May 22, 2020 Edition

Condensed Legislative Hearings Continue, CHEAC’s Sponsored Measure Advances on Unanimous Vote

Both houses of the Legislature continued to convene several of their respective policy committees this week for their one house of origin hearing for the year. As we have noted, committees have significantly pared down the number of bills they will consider, and remote public participation is strongly encouraged. Next week will be the final week for policy committees to meet to consider bills from their house of origin, and the fiscal deadline will be the subsequent week (June 5).

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.

Communicable Disease Control

AB 2077 (Ting) as amended May 20, 2020 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Ting’s AB 2077 passed out of the Assembly Health Committee this week on an 11-2 vote and moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This bill, jointly sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, HOAC, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, would repeal state law requiring a prescription for the sale of hypodermic needles or syringes, and it extends the sunset, until 01/01/2026, requiring pharmacies that furnish nonprescription syringes to provide written information or verbal counseling upon the sale on how to access drug treatment, access testing and treatment for HIV and hepatitis C, and how to safely dispose of sharps.

Public Health Workforce

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

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. The bill was heard in the Assembly Health Committee and passed out on a 15-0 vote. The measure moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Vital Statistics

AB 2376 (Flora) as introduced February 18, 2020 – SUPPORT

This bill, sponsored by the County Recorder’s Association, removes the sunset provision in statute allowing local registrars to accept an electronic acknowledgement, sworn under penalty of perjury, that the requester of a marriage, birth, or death certificate is an authorized person. AB 2376 passed out of the Assembly Health Committee on a 15-0 vote and now moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Budget Subcommittees Convene to Hear Governor’s FY 2020-21 May Revision

Following the release of Governor Gavin Newsom’s FY 2020-21 May Revision Budget last week, Senate and Assembly budget subcommittees convened several hearings this week to assess the Newsom Administration’s proposals and to provide stakeholders and the public an extended amount of time to weigh in on May Revision proposals. Given the abbreviated budget timeline due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, subcommittees are widely anticipated to only meet once prior to budget actions being taken ahead of the June 15 constitutional deadline for the Legislature to pass a budget. Below, we provide highlights from this week’s budget activities:

Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 Meets on Health Issues

On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services convened a hearing to assess health-related items included in the Governor’s May Revision Budget. The subcommittee convened on Monday to hear all human services-related items. In opening Tuesday’s hearing on health issues, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula discussed the gravity of the budget situation, indicating Tuesday’s hearing would be the only opportunity for the subcommittee and members of the public to weigh in on the Governor’s proposals given the Legislature’s compressed budget timeline.

Tuesday’s hearing featured a presentation by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) detailing highlights of Governor’s May Revision and identifying divergences in investment proposals from January to May. The LAO discussed Medi-Cal expenditures and projected caseload changes, detailed funding support provided from federal COVID-19-related measures, and withdrawn investments proposed in January. Notably, the LAO identified the proposed cuts to the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program as being potentially counterproductive to efforts in addressing health disparities among specified populations of Californians, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opening remarks were also provided by California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency Undersecretary Michelle Baass who identified the Administration’s decisions in rebuilding the FY 2020-21 budget as a result of significant economic changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, namely by paring back on Medi-Cal optional benefits, withdrawing its CalAIM proposal, and pulling back its proposal around incompetent to stand trial (IST) individuals, among other areas.

Subcommittee members expressed significant concerns with the Administration’s revised proposals, in many cases voicing sharp criticism of withdrawn or pared back investment proposals. Assembly Member Jim Wood, joined by other subcommittee members, decried the Administration’s proposed elimination of the Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and the Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), Medi-Cal optional benefits, and the Diabetes Prevention Program. Wood further expressed concerns with the Administration’s approach in focusing on treatment but not prevention, as well as anticipated disproportional impacts on rural areas. Multiple subcommittee members additionally expressed worries with cuts to senior services, individuals with disabilities, and health professions training programs.

Notably, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula posed a question to California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Sonia Angell about the historic underfunding of public health departments. Arambula noted the anticipated $150 million loss in 1991 Realignment funding and the lack of public health investments in the Governor’s May Revision and inquired whether the state is taking sufficient action to prepare for the next pandemic emergency. In responding to Arambula’s question, Angell discussed the state’s broad preparedness activities and underscored the need to adequately fund the public health infrastructure in California. Arambula further indicated the Legislature’s willingness and interest in supporting CDPH, particularly in preparing for future public health emergencies.

