Fiscal Committees Face Deadline Next Week, Suspense File Hearings Set for August 30

The California Legislature this week continued a steady pace of bill negotiations, committee hearings, and floor deliberations as it nears the end of the first year of the 2019-20 Legislative Session. Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees face a deadline next Friday, August 30 to hear and report all measures to their respective house floors.

As such, both the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees will hold suspense file hearings next Friday where hundreds of measures will either be advanced in the legislative process or held on suspense to potentially be taken up again next year. After next Friday, August 30, the California Legislature will enter two weeks of floor sessions before adjourning for the year on September 13.

Below, we highlight several items of interest to CHEAC Members. For a full update, the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Communicable Disease Control

SB 159 (Wiener) as amended August 12, 2019 – SUPPORT

Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 159 was set for hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The measure would allow pharmacists to furnish at least a 30-day supply and up to a 60-day supply of PrEP and PEP to patients without a physician’s prescription if the pharmacist has completed specified training and screens the patient, provides counseling to the patient, documents services provided, and notifies the patient’s primary care provider. Health plans would also be prohibited from placing any prior authorization or step therapy requirements on antiretroviral medications, including PrEP and PEP. Senator Wiener waived presentation on SB 159 and the measure was placed on the suspense file where it will be acted upon next Friday.

SR 58 (Pan) as introduced August 19, 2019 – SUPPORT

Senator Richard Pan this week introduced SR 58, recognizing August 2019 as National Immunization Awareness Month in California and urging Californians, state and local public health agencies, and healthcare practitioners to promote appropriate programs and initiatives to raise public awareness of the importance of vaccinations. Given recent outbreaks and increased numbers of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles in influenza, throughout the state, CHEAC is supporting Senator Pan’s resolution.

Drug & Alcohol Services

SB 445 (Portantino) as amended June 11, 2019 – SUPPORT

SB 445 by Senator Anthony Portantino would require the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to convene an expert panel and adopt regulations based on the panel’s recommendations to establish youth substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, early intervention, and prevention quality standards for California youth. The measure would also require each county to designate a single public agency as the entity responsible for administering youth SUD treatment services within the county and requires that agency to comply with standards adopted by DHCS. SB 445 was set for hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Senator Portantino waived presentation on the measure which was placed on the suspense file where it will be acted upon next Friday.

Tobacco Control

AB 1639 (Gray) as amended August 21, 2019 – WATCH

AB 1639 by Assembly Member Adam Gray was heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday. The measure would set forth stricter requirements and penalties related to tobacco products. Persons under 21 years old would be prohibited from entering a tobacco store, and retailers would be required to use age verification software or devices. CDPH would also be required to conduct random, onsite sting operations of at least 20 percent of the total number of licensed tobacco retailers in California and conduct follow-up sting operations on retailers who are found to be in violation of selling tobacco products to underage purchasers.

Further, the measure would strengthen penalties against specified retailers and individuals who furnish, purchase, or possess tobacco products. Civil penalty amounts on retailers would be increased and suspension or revocation of a retail license would be required upon specified underage sale violations. The measure would also prohibit various advertising, promoting, or packaging of electronic cigarette products in a manner that is attractive to or intended to encourage use by those under 21 years old, among other conditions.

The measure initially proposed to penalize youth who purchase or possess tobacco through a financial penalty of not more than $100, suspension of driving privileges, and mandatory drug or tobacco education or counseling and community service. However, these provisions were removed from the bill when the measure was advanced out of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee last month.

The measure originally sought to temporarily ban flavored tobacco products, but exempted mint, menthol, and tobacco flavors, and potentially preempted local jurisdictions from banning these flavors as well, which garnered opposition from key advocates such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. During this week’s Assembly Health Committee hearing, Assembly Member Gray agreed to amendments that removed these provisions and no longer addresses flavored tobacco, a key issue to be addressed at a later time. Additional amendments taken in the committee strengthened use of age verification software and devices, clarified the definition of an electronic cigarette, and removed specified reporting requirements.

In presenting the bill, Assembly Member Gray indicated that his measure was the product of months of negotiations among several authors of tobacco control-related measures and, while the measure is not perfect, it should still be advanced to address the increasing epidemic of electronic cigarette use among children and youth.

Assembly Health Committee Chair Jim Wood expressed his disappointment in how other tobacco control measures were negotiated and handled by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee (of which Gray chairs), including AB 739 (McCarty) which sought to restrict all sales of flavored tobacco products. Wood underscored the urgent need for action around flavored tobacco products and requested that he be included in future negotiations on measures over which the Assembly Health Committee has jurisdiction. AB 1639 was unanimously advanced as amended on a 15-0 vote. The measure will next be heard on Wednesday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 538 (Rubio) as amended August 13, 2019 – SUPPORT

SB 538 by Senator Susan Rubio would require electronic cigarette manufacturers to submit to CDPH a written physical description and photograph of each electronic cigarette sold in California. CDPH would be required to post the written product descriptions and photographs online and conduct a public outreach campaign on the online listing availability. SB 538 was heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday and was unanimously advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 15-0 vote. The measure will also be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee next Wednesday.