Legislature Faces Policy Committee Deadline Next Week, Another SSB Bill Shelved for Year

Facing deadlines for fiscal and non-fiscal bills to be heard and reported to the floor by policy committees in the second house next week, the California Legislature held a series of hearings this week, each often stretching several hours. Lawmakers continued working in earnest to finalize negotiations and amendments for fiscal bills to be advanced by next Wednesday and for non-fiscal bills to be advanced by next Friday in accordance with legislative deadlines. Beginning on next Friday, July 12, lawmakers will depart on their month-long summer recess.

Notably this week, SB 347 by Senator Bill Monning was heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday. The measure would require specified sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and vending and dispensing machines to bear the safety warning, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.”  Recall, this concept has been proposed in previous years by both Senator Monning and Assembly Member Rob Bonta, but the bills were unsuccessful in making their way through the legislature. This year, SB 347 was proposed as part of a package of measures intended to reduce consumption of these beverages by Californians; the other measures included in the package sought to impose a fee on SSBs, require only specified healthy beverages may be made available in store checkout aisles, prohibit the sale of large SSB fountain drinks, and prohibit financial incentives for SSBs.

During the Assembly Health Committee hearing this week, Senator Monning and the sponsors of SB 347 delivered a compelling presentation of the need for increased awareness of the role of SSBs in contributing to serious and costly chronic disease conditions. However, it became clear during the hearing that the measure lacked the votes necessary to continue its way through the legislature; as such, Senator Monning canceled the vote in the Assembly Health Committee, effectively ending all attempts by lawmakers this year to attempt to curb the consumption of SSBs in the state.

Senator Monning noted of the beverage industry in Tuesday’s hearing, “Unfortunately, the power of this industry is influencing a health committee in the state legislature, a health committee that should be here to protect the health of the people you represent. It is with great regret that we have fallen short of the necessary votes today for the Assembly Health Committee to take a step that is supported by public health advocates.” SB 347 now joins the other four SSB-related measures that may be taken up for action next year.

Below, we highlight other actions of interest to CHEAC Members. The CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart (through July 3) is available here.

Access to Health Coverage

SB 66 (Atkins) as amended March 21, 2019 – SUPPORT 

SB 66 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins was set for hearing in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday. The measure would authorize Medi-Cal reimbursement for a maximum of two visits on the same day at a single FQHC or RHC location if: 1) after the first visit, the patient suffers an illness or injury requiring additional diagnosis or treatment, or 2) the patient has a medical visit and a mental health visit or dental visit. SB 66 was advanced by the Assembly Health Committee on consent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Environmental Health

AB 1500 (Carrillo) as amended June 21, 2019 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo’s AB 1500 was heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee today. The measure would authorize local health officers (LHOs), in consultation with other local and state agencies, to issue an order to the responsible party of a hazardous waste release to suspense or discontinue operations, conduct specified environmental testing, and/or assist exposed individuals. The authority of unified program agencies (UPAs) would also be expanded to suspend, revoke, or withhold unified program facility permits under specified circumstances in which public health, safety, or the environment is imminently and substantially endangered. AB 1500 was advanced from the Senate Environmental Quality Committee to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-1 vote with one member not voting.  

Injury Prevention

AB 645 (Irwin) as amended March 6, 2019 – SUPPORT

AB 645 by Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin was set for hearing on Monday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The measure would require the addition to existing warning labels on firearms and signage at licensed firearm dealer premises to include language stating, “If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” with the phone number. The Department of Justice (DOJ) firearm safety certificate course and written acknowledgement would also be required to cover the topic of suicide prevention. Senate Appropriations Committee Rule 28.8 was invoked for AB 645, allowing the measure to be reported to the Senate Floor for further consideration.

Health Coverage/Health Care Reform

AB 1004 (McCarty) as amended April 23, 2019 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Kevin McCarty’s AB 1004 requires screening services under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) Program to include developmental screening services for individuals zero to three years of age. AB 1004 was set for hearing in the Senate Health Committee this afternoon, and the measure is on consent.