2011 California Legislation

California Makes a Move on Toxic Flame Retardants

By Jenesse Miller
California League of Conservation Voters

The writing is on the wall: we're going to beat the chemical industry in California's fight over toxic flame retardants.

For years, advocates for Californians' health and environment have worked to change archaic regulations that encourage the use of highly toxic chemicals in furniture, baby products and other consumer products in the name of fire safety. The pervasive use of these chemicals has never been proven to save lives, has made home fires more dangerous for victims and firefighters, and has put millions of people who will never encounter a fire in their home at risk -- particularly young children.

Anthem Plans Rate Hikes Up To 20% for Nearly 600,000 Californians

By Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog

Anthem Blue Cross will raise health insurance rates for nearly 600,000 Californians by as much as 20% on May 1. A ballot initiative to make health insurance more affordable by regulating premium increases is necessary to protect Californians from excessive rate hikes.

Friday was the 2nd anniversary of the federal health reform law, which will require every American to have health insurance by 2014 but does not control what private health insurance companies can charge. The ballot initiative proposed by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require health insurance companies to publicly justify rates, under penalty of perjury, and get rate increases approved before they take effect.

Have Toxic Couches Finally Met Their Match?

By Valerie Pacino

Eureka! The California legislature will this spring consider a bill to modernize the 12-second rule, the state’s obscure furniture flammability standard that fails to protect us from fires even while it poisons homes across North America. Over the past seven months, we’ve described this scientifically discredited standard; provided nine (adorable) reasons to modernize the standard; refuted Big Chem’s star witness; and uncovered the engine of toxic political influence that shuns fire safety in favor of profits.

This time, we bring hopeful tidings.

Meaningful Legislation That Saw The Round File

By Sam Gold
National Organization of Injured Workers

Governor Brown has spoken and has vetoed some important bills that relate to Workers Compensation. Let’s see what he simply wouldn’t sign into law.

AB584 would force doctors who make Utilization review determinations to be licensed in California. Proponents of the bill believe that out-of-state utilization review physicians are making inappropriate decisions at least in part because there is no regulatory structure to hold them accountable to anyone.  The bill is intended to ensure that there is a regulatory oversight body – the California Medical Board – that can discipline a utilization review physician in the event the physician violates practice standards which in many cases deals with making false and misleading statements to deny an injured worker the benefits due him under state law.

Toxic Money: Big Chem, Dirty Politics, and the Poison in Your Couch

By Valerie Pacino

Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. Big Chem knows that politics can be business by other means. You’ve got to hand it to them: they’ve used politics with astounding effectiveness to secure their bottom line. The result is literally toxic for the rest of us.

The chemical industry spent nearly $5 million a year over the past five years on lobbying and campaign contributions in California. That’s a lot of money for one industry and one state. On the other hand, it’s a pittance, considering the payback: by defending an obscure and ineffective fire-safety regulation, the industry extends its North American stronghold in a market worth billions of dollar of sales each year. That’s one of the best returns-on-investment imaginable.

Scoring the California Legislature: Who Stood With Consumers In 2011?

By Zack Kaldveer
Consumer Federation of California

The Consumer Federation of California (CFC) released its 2011 Scorecard for State lawmakers today. The scorecard rates legislators on their votes cast on key consumer rights bills, including banning the sale of expired baby food and over-the-counter medicine, establishing a universal, "Medicare for All" health insurance program, prohibiting a prospective employer from using consumer credit reports in the hiring process, authorizing the Department of Insurance or Department of Managed Health Care to approve, modify or reject proposed health insurance or HMO premium rate increases, banning toxic bisphenol A (BPA) above safe levels from containers of food and beverages intended for consumption by children age three or younger, requiring development of a new smolder resistance standard, and enabling California consumers to purchase furniture that is not filled with toxic flame retardant chemicals, among others.

2012 Calendar: Many Opportunities for Policymakers and Voters to Improve Our Health System

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

The new year of 2012 will be a major year for health care, as policymakers and voters are set to make key decisions on health policy throughout the year.

Policymakers and voters have the opportunity in 2012 to greatly improve the health care system that we all rely on. Californians will have an opportunity to demand a balanced solution to our budget crisis that brings in the revenues needed to sustain health, education, and other vital services. California will also continue to implement and improve upon the federal health law that has already provided new options and benefits to millions of Californians, and get ready for reform in 2014.

The Top 10 Best and Worst of U.S. Politics in 2011

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

For progressives, the first eight months of 2011 were the worst of times. Not since the Reagan tax cuts and slashing of domestic programs in 2001 have progressives been so left out of the national debate, and the 2011 exclusion occurred with Barack Obama as President. Obama got the year off to a terrible start with his agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for two years in exchange for one year of extending unemployment benefits. His failure to include raising the debt ceiling as part of the deal then allowed Republicans to use that as a bargaining chip for slashing domestic programs even further in August. But Occupy Wall Street’s emergence in September raised progressive spirits, as has the unexpected rise of Newt Gingrich as the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Here’s my list of the top ten best and worst political events that occurred across the nation in 2011.

The 10 Best

California Health Reform 2011 Year in Review

By Anthony Wright
Health Access California

In 2011, Californians are getting new coverage and new consumer protections, as a result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the state’s active efforts to take advantage of the new resources and benefits for a beleaguered health system.

After federal passage of the health reform in 2010, California started its work implementing the law with the adoption of a “bridge to reform” Medicaid waiver agreement with the federal government, and the passage of several bills that established a new Health Insurance Exchange, instituted rate review, and adopted key consumer protections in the federal law.

That progress was not guaranteed to move forward, with a new Governor focused on a major budget crisis, and significant work left to do to ensure Californians get the health reform benefits that they need and are entitled to now, and for the state to be ready for the full implementation in 2014.

The Chemical Industry’s Money to Burn

By Liza Gross
Environmental Health News

Facing growing concerns over the health risks of flame retardants in household products, the chemical industry spent at least $23.2 million over the past five years to lobby California officials and donate to campaigns in a successful effort to defeat legislation. During that time, five bills that would have regulated the ubiquitous chemicals failed to pass the California Legislature. The four top recipients of industry's donations, three Democrats and one Republican, never voted in favor of any of the bills. Two of them were members of a committee that rejected the bills.

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people's bodies, including breast milk, around the world.