Gov. Jerry Brown had approximately 700 bills awaiting his signature as the Sept. 30 bill-signing deadline approached. Which of your bills was signed during this last-minute rush, and were there any bills that didn’t get signed that you feel should have been?
I have had several bills signed into law by Gov. Brown that I am very proud of. First, Assembly Bill (AB) 441 includes projects and programs that promote health, and that have been employed by metropolitan planning organizations, into the California Transportation Commission’s Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines to provide guidance on transportation planning and development. By considering these plans, regional transportation planning agencies can incorporate walking, bicycling, and other related activities that reduce traffic congestion and promote a healthy environment into their planning documents.
Second, AB 1784 will allow the Department of Fish and Game to continue mountain lion research by authorizing it to issue research permits to educational institutions, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and qualified individuals. Mountain lion research is important because it benefits both the mountain lions and human safety by improving our understanding of lion behaviors and movement patterns. One of the pioneering projects in this regard is affiliated with the UC Santa Cruz.
Third, AB 1453 will establish the Kaiser Small Group HMO 30 plan as the Essential Health Benefit (EHB) benchmark plan for individual and small group health plan products licensed by the Department of Managed Health Care. Federal guidance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires states to designate a benchmark plan for individual and small group health plan contracts, both inside and outside of health benefit exchanges, to cover EHBs by Jan. 1, 2014. Essential health benefits must include 10 general categories, such as ambulatory patient services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; and prevention and screening programs. Californians will also have access to vision screening, tobacco cessation programs, and acupuncture treatments for pain and nausea.
Fourth, AB 2332 will provide some relief to Santa Cruz County residents who sustained property damage or loss as a result of the severe March 2011 storm. As many residents remember, the March 2011 storm was extremely devastating and Santa Cruz County sustained $15 million in damages, 30 percent of the statewide total. While Gov. Brown proclaimed the event a state disaster, no state funds were made available to assist those impacted by the March 2011 storm and the federal government denied the state’s request for federal financial assistance. AB 2332 allows individuals to file an amended state tax return going as far back as the 2010 tax return and deduct the loss attributable to the disaster by Oct. 15, 2012. For additional details on the process for filing or to determine if you are eligible for disaster loss treatment, individuals can reference Franchise Tax Board Publication 1034, Internal Revenue Service Publication 547, or consult with your tax adviser.
Unfortunately, my biggest disappointment was the governor’s veto of AB 1461. This bill would have reformed California’s health insurance market by requiring healthcare plans licensed by the Department of Managed Health Care to accept enrollees with preexisting conditions during initial, annual and special enrollment periods, as well as limiting the ability of health plans to base premium rates only on age, geography, and family size. Because the ACA requires states to limit the factors plans can use to determine premium rates and eliminate the use of preexisting condition exclusions, California has to comply with federal law and quickly enact legislation addressing these two issues in the Extraordinary Legislative Session called by Gov. Brown in early 2013. However, in doing this, California will be behind in its implementation of the ACA and may not be eligible for vital federal funds to support the program, jeopardizing the health many of those we are seeking to help.