By Jeremy Cantor
October 17, 2013
The 2013 legislative session wrapped up this past Sunday, and the collection of bills passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown represent substantial steps forward for health, safety, and equity. It was an active, and as always tortuous, session. In addition to a set of bills that increase access to health care through the Affordable Care Act, there were a number of bills passed into law that will have lasting positive impacts in communities across the state. Here’s a rundown on some of the biggest victories. Each one represents lots of diligent work and effective partnership among advocates. We can be proud of what we accomplished together!
This legislative session, California committed to…
- Support human-powered transportation in all California communities.
SB 99, California’s new Active Transportation Program, will boost state funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure by 35 percent. As Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly put it, "When Californians have more options for active transportation—including new and safer trails and pedestrian routes—it helps the state achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals while enhancing public health and safety." Active transportation, public health, environmental, and equity leaders worked behind the scenes to ensure that at least 25 percent of funds will flow to disadvantaged communities and to protect programs with a track record of success.
- Help all mothers meet their breastfeeding goals and foster children’s health from day one. SB 402 requires California hospitals to go “Baby Friendly” by 2025. It will ensure that all California mothers and babies--no matter their ZIP code--have an equal chance to initiate and practice breastfeeding in the hospital. The California WIC Association sponsored this bill and we featured it in our legislative agenda for ENACT Day, our annual day of advocacy in Sacramento.
- Foster child care environments that support healthy kids. More than 45,000 licensed child care facilities in California serve over 1 million children, making child care providers an essential factor in shaping early childhood health. AB 290 requires that providers applying for child care licenses receive training about early childhood nutrition and the federal resources available to them to serve healthier food. AB 290 was sponsored by California Food Policy Advocates and was also part of our ENACT Day legislative platform.
- Leverage federal health reform dollars to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations. AB 361 directs the Department of Health Care Services to draw down hundreds of millions of federal dollars to create health homes for Medi-Cal enrollees with chronic conditions. The health-home model developed should include a focus on both coordinated care and prevention strategies to address underlying causes of illness and injury.
- Remove barriers to food assistance for California’s low-income families. AB 191, sponsored by California Food Policy Advocates, ensures that low-income households getting Medi-Cal benefits automatically receive CalFresh nutrition benefits as well.
As we look ahead to next year, we already see a number of high-profile opportunities to move toward sustainable funding for community prevention -- allowing the state to scale up prevention strategies that work. Ensuring that every Californian has safe, healthy places to live, work, play, and learn is an ambitious agenda. It will require collective effort that cuts across geography and agencies and sectors. Imagine for a moment that a year from now we could be celebrating:
- Cap and Trade funds have been returned and are being invested in strategies that achieve climate, health, and equity objectives. Governor Brown borrowed $500 million in Cap and Trade auction proceeds this year. Return of those funds, along with new auction revenue, could go a long way toward achieving sustainable community objectives laid out in SB 375 and elsewhere.
- A landmark Investment in children’s health through taxing one of the key drivers of chronic disease. SB 622 proposes to establish the nation’s first statewide sugar-sweetened beverage tax. The funds generated will go to a newly created Children’s Health Promotion Fund to support school nutrition and physical activity, and statewide prevention programs. The bill made significant progress in 2013 and the author, Senator Bill Monning, and sponsor, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, along with advocates in communities up and down the state, continue to lay the groundwork for January, when the bill is set to be reconsidered.
- A powerful new mechanism for generating local funds to achieve health, transportation, housing, and community development goals SB 1 proposes to authorize the creation of local sustainable community investment agencies. It would fill the void left by the state’s elimination of redevelopment agencies and provide a way for local government to raise funds for transit-oriented growth, walkable communities, and affordable housing. SB 1 made significant progress through the legislature this session, and we expect the bill or a modified version to re-emerge next year.
We want to thank you for sticking with us this year—for sending letters of support, calling your legislators, penning letters to the editor and blogs, and raising your voice for a healthier California. Together, let’s keep the drum beating for prevention and equity.