Whirlwind of Legislative Activities as Lawmakers Return from Spring Recess

This week featured a flurry of activities in and around the State Capitol with numerous lengthy policy committee hearings, floor debate, and several demonstrations as lawmakers returned to Sacramento from their 10-day Spring Recess. A series of notable measures, including those related to COVID-19, reproductive health, criminal justice, and health coverage, were considered by lawmakers and attracted numerous stakeholders and members of the public to the Capitol this week.

Of particular interest, Senator Richard Pan, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, announced he has shelved another one of his COVID-19-related measures. SB 1464 would have required county sheriffs to enforce public health orders and would have withheld pandemic response funds for any law enforcement agency that publicly indicates they will not follow a public health order. The measure was set for hearing in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday after Senator Pan previously delayed its hearing after receiving opposition from certain stakeholders. At the beginning of Wednesday’s Senate Health Committee hearing, Senator Pan announced he would be holding the measure in the legislative process.

Senator Pan, in announcing his decision, read a statement recognizing and applauding the work of local public health officials statewide. In part, he noted:

“Public health officers … are public safety officials whose work protects more lives than almost any other profession, although too often that work is taken for granted. … Their duty is to be above politics and to make recommendations based on science and in service of the health of the public, even at the risk to their own jobs and careers. Unfortunately, hundreds of public health officers nationally have left their jobs during the pandemic, many courageously resigning or being forced out for truly speaking truth to power. … Numerous public health officers, particularly women, have received deaths threats and required security, all while each of them have been working 24/7 with their staffs to prevent COVID-19 in their locality.

… The politicization of public health has had serious consequences. Law enforcement is also not immune from COVID. … COVID was the leading cause of law enforcement deaths in 2020 and in 2021 with almost three times as many law enforcement officers killed by COVID than firearms in 2021. Despite this tremendous loss of life and injury as well as economic damage from COVID, public health officers have not received the support they need to protect us. … Although SB 1464 is not being heard today, I must acknowledge and recognize the courage and sacrifice of our public health officers and workers – our heroes. I, and many of my legislative colleagues, will not give up in helping you protect the health of our communities and state. I ask Californians to respect and honor our front-line public health leaders and workers. Thank you.”

SB 1464’s pause follows that of Senator Pan’s SB 871 which would have required school students to be fully immunized against COVID-19. Senator Pan announced SB 871 would be held just last week.

Also, of note this week, the Senate on Monday confirmed a handful of appointments to the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). After having their appointments advanced by the Senate Rules Committee just prior to Spring Recess, DHCS Director Michelle Baass was confirmed on a 32-1 vote and CalHHS Undersecretary Marko Mijic and CalHHS Deputy Secretary for Program and Fiscal Affairs Brendan McCarthy were each confirmed on a 35-1 vote.

Looking ahead, lawmakers stand to have another busy week next week, facing a legislative deadline for bills with a fiscal impact to be heard and reported by policy committees to fiscal committees in their house of origin on Friday, April 29.  

Below, we highlight several measures of interest from this week. For a full update, the latest edition of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Cannabis – Medical/Adult Use

SB 1097 (Pan) as amended March 29, 2022 – SPECIAL INTEREST BILL

SB 1097 authored by Senator Richard Pan would require the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), in consultation with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to create a single-page brochure including information on the safer use of cannabis and requires cannabis products to display large warning labels with various messaging. The measure was heard this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Communicable Disease Control

AB 2098 (Low) as amended April 20, 2022 – WATCH

Assembly Member Evan Low’s AB 2098 would designate dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 by physicians and surgeons as unprofessional conduct. The measure also specifies factors to be considered by the Medical Board of California prior to disciplinary actions against a licensee. AB 2098 was heard in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday and was advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 12-5 vote with two members not voting.

SB 1234 (Pan) as introduced February 17, 2022 – SUPPORT

Senator Richard Pan’s SB 1234 would require reimbursement in the Family PACT program, subject to appropriation and draw down of FFP, for sexually transmitted disease (STD)-related services to those who are uninsured, income-eligible patients, and patients concerned with confidentiality who are not at risk for pregnancy or do not need contraceptive services. SB 1234 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Health Coverage/ Health Care Reform

SB 872 (Dodd) as introduced January 24, 2022 – SUPPORT

Senator Bill Dodd’s SB 872 would authorize a county or a city and county to operate a licensed mobile pharmacy unit to provide prescription medication to individuals with no fixed address, living in county-owned housing facilities, and Medi-Cal beneficiaries whose care plans are operated by the county, health district, or a joint powers authority. SB 872 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Drug & Alcohol Services

AB 1673 (Seyarto) as Amended April 18, 2022 – SUPPORT

AB 1673 authored by Assembly Member Kelly Seyarto was heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. The measure would establish the California Fentanyl Abuse Task Force to conduct specified activities to prevent fentanyl abuse and increase public awareness. Various departments and stakeholders would be included in the Task Force, including CHEAC, the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), among others. AB 1673 was unanimously passed on a 7-0 vote and now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Environmental Health

SB 972 (Gonzalez) as introduced February 10, 2022 – OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED

Senator Lena Gonzalez’s SB 972would enact a series of changes to the California Retail Food Code, including establishing a new type of food facility known as a “compact mobile food facility.” The measure would remove annual sales limitations for Cottage Food Operations (CFOs) and Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs), modify provisions related to food safety principles, sinks and water supplies, restroom access, and more. The measure would also remove local enforcement agency authorities to issue infractions and misdemeanors for California Retail Food Code violations and limit enforcement actions for sidewalk vendors to administrative fines.

CHEAC has joined CAEHA, HOAC, and CSAC in an “oppose unless amended” position to reinstate numerous public health protective provisions to the bill, including those related to CFO and MEHKO sales caps, preparation of raw meats, and enforcement authorities. SB 972 was heard in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday where it was advanced with amendments to the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 9-1 vote with one member not voting. CHEAC, along with our county colleagues, will continue engaging with the author and sponsors to refine remaining aspects of the bill.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

AB 2546 (Nazarian) as amended April 20, 2022 – OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED         

Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian’s AB 2546 would set forth the right of long-term care facility residents to in-person, onsite, access to a minimum of two designated support persons during any public health emergency in which visitations are suspended by state or local order. CHEAC and HOAC are in an “oppose unless amended” position on this bill as it would curtail public health authorities during a declared emergency or health emergency. AB 2546 was heard in the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee on Tuesday and was advanced on a 6-1 vote with one member not voting. The measure advances to Assembly Health Committee where it will be heard next week.

Tobacco Control

AB 1690 (L. Rivas) as amended April 20, 2022 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Luz Rivas’ AB 1690 would prohibit the sale or distribution of a single-use electronic cigarette statewide. The measure was heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and advanced to the Assembly Floor on a 7-2 vote with two members not voting.