Think the wheels of Sacramento politics move slowly? Think again.
On Monday, when the California Legislature returns from its summer recess, the Senate Committee on Appropriations plans to conduct a session that is expected to last 12 hours — and possibly longer — when it takes up and either approves or denies 203 new laws.
If you do the math, that’s just 3 minutes and 31 seconds for each bill — to introduce,Â argue both sides, have questions answered and vote on each piece of legislation.
And that’s not counting bathroom breaks.
On Wednesday, the Assembly Committee on Appropriations goes through the same thing, but it will only take the Assembly an expected three hours to get through 241 items on its agenda. That’s because the voting is much quicker. The Assembly committee employs a voting system that assumes that Democrats present will vote one way (usually yes) and Republicans will vote the opposite way (usually no). If Assembly members have a vote that varies from the party line, they need to pipe up to shift their vote.
Also on Monday, a number of bills will be heard on the Assembly floor.
The crunch in appropriations is because the last day to pass bills out of finance committees is Aug. 13. (The last day to amend a bill is Aug. 20, and the final day to pass bills off the floor is Aug. 31.)
Of the 444 bills being heard in both appropriations committees on Monday and Wednesday, roughly 77 of them are health-related. That includes a number of new requirements for the health insurance industry — premium rate rules, prescription coverage, preventive services coverage, post-claims underwriting and several coverage mandates, such as providing tobacco-cessation services.
Legislation to adopt a single-payer health system is also on the docket. So is the state’s establishment of its Health Benefit Exchange System, and a bill to limit management of local health care district hospitals.
As members of the Senate appropriations committee plow through their 12-hour, 203-bill marathon session, they could be comforted by the idea that it could’ve been worse. Just a few days ago, before some bureaucratic maneuvering, there were 332 items on their agenda.