HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE

Friday, December 12th, 2003

Two late-breaking stories impacting health care and the March Ballot:

* GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL TO PLACE BOND & BUDGET RESERVE ON MARCH BALLOT

* JUDGE BLOCKS SB 2 REFERENDUM–FOR NOW–DUE TO MIDLEADING & CONFUSING PETITIONS

* SB 2 Campaign Meetings in Sacramento, Los Angeles

* Organizations Invited to Join Campaign to Protect Health Care

BONDS ON THE BALLOT

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed ACA 5X and AB 9X, to place on the ballot two measures, to get voter approval for a $15 billion bond and spending restrictions including a budget reserve. This was afer passage in the Senate this afternoon and the Assembly last night. The Senate voted for the spending restrictions 35-5, and for the bonds, 27-12 — the minimum 2/3 of the Senate required to get the measure placed on the March ballot. All the Senators who voted against the bills were displeased Republicans. On Thursday, the Assembly voted 80-0 for the spending limit and 65-13 for the bonds.

THE GOOD: For health advocates, this was far preferable to Schwarzenegger’s original proposal, which would have given the Governor unprecedented, unilateral powers to make cuts and reductions, and would have made all the current and proposed cuts permanent, with no ability to restore programs in better times.

THE BAD: However, this deal does not make progress on the central issues of the budget crisis. It postpones tough decisions and in fact, because of the interest payments, will require harsher cuts (or additional revenues) in the future.

THE UGLY: Nor does this deal with the immediate questions of the mid-year spending reductions the Governor has proposed, or those that are expected to be proposed early next month, when the Governor must submit his full proposal for an 2004-05 budget. On Monday, the Senate Health Committee will hold a special hearing in Los Angeles to take testimony from those who would be impacted by the proposed mid-year cuts, including the enrollment caps on Healthy Families and other health programs, and the reduction in Medi-Cal provider rates.

JUDGE BLOCKS SB 2 PETITIONS, CALLED “MIDLEADING” AND CONFUSING

FUTURE OF REFERENDUM UNCLEAR: APPEALS COURT NEXT

* Campaign to Support SB 2 Continues: Meetings in Sacramento, Los Angeles; Sign-On Campaign

Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly ruled this evening from the bench that the petitions to overturn SB 2 by referendum were misleading and not in compliance with state election law, and thus blocked the referendum from moving forward. Health advocates in support of the law, which would assure health coverage for millions of California workers and their families, cheered the ruling.

The judge ruled on two issues. One was that the summary of the bill was misleading by stating that the bill would apply to employers of 20 or more employees. In fact, the bill only applies to employers of 50 or more employees. (The bill does envision that employers of 20-49 would be included, but only when the legislature and Governor passed a tax credit to assist such employees.) The judge ruled that this fact was central to the very core of the bill, and that a reasonable person would be misled by the summary.

The other issue was that the petition did not have adequate notice of what the referendum would do. In particular, the petition was found not to be in compliance with election law, since only one of eight pages of the petition had the required “short title” disclosure of the nature of the petition, when in fact all pages needed the disclosure. The purpose of this election code was to prevent confusion by the potential signatories who may have read the petition.

The supporters of the referendum to overturn SB 2 said they would appeal the ruling. Since the clock is ticking with regards to whether something can be on the March ballot or not, things will move quickly to see the ultimate fate of this effort to overturn these health care protections.

SB 2 CAMPAIGN NEWS: Since we still could have the SB 2 referendum on the March 2, 2004 ballot, which is a mere 11 weeks away, efforts are continuing full steam to support the bill and defeat the referendum to reject it. A committee, Californians to Protect Our Health Insurance, has just been formed, and has retained the consultant that just came off the successful “No on 54” campaign, in which many health advocates were active.

SB 2 CAMPAIGN ADVOCATE MEETINGS: While we are just beginning the planning of such a campaign, we invite health advocates to initial planning meetings to figure our coalition, outreach, and grassroots work to support SB 2 and protect the health coverage of California’s working families. The hope is to brief people on the early status of the campaign and to get some activities and planning started before the holidays. The meetings in the next week are:

* In SACRAMENTO, on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16th, from 2:00-4:00PM, at the conference room of the California Labor Federation, 1127 11th Street, 4th Floor. For more information, contact Anthony Wright at 916-442-2308.

* In LOS ANGELES, on THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18th, from 3:00-5:00PM, El Mercado La Paloma, 3655 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Since the time is tentative, please RSVP to Idabelle Fosse at idabelle@health-access.org, or 213-748-5287.

ATTACHED is a form to get your organization to sign on to support SB 2 and health care for working families, and to oppose the referendum to reject this important bill. We are looking for a broad range of organizations to sign on to this campaign.



Anthony E. Wright

Executive Director

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

awright@health-access.org

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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