5 Things California: Committee membership, Vaccine distribution, COVID relief

Regardless of one’s politics, if you want a story about how one person can make a difference in her community, which will make a difference in her state, and so in her country, and then in the world, look no further than what Stacey Abrams has done in Georgia. Folks can differ on their politics, with good reason. But if you’re interested in impact, left or right, Abrams’s work in Georgia is the news of day.

Until the news of later today hits. The joint session of Congress is set to begin now in which they will certify the vote of the Electoral College. Objections to up to six states are expected by Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz. Such an objection requires a member from both the House and the Senate. The last time this happened, where both chambers had a member object, was 2005. Then, it was California Sen. Barbara Boxer leading the charge.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Vaccine distribution fail

As of Tuesday, California has received 2.04 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – still below the 2.1 million doses expected by the end of December. Of the doses received, just 456,980 doses (22%) have been administered. This puts California in the bottom six states in terms of percent of doses used, according to a New York Times tracker.

California isn’t alone in this failure. Some public health experts and lawmakers are blaming the lack of federal guidance and the resulting patchwork of state rollout plans. On top of this, the LA Times reports that about 20-40% of frontline workers in LA County who were offered the vaccine have declined the shot. That number jumps to an estimated 50% in Riverside County. In a press conference Monday, Gov. Newsom said, “in the next few days in much more prescriptive detail, I’ll update you on some new strategies to deal with some of the roadblocks” the state is facing in the vaccine rollout.


2. Shifts in committee membership

At our Capitol Insiders panel last month, Jason Vega, Principal at Vega Public Affairs, said to be on the lookout for consequential shifts in committee membership due to incoming legislators and termed out lawmakers like Senators Jim Beall and Bill Monning. This appears to be true in the Senate Health Committee which will jump from 9 members to 11. New to the committee will be newly elected Sens. Monique Limon and Susan Talamantes Eggman (both previously served in the Assembly), along with Sens. Scott Wiener and Richard D. Roth.

Talamantes Eggman will also take over as the new Chair of the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee. Over in the Assembly, Asm. James Ramos and former Asm. Limon will no longer serve on the Health committee; they will be replaced by Asms. Brian Maienschein and Luz Rivas. Vega says shifts in committee membership may change which bills are prioritized in committee hearings.

3. Convening Panel to meet Jan. 28th

We are getting the band back together! Our Convening Panel is the group we look to for guidance on topics and speakers as we build our agenda for the 2021 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference. That event is coming up on April 22nd this next year, and we’d be thrilled to have you with us. “Early Bird” rates are in effect through February 12th.

If you have ideas for content, now is a good time to share those. I’ll incorporate the feedback into the Discussion Guide that we share with our Convening Panel to support their conversation. What topics should we tee up for April? Who should we curate to speak? In our crowd-sourced model for content development, your input is really helpful to us. So, don’t be shy.


4. Q&A: Asm. Aguiar-Curry

Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry serves as Chair of the Local Government Committee and is a key figure in the Assembly’s Committee on Health. Reporter Sydney Kurle recently caught up with Asm. Aguiar-Curry for a conversation on rural health care, the 2021 session, and her reaction to the recently-passed $900 billion COVID relief package.

She also discussed Assembly Bill 14, which seeks to bridge the digital divide. “Obviously we need a fast and reliable internet infrastructure for distance learning, for working from home, for telehealth. I think we figured that 1 in 8 Californians still do not have internet, and communities of color face even higher numbers. So here we are, the state with a large tech capital, and neighbors of ours don’t have access to internet and they’re being left behind,” says Aguiar-Curry. She also says she expects movement this year on her bills related to mental health and telehealth.

5. COVID relief headed to California

Gov. Newsom estimates over $50 billion in federal funds will flow into California as part of the recently passed $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. The majority of the funding into California is slated for unemployment assistance (estimated $20 billion), but he also expects to see about $17 billion in direct stimulus checks, $2 billion in rental assistance, $1.3 billion for COVID testing and vaccine distribution, $8.5 billion for education and $1 billion for childcare.

More generally, State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta outlines some of the most significant health-related provisions in the 5,593-page year-end spending bill in his latest piece. He highlights the $58 billion in added funds for the public health response, surprise billing restrictions, Medicare pay boost for physicians, and the delay in the resumption of the Medicare sequester.