Plan Fails in Legislative Assembly Again – CalMatters

In summary

A bill for single-payer health care in California didn’t even get a vote in the state Assembly after its sponsor failed to muster enough support by Monday’s deadline. The lawyers are furious.



Despite, or perhaps because of, an aggressive last-minute push by progressive activists ahead of a crucial deadline, legislation to create government-run universal health care in California died Monday without being passed.

The single-payer measure, Assembly Bill 1400, was the latest attempt to deliver on a longstanding priority of Democratic Party loyalists to remove private insurers and markups from health care. Because it was introduced last year, when it was blocked without receiving a single hearing, it had to be passed by the Assembly on Monday to continue the legislative process.

But even the threat of losing party approval in the next election cycle was not enough to persuade the House’s Democratic supermajority to advance the bill for further consideration, killing the effort for a another year.

After several tense hours Monday afternoon, during which a rush of meetings took place just off the Assembly floor, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, the Democrat from San Jose wearing AB 1400, said announced that he would not put the measure to a vote.

Kalra declined several requests to discuss his decision and whether he would seek another path forward for his proposal. After the floor session, he waited on a members-only balcony outside the chamber until a group of reporters were ordered to leave by a Sergeant-at-Arms.

“I don’t think it would have served the cause of getting single payer by staging the vote and making it inflame and further alienating members,” Kalra said in a Zoom call with people. disappointed supporters later that evening, in which he shared that he thought the bill, which needed 41 votes to pass, was short by “double digits”.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra discusses his bill that would pay for universal health care at the State Capitol in Sacramento on January 6, 2022. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

Caught between powerful interests

The political obstacles to such a radical restructuring of the healthcare system remain enormous, even in a state as ostensibly liberal as California.

The influential California Chamber of Commerce, which represents the state’s business interests, called the AB 1400 a “job killer” shortly after its reintroduction in January, saying defeating it would be a top priority. His lobbying campaign – joined by dozens of insurers, industry groups and associations representing doctors and hospitals – included social media ads and a letter to members denouncing “crippling tax increases” that would be needed to pay for the system. After the bill was blocked on Monday, the chamber said it would be ready if the ideas of the “dangerous proposal” resurfaced.

Republicans were eager to make it an election issue This year. Although Kalra’s bill was largely conceptual, with a separate measure introduced to deal with funding, they attacked it as a massive tax hike on Californians. (Kalra has proposed a series of taxes on businesses and high-income households to fund the single-payer system, estimated by legislative analysts at $314 billion to $391 billion a year.) A 4,000-page petition signed by voters who opposed AB 1400 sat at the back of the House Monday for Republican House Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido to use it as a prop in a debate on the floor which never took place.

The Democrats also faced pressure from their party’s left flank. California Democratic Party progressive caucus activists said last week they would push to withhold endorsements from members who did not vote for the bill. This ultimatum generated fierce anger within the Assembly caucus from members who felt cornered, although many refused to speak publicly about their frustration.

Activist backlash

The decision not to put AB 1400 to a vote on Monday may have been to prevent members from having to take a position one way or the other on the bill, as the chairman of the Anthony Rendon Assembly with the latest single-payer measure in 2017.

Legislation to move the state to a government-run health care system passed the state Senate that year, but was withheld by Rendon without a hearing because the bill did not provide for no payment plan. This put him in the crosshairs of single-payer supporters, who lambasted him on billboards.

This time, Rendon said he supported the effort, but was not closely involved in rounding up votes for AB 1400. He declined to answer questions after Monday’s floor session and, in a press release, pushed the blame onto Kalra.

“The lack of votes needed to pass this bill through the Assembly indicates the immense difficulty of implementing single-payer health care in California,” he said. “Nevertheless, I am deeply disappointed that the author did not bring this bill to a vote today. I support single payer and I fully intended to vote yes on this bill.

Learn more about the lawmakers mentioned in this story

How they voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

District 27 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latin

45%

White

14%

Asian

35%

Noir

3%

Multi-race

3%

Voting register

Dem

51%

G.O.P.

15%

no party

29%

Other

4%

Campaign Contributions

Asm. Ash Kalra took at least
$1.3 million
from Labor
sector since he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. This represents
50%
of his total campaign contributions.

How they voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

District 63 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latin

76%

White

ten%

Asian

6%

Noir

seven%

Multi-race

1%

Voting register

Dem

56%

G.O.P.

14%

no party

24%

Other

6%

Campaign Contributions

Asm. Anthony Rendon took at least
$2.6 million
from Labor
sector since he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. This represents
28%
of his total campaign contributions.

Explanations are unlikely to appease the measure’s most enthusiastic supporters.

The California Nurses Association, the main sponsor of the AB 1400, criticized Kalra for “providing cover” for her colleagues by not holding a vote.

“Nurses are especially outraged that Kalra has chosen to simply abandon patients across the state,” the association said in an unsigned statement. “Nurses never give up on our patients and we will continue to fight with our grassroots allies.”

Amar Shergill, chairman of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, said he would continue with plans to withdraw the endorsements of MPs who did not publicly support the bill.

During the Monday night call, he and other advocates repeatedly slammed Kalra for delaying their move and urged him to name members who oppose it. “We protect them from a negative ‘no’ review,” Shergill said.

Kalra said it would give her more time to win over colleagues who were on the fence about AB 1400 and try again next year.

Where was Newsom?

A prominent Democrat who did not voice support for AB 1400 was Governor Gavin Newsom, who ran for office in 2018 on a platform to create a single-payer system in California, but stood since removed from this commitment.

At a press conference in January to unveil his budget proposal, Newsom reiterated that he believes “the ideal system is a single-payer system,” but dismissed questions about Kalra’s approach.

“I haven’t had a chance to review this plan and no one has presented it to me,” Newsom said at the time.

As AB 1400 marched to defeat, the Governor remained silent. His public remarks in recent weeks have instead focused on several of his own budget proposals that he says would bring universal health care to California, including an expansion of Medi-Cal, California’s health insurance program. the State for the poor, to all residents, regardless of their immigration. status.

The distinction he drew between universal access to health insurance and a truly universal health care system infuriated the nurses’ union, one of his early supporters during the 2018 campaign, which accused him to do an about-face with the single payer. However, it seems unlikely that this will cause him much trouble in his next re-election campaign, where he has yet to attract a significant challenger.

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