Capitol Alert
By Alexei Koseff
akoseff@sacbee.com
April 28, 2017 – 5:30 PM

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, visited The Bee Capitol Bureau on Wednesday to discuss some of the biggest issues facing the California Legislature this year. Here’s what he had to say:

Single-payer health care

Senate Bill 562, which would create a universal, publicly funded health care system in California, has generated enormous enthusiasm among liberals. But business groups are strongly opposed, and even some Democrats have expressed skepticism about the steep costs associated with the policy.

“I’m philosophically in favor of single-payer,” Rendon said. “Whether or not now is the time, and looking at that particular bill, I don’t know.”

Rendon said “the timing may be a challenge” because “there’s so much in flux at the federal government level.” President Donald Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act puts at risk money California has already used to expand health coverage through Medi-Cal, its insurance plan for the poor.

“There’s obviously a political component to it as well, but the funding piece is significant,” Rendon said.

Cap-and-trade

Gov. Jerry Brown has made it a priority to extend cap-and-trade, the greenhouse gas reduction program that requires carbon polluters to buy emissions credits. He’d like to do so with a two-thirds majority of the Legislature, because a lawsuit is challenging the system as an illegal tax. The program has been upheld so far.

“The courts made pretty clear twice that all we needed was a 41-vote bill,” Rendon said. “That’s a threshold that may make my life a little easier. If he wants to do two-thirds, I’m open to having conversations about it. But it’s a big difference between 54 votes and 41 votes.”

The recently approved transportation funding deal that raised fuel taxes is another complicating factor. Extending cap-and-trade would add further costs to price of gasoline in California.

“I can see where there would be a lot of hesitation on the part of members to go to that well again,” Rendon said.

Some Democrats also want to see program benefits focused more on communities most impacted by air pollution, linking public health to climate change. Rendon is supportive of that approach.

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