State Legislature tables bills on migrant healthcare, oil tax, more

California Legislature shelves nearly 200 proposals, including controversial measures on healthcare, oil tax

Nearly 200 proposals were shelved in the Legislature on Friday, including controversial measures that would have provided healthcare coverage to people in the country illegally, imposed a tax on oil drilled from the ground and created a voluntary substance-abuse counseling program for doctors.

Both houses' appropriations committees — the key panels on costs — had a Friday deadline for acting on bills.

"There are lots of great ideas but not every idea can be funded by the taxpayer," said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), the Assembly committee's chair.

The Senate panel failed to advance a measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would have dedicated more than $400 million to healthcare coverage for immigrants living in California illegally and who were left out of the federal Affordable Care Act.

"Such a discriminatory system cannot stand," Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said. "SB 1005 is a necessary measure, but we need to continue to find responsible funding sources so we don't overstrain our safety net."

Lara agreed to a delay. "In my opinion, providing healthcare for all Californians is not a question of if but a matter of when," he said.

The panel also sidelined a bill by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) that would have taxed oil extraction in California to fund education and parks programs.

The decision to table that proposal, SB 1017, disappointed Paul Song, executive chairman of the liberal activist group Courage Campaign, who said it shows the Legislature is beholden to the oil industry.

"It's pretty ironic that states such as Texas and Alaska that have governors that are so anti-tax have an oil severance tax that provides revenue for their budget, and yet California does not," Song said.

Another bill shelved Friday would have required campaign contributions to be publicly disclosed within 24 hours of receipt to help voters understand who is supporting candidates for office.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is the author of that measure, SB 1103, but he noted the panel approved his three other campaign finance bills, including a blackout period on fundraising during the last 100 days of the legislative session.

The Assembly panel held back a bill by member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that would have established a voluntary, confidential counseling program for doctors struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. The proposal, AB 2346, was sponsored by the California Medical Assn.

"It's unfortunate, but we remain firmly committed to implementing a statewide physician wellness program, since California remains one of the few states in America without one," said Molly Weedn, the group's spokeswoman.

Trial lawyers and consumer groups opposed the measure, saying its confidentiality provision would mean failed drug tests would be kept secret from the medical board. The opponents are pushing for random drug testing for doctors in a ballot initiative in November.

The committee also blocked a number of tax credits and deductions. One proposed credit by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) would have benefited individuals and businesses doing seismic retrofitting.

Another tax measure, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), would have allowed people a deduction for adopting a pet from an animal shelter or rescue organization.

And a bill stalled that would have allowed someone who has served in the military to get a driver's license identifying him or her as a veteran.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) said he was disappointed his bill, AB 1637, did not move forward, adding that "47 other states have found a way to successfully identify their veterans on a driver's license or identification card."

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 160 of the 232 bills it considered Friday, and the Assembly panel advanced 245 of 368 measures.

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