Administrator

On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Karen Smith announced that Jake Hanson has been appointed as the new Executive Administrator of the California Conference of Local Health Officers (CCLHO). Mr. Hanson has been with CDPH since 2016 and has worked in multiple capacities in the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB). Mr. Hanson has a master’s in public health from San Jose State University, is a certified health education specialist (CHES), and is a physical activity in public health specialist (PAPHS).

Prior to state service, Mr. Hanson led a community-based organization offering nutrition consulting, physical activity services, and family wellness services. He also served as a First 5 Commissioner for Placer County.

Covered California Releases First 2019 Enrollment Figures, Enrollment Slightly Down Compared to Last Year

On Tuesday, Covered California announced that 90,500 new consumers signed up for 2019 coverage as of November 30. These figures represent more than an 11 percent drop in enrollment compared to this time last year when there were roughly 102,000 new consumers signed up for coverage. The decrease in Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment at this time is similar to that seen across the country. Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee notes that it is too early to draw conclusions at this time but indicates the removal of the federal individual insurance coverage mandate penalty and the exchange’s decision to delay marketing until after November’s election could explain the reason for the slower enrollment pace. Still, enrollment is slightly ahead of figures from 2016 when Covered California marketing was delayed until after the November 2016 election. Approximately 1.2 million California enrollees renewed their coverage for 2019, similar to last year’s figures.

Enrollment through the federal government’s exchange runs for six weeks through December 15, while Covered California’s window runs for three months through January 15. The federal government last month indicated enrollment through its marketplace was down by 9.2 percent on a daily basis. The full Covered California announcement is available here.

USDA Announces Changes to School Meals Requirements

On Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced changes to school meals standards to allow additional flexibilities related to milk, whole grains, and sodium. Under the new final rule, previous sodium level reduction timelines will be slowed, whole grain-rich requirements will be lessened, and flavored, low-fat milk will be able to be served. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these changes will provided necessary flexibility to schools that have faced challenges in serving meals that are both appetizing to students and meet nutrition standards. The previous rules requiring whole grains, sodium reductions, and fat-free flavored milk were put into place by the USDA under the Obama Administration.

A number of nutrition experts and advocacy organizations, including the American Heart Association, have expressed concerns with the roll-back of rules. Experts point to the consumption of high levels of sodium and refined grains and their role in increased risks of chronic health conditions in adulthood such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.

The full statement from Agriculture Secretary Perdue is available here and the USDA final rule is available here.

Urban Institute Releases Report on Impacts of Proposed Public Charge Rule

On Monday, the Urban Institute released a report, “Proposed Public Charge Rule Could Jeopardize Recent Coverage Gains among Citizen Children,” detailing the potential impacts of the proposed public charge rule on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The report finds that between 2008 and 2016, Medicaid and CHIP participation increased 15.5 percent among citizen children with noncitizen parents and 10.5 percent among children with citizen parents. The gap in participation between those two groups nearly closed—with 93.3 percent of Medicaid/CHIP-eligible citizen children who have noncitizen parents and do not have other insurance coverage being enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP compared with 94 percent for those who have citizen parents.

In 2016, nearly half of all citizen children with noncitizen parents resided in California (2.6 million), Texas (1.6 million), and New York (733,000). In California, 1.9 million citizen children with noncitizen parents were enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP, making up just over 40 percent of all Medicaid/CHIP-enrolled children statewide. The full Urban Institute report is available here.

As a friendly reminder, public comments on the proposed public charge rule are due to the Federal Register on Monday, December 10. For a copy of CHEAC’s submitted letter, a sample template letter, and other immigration-related resources, please visit our website here.

NACCHO Announces New Technical Assistance Opportunity

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently announced a new technical assistance opportunity – Strong Systems, Stronger Communities (SSSC) TA Cohorts. SSSC will support local health departments in completing public health performance improvement projects through a tailored training and TA program. No monetary awards are available as part of this program, but SSSC will provide training and technical assistance up to eight LHDs and will include an in-person training in Washington, DC. Through this program, NACCHO aims to support LHDs and communities to use performance improvement methods and tools to improve population health and address the social determinants of health across the local public health system.

NACCHO and CDC will be hosting an optional webinar on Tuesday, December 11 from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm to provide an overview of the RFP and application process. A recording will be made available within two days of the webinar. Registration from the webinar is available here.

The full FRP and application is available here, and the deadline is December 21 at 5:00 pm PT.