California Healthline Highlights Recent Legislative Action Related to Health Care
A bill (SB 1735) under consideration in the Assembly would require the state to pay $206 million in unpaid loans to self-funded state agencies that regulate nurses, dentists and other professions, as well as require the state to restore staff cuts to those agencies when funds are available, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The bill, which the Senate has approved, would reverse a measure included in a budget approved by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) that required self-funded agencies from the Department of Consumer Affairs to lend money to the general fund without establishing a repayment schedule. As a result of the budget measure, the Board of Registered Nursing has lent the state general fund $12 million; the Dental Board, $10 million; Pharmacy Board, $6 million; and Psychology Board, $5 million. Most of these agencies remain under a hiring freeze, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has permitted some to hire temporary clerical workers. Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), who sponsored the bill, said, "The morale in all of those boards is very, very low because they can't do their work. In some cases, half their staffs are gone." The governor's office did not comment on the issue, but Schwarzenegger's current budget proposal does not include any further borrowing from self-funded regulatory agencies (Nalder, San Jose Mercury News, 6/1).
The Assembly last week voted 44-33 to pass a bill (AB 2704) that would require cities and counties to authorize needle exchange programs under the supervision of the Department of Health Services, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The legislation would eliminate the current requirement stating that cities and counties must declare an emergency before they can begin to operate needle exchange programs (Benefield, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 5/30).
In other legislative news, the Legislature this week is expected to approve bills that would encourage state residents and agencies to reimport lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, approval of the measures would require Schwarzenegger to "make some difficult choices" between supporting bills that are popular among seniors and "could save the state millions" or opposing reimportation along with the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration. Schwarzenegger, whose office has not commented on the bills, could become more involved as the reimportation legislation and other contentious bills near final approval, possibly as early as this month. Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director, said, "Once we get through the budget, and these bills come through the second house, it's certainly plausible we'll get more involved." He added, "This governor is not going to have any trouble rifling vetoes upstairs, particularly on legislation that he believes would harm the state's business climate" (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 5/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.