AB 50 – Energy Deployment & Planning. This bill was signed by the Governor. AB 50 addresses a monumental challenge customers face on the North Coast and across the state. Waiting months or even years to power homes and businesses has become the everyday reality of utility customers in California. This is disrupting development of new housing, local businesses, and even construction of critical facilities like hospitals, police departments, and schools.
To promote utility accountability and ensure Californians are not left waiting months or even years for power, AB 50 does three things. First, it establishes improvement requirements for underperforming utilities with severe backlogs of customers waiting for power. Second, it requires utilities to communicate with local governments about the location and severity of their delays. Lastly, it requires the California Public Utilities Commission to establish long-term expectations and guidelines for utilities regarding timeliness of powering up customers.
AB 242 – Critical Access Hospitals. This bill was signed by the Governor. Congress created the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 in response to the closures of more than 400 rural hospital during the 1980s and early 1990s. The CAH designation aimed to improve access to health care and keep essential services in rural communities by providing CAHs financial support such as cost-based reimbursement for Medicare services.
To ensure the continuation of rural hospital support, AB 242 eliminates the program's sunset, granting CAHs a permanent exemption from the ban on the corporate practice of medicine, enabling them to hire physicians. This successful exemption has been piloted twice. AB 242 is an essential step for ensuring healthcare access in rural communities.
AB 286 – Broadband Mapping. This bill was signed by the Governor. More than 80 percent of Americans agree on the need for increased transparency, wider availability, and greater equity. To increase digital access and reduce the digital divide, I have authored two bills since 2021 to improve and modernize California’s Interactive Broadband Map.
AB 286 expands upon previous legislation by directing broadband providers to submit subscriber data to the California Public Utilities Commission. This data will be utilized to create a comprehensive statewide map, which will be publicly accessible and interactive, showcasing areas with and without broadband service in California. Specifically, AB 286 proposes that the map should include details for each address in the state, such as the broadband service providers available at the address and the maximum broadband speeds they offer.
By implementing these measures, we can take significant strides towards bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal access to essential digital services for all Californians.
AB 344 – Offshore Wind. This bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and cannot move forward. In July 2022, President Biden announced an executive action to support the development of offshore wind farms. He set a bold nationwide target of procuring 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 15 GW by 2035. Shortly after, Governor Gavin Newsom fleshed out California’s role in reaching these goals by tasking the California Energy Commission with a statewide goal of developing 10 GW by 2045. Recently, several offshore wind leases were procured by various companies to build offshore wind off the coast of Northern California in Humboldt County and the Central Coast.
AB 344 would expressly authorize electrical corporations, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to jointly enter into agreements to procure electricity generated from offshore wind facilities.
AB 541 – Post-Fire Benzene Testing. This bill was signed by the Governor. Wildfires in California have repeatedly compromised water infrastructure, causing loss of integrity, contamination, and even failure. After the 2017 Tubbs Fire, Santa Rosa determined that wildfire conditions led to its water system reaching conditions of pyrolysis, leading to benzene contamination of drinking water. In 2018, the town of Paradise also found widespread benzene contamination after the Camp Fire. However, California still does not have a common set of guidelines and expectations for testing water systems following major wildfire events. AB 541 would direct the Water Board, on or after January 1, 2024, to require a public water system, water corporation, or water district that has experienced a major wildfire event within its service territory to test its water source for the presence of benzene immediately following that major wildfire event.
AB 765 – Truth in Advertising. This bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and cannot move forward. As health care practices and various scopes of practice have evolved over the past decade, consumers options for seeking care has expanded. Due to this evolution, it is important that patients have a clear understanding of the education and training of their health care providers. Requiring health care providers to communicate and display their proper title, credentials and capabilities allows patients to make informed choices about their health care decisions protecting their safety.
AB 765 would further protect the public by ensuring health care consumers are not mislead or deceived into believing their health care provider is a physician and/or surgeon, and health care providers with advanced degrees do not confuse the public with the use of “-ologist" or "surgeon" or other similar combination of “physician-equivalent” titles.
AB 815 – Provider Credentialing. This bill is in the Senate Health Committee. Health plans and provider credentialing pose many administrative challenges as health care providers and plans share different information depending upon the different credentialing requirements and contractual relationships.
AB 815 aims to address the administrative challenges of health plan and provider credentialing by creating a provider credentialing board under California's Health and Human Services Agency. This board will be responsible for certifying private and public entities as credentialed health care providers. If a physician chooses to be credentialed by an approved entity, health plans will be required to accept the physician's credential from that entity. This proposal simplifies and streamlines the credentialing process, allowing health plans to focus on providing adequate networks and providers to focus on medical care.
