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California Senate shelves bills on healthcare for immigrants, oil tax

Bills sidelined on healthcare for immigrants, oil taxes and campaign disclosure
Senate Appropriations Committee advances 160 of 232 bills

Dozens of controversial state bills were shelved Friday by legislative committees, including measures that would provide healthcare coverage to people in the country illegally, impose a tax on oil drilled from the ground and require campaign contributions to be reported within 24 hours.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 160 of 232 bills that had significant costs, which Republican Sen. Mimi Walters of Irvine estimated will cost taxpayers $3 billion more than currently budgeted.

Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), the committee’s chairman, said through a spokeswoman that Walters' number was wildly inflated and that the panel saved a lot of money by shelving dozens of bills, but he did not immediately have an estimate. Democrats later said the bills passed would cost about $500 million.

“It was a hell of a lot of money that we cut,” De Leon said. Friday is the last day for the committee to act on Senate bills.

The panel held in suspense a measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would have dedicated more than $400 million to provide healthcare coverage to immigrants in the country illegally and who were left out of coverage from the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Such a discriminatory system cannot stand,” De Leon 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 and make sure it doesn’t come apart.” He said if a funding scheme is identified this summer, the bill can be amended into an urgency measure for consideration before the Legislature adjourns in late August.

Lara agreed to the 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 did not advance a bill by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) that would have placed a tax on oil pumped from the ground in California to fund education and parks programs. Because it is an urgency measure, it theoretically could be taken up later, but legislative leaders said the decision to keep it in committee signals its demise.

The decision to table 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 being received to help voters understand who is supporting candidates.

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

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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