Senate To Consider Bill To Require State Contractors To Provide Domestic Partner Benefits
The Senate Appropriations Committee today is expected to debate a bill (AB 1080) that would require private companies that contract with the state to provide benefits to domestic partners, the Sacramento Bee reports. According to Assembly member Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), the bill's sponsor, the proposal would extend a 1999 state law that provide domestic partner benefits for all state employees. "This is more or less a clean-up measure that would extend to companies who do business with the state. ... We're saying that domestic partner employees should receive equal benefits," Kehoe said. But religious groups have said the measure would "force [them] to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood," the Bee reports. The California Catholic Conference is pushing for a religious exemption as part of the bill. Robert Teegarden, director of education for the group, said that the legislation would prohibit Catholic health providers, such as Mercy hospitals, from treating Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The state Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill because they say it will place small and medium businesses at a competitive disadvantage because they are less able to afford extra benefits, spokesperson Dominic DiMare said (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/4).
In other legislative news, the Legislature resumes today for its final four weeks of the year and is expected to hold a "flurry of hearings and votes" before it adjourns Aug. 31, the Bee reports. In its most recent action, the Senate passed a $99 billion state spending plan at the end of June, and the Assembly's attempts to reach a budget agreement have been stalled over how best to resolve a $23.6 billion state budget deficit. Several health-related bills are expected to be considered during this final session, including:
- Family leave: Workers caring for a sick child, spouse, domestic partner or parent would receive 12 weeks of partial salary under a bill (SB 1661) proposed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/5). Federal law allows all workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The cost of the new benefit would be paid by the state disability insurance program, which is funded equally by workers and employers.
- Needles: Adults would be able to buy up to 30 hypodermic needles without a prescription under a bill (SB 1785) proposed by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). Similar legislation has passed in 44 other states, but law enforcement groups oppose the legislation (Gledhill/Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/5).
- Performance-enhancing drugs: Professional athletic teams that want to play a game in California would be required to test their players for performance-enhancing drugs under a bill (SB 1738) under consideration in the Assembly. The legislation, proposed by Sen. Don Perata (D-Oakland) was prompted by reports of widespread steroid use in Major League Baseball (Lawrence, Contra Costa Times, 8/5).
- Smoking: The state's legal smoking age would be raised to 21 under a bill (AB 1453) proposed by Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood). The legislation is supported by the California Medical Association and targets potential smokers ages 18 to 21, who are "most vulnerable to addiction" (Sacramento Bee, 8/5).