AB 869 – Small Rural and District Hospital Seismic. This bill is in the Senate Health Committee. According to the American Hospital Association, rural hospitals provide care to nearly 20 percent of Americans and are often the largest local employer. Current law requires that all hospitals be rebuilt or retrofitted to be capable of withstanding an earthquake by January 1, 2030. However, many rural hospitals are struggling financially and since 2010, 121 have closed across the country.
AB 869 would require the Department of Health Care Access and Information to provide grants to financially distressed small rural, and district hospitals to pay for 2030 seismic upgrades, and delay the requirement to 2035. If funds are not available, financially distressed rural hospitals will not be required to comply with 2030 seismic requirements until funds are available.
AB 936 – Dental Students at Free Clinics. This bill was signed by the Governor. Assembly Bill 880 (Ridley-Thomas, Chapter 409, Statutes of 2015) allowed dental students in their final year at a California dental school to provide supervised care at sponsored free healthcare and dental clinics. However, this limited exemption prevented other dental students from participating in such events, hindering their ability to serve our underserved communities.
To address this issue, AB 936 aims to update AB 880 by expanding the exemption to include all dental students who have begun clinical training at a Dental Board of California-approved dental school. By doing so, more dental students will be eligible to volunteer and provide care at sponsored free health care and dental clinics.
AB 952 – Dental Insurance Plan Disclosure. This bill was signed by the Governor. In California, regulation and oversight of fully insured employee health benefit plans is split between two state departments, the Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance.
AB 952 requires dental plans to disclose whether or not an enrollee or insured’s dental coverage is subject to regulation by the State of California. AB 952 also requires similar information on an enrollee or insured’s identification card, membership card, coverage card or other documentation of coverage.
AB 1091 – Hospital Mergers and Acquisitions. This bill is in the Assembly Health Committee. A California Health Care Foundation Issue Brief found that health care markets in the US have undergone waves of mergers and acquisitions, resulting in highly concentrated hospital markets in 95 percent of metropolitan areas by 2018. This consolidation has led to a fast growth of prices in California compared to the rest of the country.
To address this issue, AB 1091 grants the Attorney General expanded authority to approve or deny changes in ownership for nonprofit health facilities and also prohibits unfair contracting practices among health care providers, insurers, health plans and facilities.
AB 1092 – Health Plan Mergers and Acquisitions. This bill was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee and cannot move forward. The 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation brief on insurance provider consolidation found that when insurance markets consolidate, there are two main impacts. First, as insurance companies gain more market power through consolidation, they can negotiate lower prices from providers. Studies reveal that hospital prices in highly concentrated health plan markets were about 12 percent lower compared to more competitive markets. Similarly, this pattern applies to some specialists but doesn't always lead to lower premiums. The second impact is on quality and availability of services, which is often affected negatively due to the lack of market competition.
AB 1092 clarifies AB 595, which required a health care service plan that intends to merge or consolidate with, or enter into an agreement resulting in its purchase, acquisition, or control by, any entity to give notice to, and secure prior approval from, the Director of the Department of Managed Health Care. AB 1092 adds provisions to extend to health plan transactions, enabling the California Department of Managed Health Care Director to disapprove transactions that reduce competition in a health system or among specific healthcare providers, and share that information with the Attorney General.
AB 1256 – County of Humboldt Transactions and Use Taxes. This bill was signed by the Governor. Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors voted to officially ask the state legislature to pass a bill allowing the County to put a proposed roads tax on the ballot. Humboldt County needs legislation due to parts of the city-county partnership having reached their limit with respect to how high certain taxes can go.
Specifically, the City of Eureka has reached its limit regarding additional local taxes that can be applied to sales tax. State law limits local taxes to 2 percent above the state base rate of 7.25 percent. Eureka represents more than 50 percent of sales tax revenue produced in Humboldt County, so any revenue measure would have to include them if the sales tax increase would produce significant revenue for roads.
AB 1256 would authorize the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to impose a transactions and use tax for the support of countywide transportation programs at a rate of no more than 1 percent that would, in combination with other transactions and use taxes, exceed the above-described combined rate limit of 2 percent, if the ordinance proposing the tax is approved by the voters.
AB 1272 – Drought Preparedness. This bill is in the Senate. The increasing severity and frequency of droughts and extreme weather events in California, highlights the need for climate resiliency measures. We must acknowledge the vulnerability of coastal watersheds and aim to strike a balance between protecting water resources and meeting the state's water needs.
AB 1272 addresses drought planning and water use in coastal watersheds in California. The bill requires the State Water Resources Control Board, in consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to adopt principles and guidelines for water diversion and use during times of water shortage for drought preparedness and climate resiliency.
