California Healthline Highlights Legislative Action over Past Week
Lawmakers and Gov. Gray Davis (D) addressed a number of health-related bills over the past week before the legislative session ended on Saturday at midnight. A summary of some of the legislative action appears below.
Bills Signed by Davis
- Cancer program reimbursements: Davis on Wednesday signed a bill (AB 2143) sponsored by Assembly member Barbara Matthews (D-Tracy) that allows the Department of Health Services to pay breast, cervical and prostate cancer program reimbursement claims electronically through a private contractor as required by federal law.
- HIV testing program counselors: Davis on Wednesday signed a bill (AB 2064) sponsored by Assembly member Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) that will allow community-based, not-for-profit organizations to train counselors for public HIV testing programs. The bill requires organizations that train the counselors to adhere to DHS guidelines and cover related costs.
- Mental health: Davis on Wednesday signed a bill (AB 2551) sponsored by Assembly member Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) that amends language in a 2001 law to allow HMOs to require mental health providers that leave their networks to enter a standard mental health provider contract to continue to care for their members (Office of the Governor release, 8/28).
- Prescription drug samples: Davis last Tuesday signed a bill (SB 1558) sponsored by Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) that conforms state law to federal law in regard to complimentary prescription drug samples (Office of the Governor release, 8/27).
- Skilled nursing facilities: Davis last week signed a bill (AB 1989) that requires skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, congregate living facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly to make a "reasonable attempt" to contact the individual named in the resident admission agreement or "another responsible person" within 24 hours after a "significant change" in the resident's health or mental status (Office of the Governor release, 8/28).
- Backpack weight: The Senate on Thursday voted 71-0 to approve Assembly amendments to a bill (AB 2532) sponsored by Assembly member Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside) and Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) that would require school boards to develop plans to reduce the weight of student backpacks (Senate Web site, 8/29). The legislation would require the Board of Education to develop and distribute a voluntary survey to school districts to find "creative, cost-effective options to reduce excess backpack weight" (AP/Modesto Bee, 8/27). The bill moves to Davis for consideration (Garrison et al., Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
- Bioterrorism preparedness: The Senate on Friday voted 38-0 to pass a bill (SB 406) sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) that would establish a process for allocation of federal funds to improve the state's response to bioterrorist attacks. The legislation moves to Davis for consideration (Senate Web site, 8/30).
- Drinking water: The Senate last Monday voted 31-2 to approve Assembly amendments to a bill (SB 1822) sponsored by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford) that would require the DHS to establish drinking water standards for the chemical perchlorate by January 2004, the AP/Modesto Bee reports. The bill moves to Davis for consideration (AP/Modesto Bee, 8/26).
- Hypodermic needles: The Senate on Friday voted to approve Assembly amendments to a bill (SB 1785) sponsored by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) that would allow adults to purchase as many as 30 hypodermic needles at licensed pharmacies without a prescription, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/31). State law currently requires a prescription to purchase needles, except for those used to inject adrenaline or insulin. The bill would require pharmacies to store syringes so that they are available only to authorized personnel and not openly available to customers. The legislation also would require pharmacists to provide an on-site safe syringe disposal program and information on drug treatment and disease prevention (California Healthline, 6/20). The legislation moves to Davis for consideration (Los Angeles Times, 8/31).
- Incapacitated patients: The Assembly last Monday voted 58-18 to approve Senate amendments to a bill (AB 2328) sponsored by Assembly member Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley) that would expand the number of individuals who can grant researchers consent to enroll an incapacitated patient in a clinical trial (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/27). Under current state law, only a court-appointed conservator can grant consent. The bill would establish a prioritized list of individuals who can consent to participation in clinical trials for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other mental illnesses, emergency room patients or other mentally incapacitated individuals (California Healthline, 8/23). The bill moves to Davis for consideration (Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
- Medical board: The Senate on Thursday voted 32-3 to pass Assembly amendments to a bill (SB 1950) sponsored by Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) that would require the Medical Board of California to disclose more information to the public about doctors who have settled malpractice claims for more than $30,000 (Senate Web site, 8/29). The bill would require the disclosure of misdemeanor criminal convictions that could affect medical care, malpractice settlements against a physician that courts have upheld on appeal, training and specialty certifications and investigations referred to the state attorney general for prosecution. The legislation also would add two public members to the medical board, which currently includes 12 physicians and seven members of the public. In addition, the bill would establish an enforcement program monitor to evaluate the board's disciplinary system and report to lawmakers. The legislation would require doctors to respond to a medical board investigation within 10 days (California Healthline, 6/19). The legislation moves to Davis for consideration (Senate Web site, 8/29).
- Mental health: The Assembly on Friday voted 73-4 to approve Senate amendments to a bill (AB 1421) sponsored by Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis) that would allow relatives and friends of the mentally ill to petition courts to order them into outpatient treatment (Assembly Web site, 8/30).
- Nursing prerequisites: The Assembly on Thursday voted 73-0 to pass Senate amendments to a bill (AB 2314) sponsored by Thomson that would require the California State University system to standardize nursing prerequisites at each campus (Assembly Web site, 8/29).
- Paid family leave: The Senate on Friday voted 21-9 to approve Assembly amendments to a bill (SB 1661) sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) that would provide employees with disability pay to allow them to care for a family member with an illness or to spend time with a newborn, the Sacramento Bee reports (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/31). The legislation would require the state disability insurance program -- funded by California employers and employees -- to pay "partial replacement compensation" for as many as six weeks when an employee leaves work as a result of a "temporary family disability" and would allow employees to take an additional six weeks of unpaid leave. Employees who qualify would receive benefits to care for a "seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a newborn infant." The bill would require a doctor to "verify that there was a serious illness or a new child" before an employee could take a leave. In addition, the legislation would require employees to take two weeks of unused vacation time before they received the paid leave and to provide verification that no other family member could serve as a caregiver. The legislation would provide employees with payments that range from $50 to $490 per week and cap payments at 55% of earnings for the period of leave. The bill would require employees to cover the full cost of the program (California Healthline, 8/23). The legislation moves to Davis for consideration (Sacramento Bee, 8/31).