PD Editorial: A look at local Assembly bills

On Sunday, we summarized some of the legislation sponsored by local senators during the recently concluded legislative session. We'll do the same here with some of the bills carried by Assembly members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters; Marc Levine, D-San Rafael; and Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa.

Aguiar-Curry's bill's include:

AB 488: This bill would add the state agriculture secretary, the state librarian and the governor's tribal adviser to the California Broadband Council, which promotes the expansion of high-speed internet service into unserved and underserved communities, most of them rural. Broadband service provides educational and business opportunities for residents.

AB 744: Telehealth - medical appointments via phone or online services - is increasingly common, especially in rural areas where it can be hard to find general practioners, much less medical specialists. This bill tightens requirements for insurers to reimburse telehealth appointments in the same manner as in-person doctor visits. It would be a healthy change, especially for rural California.

Levine's bills include:

AB 747: Among the big lessons from the wildfires of 2017 and 2018 was the need for adequate evacuation routes during a public emergency. In Butte County last year, many motorists abandoned their cars and ran for their lives as the Camp fire swept through the town of Paradise. The main road out, Levine notes, had been reduced from four lanes to two. This bill would require cities and counties to address the capacity, safety and viability of escape routes as part of the general plans. That should be a top priority, especially in fire-prone areas.

AB 1212: Requires Caltrans and the state Department of Water Resources to prepare lists of projects for funding consideration by the state's major pension funds, the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System. Existing law allows the boards to invest in in-state infrastructure projects that are consistent with their fiduciary duties. If nothing else, this bill contrasts with various efforts to block investments of pension funds for various political, rather than fiduciary reasons.

AB 1699: This bill would prohibit a mobile internet service provider from limiting access, known as throttling, to first responders handling an emergency. Yes, it has happened - in 2018, to Santa Clara firefighters assisting with the Mendocino Complex fire. The provider, Verizon, apologized. But this shouldn't be left to chance in the future.

AB 1714: Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed two previous versions of this bill, which would prohibit smoking and vaping at state parks and state beaches. Levine hopes to have better luck with Brown's successor, Gov. Gavin Newsom. We're torn. We could do without secondhand smoke, but there aren't many places left where smokers can light up. And, for better or worse, adults are allowed to smoke.

Wood's bills include:

AB 38: More than 32,000 homes and other structures were destroyed by wildfires in 2017 and 2018, underscoring the need to harden homes in fire-prone areas. This bill originally would have created a revolving- loan fund to help property owners. But it was scaled back and now includes disclosure requirements for homes sold in “very high fire severity” zones, while stating legislative intent to pursue financial assistance for home hardening. We urge Wood to keep pressing for the loan program. We've all seen what fires can do.

AB 290: This bill targets a funding mechanism used by dialysis clinics to pay private insurance premiums for patients who otherwise would qualify for Medi-Cal or Medicare in order to receive higher reimburse rates for treatment. Gaming the system costs everyone.

AB 824: This bill would crack down on “pay for delay” deals that postpone the introduction of generic versions of brand-name drugs, keeping prices artificially high for consumers. Wood says the practice hurts consumers twice, as competition between manufacturers of generic drugs often pushes prices down further.

Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto legislation.

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