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Pharmaceutical industry group scoops up former Assemblyman Henry Perea

Pharmaceutical industry group scoops up former Assemblyman Henry Perea
Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, speaking before the Assembly at the Capitol in 2012, announced Dec. 1, 2015, that he is resigning. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea’s announcement earlier this month he was resigning a year before his term expired set off a guessing game in Sacramento: Which interest group would scoop up the leader of the informal but powerful coalition of business-friendly Democrats

That mystery was solved Tuesday, with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, revealing the Fresno Democrat will be a senior director of state advocacy. Perea will join the influential trade group, which represents drug companies, on Jan. 4 and will direct field operations in California, Arizona and Nevada.

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In an interview Tuesday, Perea said PhRMA was an "excellent organization. They innovate, they discover cures, they represent a lot of California employers."

"The debate in healthcare, especially after the Affordable Care Act, is going to be very robust over the next decade or two and I look forward to being a part of that," he added.

Perea, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, gained considerable clout in the Capitol as leader of the "Mods," a growing caucus of business-aligned Democrats. Resistance from that centrist coalition led to a scaling back of this year's sweeping climate change legislation.

He also worked on a number of high-profile issues in the Legislature, including the $7.5-billion water bond approved by voters last year and an overhaul of how utility companies can charge for electricity. He also has carried a number of healthcare bills, including one successful law that limits how much insurance companies can charge cancer patients for oral chemotherapy drugs.

Pharmaceutical companies have given Perea more than $150,000 in campaign contributions since his first Assembly campaign, according to the National Institute for Money in State Politics.

Perea said the trade group approached him about a job right after the legislative session ended in September. He declined to say what kind of compensation he'll get in the new post.

PhRMA has a major lobbying presence in Sacramento; it spent more than $428,000 in the first three quarters of 2015. And the industry is fending off salvos over high drug prices, both in the Legislature and the ballot box.

A measure by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco)  to increase transparency over pricing is pending in the Assembly, while the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is backing a 2016 ballot measure that would limit the state from paying more for prescription drugs than the cost negotiated by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those looming battles were alluded to in PhRMA's internal announcement of Perea's hire.

"At this critical juncture for our industry, Henry will bring a wealth of experience to our advocacy in the west.," wrote Kipp Snider, vice president of state advocacy for the trade group, in a company email.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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