The subcommittee provided an extended amount of time for public comment which stretched several hours. CHEAC Executive Michelle Gibbons underscored the impact of decreased health realignment funding on local health department services and urged the Legislature to backfill the loss of realignment funding and invest an additional $120 million ongoing to support public health infrastructure and workforce. Ms. Gibbons further discussed the role of California local health departments in navigating communities through the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the Legislature to reject further cuts to public health programs and services.

All items heard during the subcommittee hearing were held open. The hearing agenda is available here and a video recording of the hearing is available here.

Homelessness Investments, Vaping Tax Examined in Senate, Assembly Subcommittees No. 4

The Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration and General Government and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration convened separate hearings on Thursday to examine May Revision items, including the Governor’s proposed homelessness investments and the proposed electronic cigarette nicotine-content-based tax. Recall, the nicotine-content-based vaping tax was proposed by the Newsom Administration in January and was maintained in the May Revision.

Both hearings featured overview presentations from the DOF and LAO, as well as extended time for public comment. DOF discussed the Newsom Administration’s May Revision pivot to dedicate previously proposed General Fund grants to local jurisdictions in responding homelessness to instead dedicate $750 million in federal funds to support local jurisdictions in purchasing hotels and motels as a permanent housing solution. The Administration’s proposal also includes $1.75 billion in CRF funds for direct aid to local jurisdictions.

Related to these proposals, Senate Subcommittee No. 4 members queried DOF on allowable local jurisdiction expenditures using federal CRF funds, legislative oversight on homelessness expenditures, hotel and motel maintenance, and the provision of homelessness services statewide. Legislators expressed concerns around the need for increased transparency and legislative oversight authority, particularly among items included in control sections of the budget. Assembly Subcommittee No. 4 members discussed progress in Project Roomkey, the need for ongoing funding to support local jurisdictions in acquiring hotels and motels as permanent housing, the possibility of exploring master leases with landlords, providing rental assistance, and increasing housing stock statewide.

DOF also presented the Administration’s proposed vaping tax in both the Senate and Assembly subcommittees, indicating that tax revenues are estimated to be $33 million in FY 2020-21 and would be dedicated to tax enforcement and Medi-Cal caseload growth. In the Senate Subcommittee No. 4, the LAO referenced its previous analysis of the proposed tax, indicating the Administration has not provided a compelling argument for its proposed tax rate. The LAO recommended the Legislature index the proposed tax to inflation and require that revenues be placed in the General Fund and not a special fund. Citing the number of policy decisions involved and the projected revenue amounts from the proposal, the LAO further recommended that the Legislature consider deferring the Administration’s proposal until a later date to allow for additional consideration. Senate Subcommittee No. 4 Chair Senator Anna Caballero discussed the proposal, generally expressing support of the concept with certain caveats around backfilling First 5 funding. The item was held open in both subcommittees.

The agenda for the Senate Subcommittee No. 4 is available here and the agenda for the Assembly Subcommittee No. 4 is available here. A video recording of the Senate subcommittee hearing is available here and a recording of the Assembly subcommittee hearing is available here.

Assembly Subcommittee No. 6 Examines COVID-19 Expenditures, Federal Funding

Today, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight, and Program Evaluation convened a hearing to examine the Newsom Administration’s proposals on federal funding, trigger reductions, and unanticipated COVID-19 response expenditures. In opening the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Phil Ting discussed the need for transparency in emergency spending decisions and the importance of involving the Legislature in information sharing and emergency response activities. Ting commended the Newsom Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but expressed concerns around the Administration’s expenditure authority and lack of clarity in decision-making processes during the emergency.

Friday’s hearing began with a presentation from the LAO providing an overview of COVID-19-related expenditures, federal financial support, and control section triggers. Notably, the LAO identified a handful of Newsom Administration proposals that would provide the Administration a significant amount of delegated authority from the Legislature and expressed concerns around the Legislature’s hampered oversight function due to the Administration’s limited information sharing on expenditures. Vivek Viswanathan with the Department of Finance (DOF) also provided remarks on the Administration’s proposals and discussed the need for flexibility in responding to future COVID-19-related expenditures.

Subcommittee members queried DOF and LAO representatives on a series of topics related to COVID-19 and the Governor’s May Revision, including expenditures that could be “triggered off” by federal financial support, ongoing COVID-19 response activities (particularly in skilled nursing facilities and correctional settings), oversight and accountability for emergency state contracts, allocation of federal funds appropriated in response to COVID-19, proposed reductions or eliminations in health and senior services, and corrections and criminal justice operations, among others.