AB 1331 – Health Information Exchange. This bill was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee and cannot move forward. California’s Health and Human Services Data Exchange Framework is a statewide data sharing agreement that will accelerate and expand the exchange of health information among health care entities, government agencies, and social service programs beginning in 2024.
AB 1331 moves the responsibility of the California Health and Human Services Data Exchange Framework to the Center for Data Insights and Innovation. Specifically, AB 1331 creates a board to review data sharing rules and designates Qualified Health Information Organizations based on criteria, including nonprofit status.
AB 1417 – Long-term care reporting process. This bill was signed by the Governor. Elder abuse is chronically underreported. For every incident reported, it’s estimated nearly 24 cases remain unreported. While there are many reasons why such abuse is not more widely reported, the current mandated reporting system in long-term care facilities undeniably adds to the problem.
AB 1417 eliminates logistical issues by creating a simple process for reporting abuse quickly. Reporters are asked to contact law enforcement (911 or a non-emergency number, if appropriate) immediately so that emergencies can be addressed urgently before submitting the written report to the same three agencies: law enforcement, the long-term care ombudsman and the state licensing agency.
AB 1489 –Compostable products. This bill was vetoed by the Governor. His veto message is shown below. For more than three decades, California law has required Cal Recycle to make efforts to reduce solid waste and promote recycling. Over time, plastic pollution has persisted, threatening wildlife, the environment, marine life, communities, and taxpayers. SB 54 (Chapter 75, Statutes of 2022), the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, was a landmark piece of legislation advancing California towards a more sustainable future. Critically, SB 54 ensured that that covered material offered for sale, distributed, or imported in or into the state on or after January 1, 2032, is recyclable or compostable.
AB 1489 clarifies that that SB 54’s 25 percent source-reduction requirements do not apply to certified compostable products. Under AB 1489, products eligible for exemption must meet California’s carefully constructed compost standards. This clarification is needed as California transitions towards a more innovative, sustainable future.
To the Members of the California State Assembly:
I am returning Assembly Bill 1489 without my signature.
This bill would specify that compostable covered materials are not subject to the source reduction requirements of the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54), thereby exempting compostable plastics.
Last year, I signed SB 54 (Allen, Chapter 75, Statutes of 2022), which established a comprehensive regulatory framework and the nation's most ambitious goals to reduce single-use plastic in this state. It also set aggressive timelines for the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to implement a new and complex program.
While I appreciate the author's intent to support compostable materials, the changes proposed by this bill will interfere with CalRecycle's ability to meet its statutory obligations to adopt regulations by January 1, 2025, as set by the Legislature. I encourage the author and stakeholders to work with CalRecycle on the issue this bill seeks to address in the regulatory process.
For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.
AB 1537 – Skilled Nursing Facilities. This bill is in the Senate. Almost 60 percent of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are owned or leased by multi-facility organizations that have developed increasingly complex corporate ownership structures. Most have separate property companies and as many as seven to eight layers of companies, holding companies, and subsidiaries in control of each SNF. The complexity of interlocking corporations is designed to protect operating companies from litigation, reduce regulatory oversight, and hide profits.
AB 1537 requires that a minimum of 85 percent of a facility’s total non-Medicare health and non-health revenues each fiscal year be expended on residents’ direct patient-related services. AB 1537 aims to increase transparency and service quality for those receiving care in skilled nursing facilities.
AB 1568 – Independent Living Support Rates. This bill was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee and cannot move forward. In 2019, the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) released its Rate Study providing a roadmap to evaluate service provider rates. The study included an error when it assigned rates to instructors providing Independent Living Services (ILS).
AB 1568 would require DDS to revise and implement an equitable and cost-effective rate setting procedure for state payment of ILS. The rate will be according to specified requirements, including that ILS shall not be categorized as a community-based day program or adult day program and the rate setting procedure shall reflect the reasonable cost of ILS, as determined using the most up-to-date United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for California.
AB 1714 – Public utilities: broadband service providers. This bill is in the Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee. This is the second of my two bills introduced this year with the aim of increasing digital access and reducing the digital divide. As highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to broadband has become an increasingly important in recent years. Yet, broadband providers are still failing to serve many rural and underserved urban communities. As broadband becomes more essential for Californians, providers remain under regulated.
AB 1714 would require all broadband companies to be regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission as utilities. Essential services, like electricity, natural gas and water, have long been regulated and we all know that broadband has developed into an essential service, allowing us to connect to the internet to bank, to work, to attend classes and receive health care. It is time that broadband companies be regulated similar to other essential services to ensure access, equity and competition in the market.