Vital Times 2020 - 22

ADVOCACY

On Your Behalf
Antonio Hernandez Conte, MD, MBA, FASA | Chair, Legislative and Practice Affairs Division
and Sunny Jha, MD | Chair, Legislative Affairs Committee

2

020 proved to be one of
the most unusual years in
history, and the pandemic's
impact on the California
legislative calendar was no
exception. Governor Newsom
had until September 30, 2020, to
either sign or veto all 430 pieces
of legislation sent to his desk
by the Legislature. Due to the
COVID-19 crisis and the truncated
legislative session, the Legislature
had to significantly pare down the number of bills
they considered this year.
In mid-March, amidst the first surge of the COVID
crisis, the Legislature abruptly adjourned under
duress for the first time in over 150 years. The last
time was during the " Great Flood " of 1861-62, when
Sacramento was completely under water. In fact,
then Governor-Elect Leland Stanford had to rowboat
his way to the Capitol for his inauguration in January
1862.
The Legislature returned in May, donning masks,
trying to adhere to social distancing requirements and
a strict order that only one essential staffer may be
allowed in a legislative office at a time. Virtual Zoom
meetings with legislators and watching committee
hearings and floor sessions via livestream became
commonplace, as did phone-in testimony. Lobbyists
have been barred from the Capitol, and it remains
closed to the public.

22 |

CSA Vital Times

Due to the limitation in sessions, the only way the
Legislature was able to get through all the legislative
business was by diminishing their workload. Senate
President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) in a
letter on April 10, 2020, to her members, instructed
them to limit their authored bill packages to only a
handful by stating,
" I have asked Senators to reconsider their
priorities and reduce the number of bills they
carry accordingly. For example, I am scaling
back my legislative portfolio and plan to
pursue only two pieces of legislation this year. "

Prior to gaveling down again for a brief legislative
Summer Recess at the end of June ... beginning
of July ... the Legislature met their constitutional
deadline of passing a state budget by June 15, 2020.
This " shelter-in-place " or commonly referred to as
a baseline budget, simply continued the 2019-2020
budget structure but borrowed heavily from the $20
billion " Rainy Day Fund " to maintain current funding
levels for health and human services.
Good news is tax revenue continues to outpace
current budget projections. However, Assembly
Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has already
warned of potential budget cuts and unilaterally
rescinded almost all legislative budget requests for
the creation of new programs and additional revenue
for existing programs. In a letter to his colleagues on
March 30, 2020, Assembly Member Ting stated,



Vital Times 2020

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