Throughout the hearing, several subcommittee members expressed concerns around a lack of legislative collaboration and information sharing by the Newsom Administration, particularly in responding to COVID-19, procuring emergency supplies and materials, and contract vetting processes. Notably, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Phil Ting expressed sharp criticism of the Administration’s use of Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) letters to inform the Legislature of its intent to expend significant funds appropriated by the Legislature to the Administration to respond to COVID-19. Ting pressed DOF representatives on how the Administration plans to collaborate with the Legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency and expressed the need for the Legislature to define its parameters and expectations of the Administration more clearly during emergency situations.

The subcommittee agenda is available here and a video recording of the hearing is available here.

Looking Ahead to Senate Subcommittee No. 3, Full Budget Process

On Sunday, the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services will convene a hearing to examine the Governor’s May Revision proposals. The Senate and Budget Fiscal Review Committee will then convene its full committee on Thursday, May 28 to finalize its budget framework and act on the 2020 Budget Act.

The Assembly will convene a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, May 26, an historic move in which the entire Assembly will convene to hear the Newsom Administration’s May Revision proposals. No action will be taken in the Committee of the Whole, but the Assembly’s 80 members will have the opportunity to hear from the Newsom Administration and the LAO on the Administration’s revised budget. Further representing a potential departure from the Legislature’s traditional budget process, it is unclear whether a budget conference committee will be convened to reconcile divergent budget items between the two houses.

CHEAC will continue to provide budget updates as information becomes available as the Legislature moves to adopt a final budget by June 15.

DOF Notifies Legislature of $1.8 Billion Transfer to Support COVID-19 Response

Late Thursday, the Department of Finance (DOF) notified Senate and Assembly budget and appropriations committee chairs of the Newsom Administration’s intent to transfer $1.831 billion to the Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account (DREOA) to support the state’s ongoing response efforts to COVID-19 through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2020. DOF details allocations of the $1.831 billion transfer as follows:

  • $1.3 billion for procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, medical equipment, gloves, and gowns.
  • $251.7 million for hospital and medical surge to establish and support over 3,000 beds.
  • $30 million for hotels for healthcare workers and staff who care for or come into contact with COVID-19 patients in the medical system and who cannot self-isolate at home. These frontline workers will be provided free or low-cost hotel accommodations.
  • $159.4 million for state response operations and other support activities, including the general public call center.
  • $98.4 million for testing and contact tracing activities being ramped up statewide.

DOF further indicates that it anticipates federal FEMA reimbursement of approximately 75 percent. In its letter to legislative leaders, DOF also discusses anticipated expenditures identified through the May Revision, including $500 million for PPE procurement, $347.2 million for additional hospital and medical surge, $50 million for food purchases and food bank supports, $17.3 million for the general public call center, and $575 million to support statewide testing and contact tracing.

DOF’s full letter is available here.

Newsom Launches Statewide Contact Tracing Program and Public Awareness Campaign

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of “California Connected,” the state’s contact tracing program and public awareness campaign. As part of the new initiative, public health workers throughout the state will connect with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to ensure individuals and their potential contacts have access to confidential testing, medical care, and other services to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Recall, the state’s contact tracing training program is a partnership between the Administration, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Administration notes that over 500 contact tracers have been trained under the new program and an additional 300 have been trained this week.

The California Connected public awareness campaign has been launched to deliver radio advertisements, billboards, and social media posts and videos in multiple languages encouraging participation and engagement with contact tracers. The public awareness campaign is being supported by a total of $5.1 million in funding and in-kind resources from Jeff Skoll and his organizations, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), The California Endowment, Twitter, and Facebook, in addition to existing media partners engaged in the state’s broader public awareness efforts.

The website is now live. A public service announcement from California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Sonia Angell is available here and California Connected public service announcements are also available in English and Spanish. Additional content, including an infographic, is available here. The full announcement from the Newsom Administration is available here.

Newsom Signs Executive Order on Various Deadlines Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-65-20 addressing a number of issues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order extends the timeframe for local governments to submit claims for reimbursements to the State Controller’s Office (SCO) and extends expiration dates for Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMIC). Any MMIC that would otherwise have expired between March 4, 2020, and any day within 60 days from the date of the executive order (May 19, 2020) shall remain valid for an additional 60 days. Retailers licensed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control must accept MMICs issued that have an expiration date on or after March 4, 2020, as valid during the 60-day period provided by the executive order. This extension does not include recommendations issued by physicians.

The order also waives the 10 percent cash or in-kind matching requirement for state grants awarded to domestic violence service providers, waives the deadline to verify grade point average and certification requirements for Cal Grant applicants, and suspends programmatic deadlines for entities receiving funding from the Energy Commission. The order further