Though the coronavirus pandemic remains my primary focus as we manage this continuing crisis, it’s worth reviewing some of the non-pandemic work of the 2020 legislative session. In addition to the legislation we passed prior to adjournment this year to address the coronavirus crisis, we continued to make dramatic strides to improve health care coverage, access and affordability in my third year as chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.
A third straight year of improvements in health care
Just as we did in the 2019 session, in the 2020 session the Senate achieved every major goal I had targeted before the session began — and all but one made it into law. While legislation to crack down on the marketing and sale of vaping products to minors passed the Senate, it came up short in the House in the final days of session. This is a public health issue we will continue to monitor and further assess the possible need for legislation in the future.
Our other three major health care goals passed both chambers and were signed into law:
- Senate Bill 6515 will protect many of the most vulnerable people in our community from being displaced from where they live by updating and increasing the rate of Medicaid reimbursement fees on which nursing homes rely. Being forced out of their communities by the closure of a nursing home is traumatic in itself; having to try to find a new place to live in a high-demand market while their health is at extreme risk to the pandemic is downright dangerous. It’s more important than ever that vulnerable seniors are able to remain in a skilled nursing facility.
- SB 6205 will protect in-home care providers from discrimination, harassment and other abusive behavior. The need for this legislation was highlighted by the tragic shootings of a caregiver and a patient and a resident last year. This bill directs providers to work with state agencies to develop protocols and other practices that will improve protections and options for these isolated and vulnerable workers.
- SB 6334 will preserve the reliable ambulance response service we count on in emergencies by addressing inadequate rates of reimbursement for ambulance services.
14 new laws that put people first
Every lawmaker begins the legislative session with ambitious goals to improve life for those who have entrusted us to represent them — and I’m happy to report an exceptional year here in the 49th Legislative District. Of the bills I sponsored, 10 passed into law — the second highest total of any senator. In addition, the Senate adopted my resolution calling for healthy practices to flatten the curve of transmission in the critical early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, four other bills I sponsored passed into law in the form of companion legislation — an identical bill sponsored in the House by a state representative.
Two of my bills, SB 6502 and SB 6534, were among the major goals described above. My other legislation ran the gamut from improving health care, to protecting children, to reducing red tape and saving tax dollars. Whether the changes are dramatic or modest, each is important to someone in our communities and will make a difference in the months and years to come. Here’s a quick summary:
- SB 5759 will ensure that eye exams conducted remotely using new technologies meet the same standards as traditional, in-person exams.
- SB 6423 aligns state law with the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that provides funding and guidance to states to support and encourage prevention, investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse. This ensures consistency and extends the state’s eligibility for millions of dollars in federal aid.
- SB 5097 tightens licensure and certification requirements for massage therapists and reflexologists to guard against human trafficking.
- SB 6143 adds two seats to the Podiatric Medical Board to improve its ability to meet quorums and efficiently address public needs.
- SB 6526 reduces waste and expensive prescription drug costs by allowing the Department of Corrections pharmacy to accept returns and reuse some prescription drugs, and also allows pharmacies to donate certain opened prescription drugs to other pharmacies for redistribution.
- SB 6051 updates state statutes to ensure that recipients avoid the so-called “donut hole” gap in Medicaid coverage.
- SB 5628 reforms state tax law to align with other states and eliminate unnecessary burdens on heavy equipment rental companies.
- SB 5519 reduces government costs by aligning county treasurers’ foreclosure schedule for delinquent mosquito control district assessments with the county treasurers schedule for real property.
- HB 2508 improves efficiency by simplifying the process for donating low-value surplus property owned by a city-owned utility.
- HB 2677 adjusts responsibilities for sharing health insurance information to improve the coordination of health care benefits and services.
- HB 2380 adjusts vendor rates to help home care agencies recruit and retain workers and to ensure that more dollars go into the pockets of the workers.
- HB 1634 simplifies language in state code to make it abundantly clear to any potential buyer that a property in foreclosure is sold “as is” with no implied warranties.
It was a productive Legislative session and a great deal was accomplished in a short 60 days. I understand we are all currently focused on weathering this pandemic that has altered our daily lives so completely, but if you have questions, or would like more information on any of the issues addressed in the 2020 Legislative session, please do not hesitate to let me know. As we continue to face this pandemic together, know that I remain committed to our health and safety first and foremost.