Legislature Sworn in, Health Care Reform Among Priorities
Members of the California Legislature on Monday were sworn in and began discussing health care reform and other key issues that will be the focus of their two-year term, the Los Angeles Times reports (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Schwarzenegger last month said that one of his goals for health care reform is to extend coverage to all 6.7 million uninsured California residents. The governor has not ruled out mandating employer contributions but has pledged to not raise taxes (California Healthline, 12/4).
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said that extending health coverage is possible but that it remains a question of "political will" (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) cited health care reform as one of his legislative priorities but declined to state specific proposals on the subject (Yi/Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5). He said that some Democratic Assembly members believe that a universal health care system is the most effective strategy for health care reform in California.
However, the Times reports that Republican legislators' positions on issues such as state spending could pose challenges to efforts to reform the state health care system and enact other legislative priorities cited by Schwarzenegger, Perata and Núñez (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
For example, Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin) said that Republicans would seek to influence legislative action based on the need for some Republican votes to approve the state budget. Two Republican votes would be needed to reach the required two-thirds majority (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5).
In addition, Assembly Minority Leader Michael Villines (R-Fresno) said he will oppose employer mandates on a health care plan (Harmon, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/5). He also said that Republican Assembly members would focus efforts on addressing the state budget deficit (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5).
The Assembly and Senate voted to adjourn after the swearing-in ceremony and will reconvene Jan. 3, 2007 (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 12/5).
Legislators on Monday proposed several health care related bills including:
- A measure by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) that would require girls entering the sixth grade to be immunized against the human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/5);
- Create a distribution tax of 95 cents per cigarette (Sacramento Bee, 12/5); and
- Ban smoking in cars when children are present (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Monday reported on legislative priorities for the upcoming session, including health care. The segment includes comments from Núñez and Villines (Russ, "KXJZ News," CPR, 12/5).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.