You recently had a consumer assistance bill dealing with healthcare signed by the governor. What did this bill do?
My Assembly Bill (AB) 922 will enable California consumers to more easily access information and assistance about their health plan eligibility.
Federal healthcare reform will expand healthcare coverage to more than four million Californians and AB 922 will streamline the confusing and burdensome number of agencies that currently exist to assist consumers by making the Office of Patient Advocate (OPA) a one-stop-shop for that assistance. The bill will also ensure that Californians get clear and understandable consumer information and assistance by strengthening current programs, and OPA will catalog and direct complaints about healthcare coverage, as well as create a clear internal chain of command for the Administration with regard to health care coverage.
Additionally, the governor signed my AB 151 which will allow individuals affected by increases in Medicare Advantage premiums to switch back to original Medicare and purchase a Medicare Gap or Supplement policy. If you would like more information about this program, or if you have questions about Medicare, please visit seniornetworkservices.org or call 462-5510.
Can you elaborate on the bipartisan bill package you and Assemblymember Berryhill had this year addressing the issue of the underground economy?
Right after first being elected, I was made aware of the issue of the underground economy and its adverse impacts on local businesses, primarily in the construction industry. Since then, I have been working with Assemblymember Bill Berryhill (R- Ceres) to stop this industry from hurting local small businesses and our efforts culminated with Gov. Brown recently signing the package of three bills we sent to him.
The underground economy refers to individuals and businesses that pay under the table and operate outside the scope of California law. The extent of damage done by non-compliant business owners cannot be exactly known, but it is estimated that there is between $60 and $140 billion in illegal economic activity annually. More importantly, law-abiding businesses are going under because they cannot compete against non-compliant business owners whose prices are 15-20 percent lower because they do not pay the taxes and fees as required by law.
The three bills enacted were developed by meeting with various business, labor, and government agency stakeholders. Assembly Bill (AB) 397 requires the recertification of workers compensation at the time of license renewal every two years. AB 766 permits the sharing of payroll records for public projects between specified state agencies and law enforcement entities involved in underground economy enforcement, and AB 878 requires a workers’ compensation insurance carrier to report to the state when a workers’ compensation policy is cancelled due to fraud.
The success of these measures has been rewarding to all of us who have been working to tackle the underground economy and demonstrates how bipartisan collaboration can achieve major accomplishments.
You recently spoke at an environmental forum in Felton. What were the main topics you discussed?
The San Lorenzo Valley Women’s Club, a long-time social service and environmental organization, sponsored a town hall meeting focused on the environment.
Some of the topics posed by the more than 50 people in attendance focused on recently enacted environmental legislation. One of the more significant bills is Assembly Bill 1319, authored by Assemblymember Butler, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any bottle or cup that contains bisphenol A (BPA), at a detectable level above 0.1 parts per billion, if the bottle or cup is intended to be filled with any liquid, food, or beverage primarily ingested by infants or children three years of age or younger.
In addition, there was great interest in AB 376, authored by Assemblymember Fong, which makes it unlawful for any person to possess, sell or trade a shark fin. This bill won broad support from Central Coast residents as well as from national and international environmental organizations.
I always appreciate the level of civic engagement at town hall meetings and want to thank the San Lorenzo Valley Women’s Club for its leadership and all who attended for their participation.