Ballot Initiatives on Marijuana, Medi-Cal Funding and Plastic Bags Go before Legislature
May 26, 2016
Three ballot initiatives vying for voter support this November were reviewed in legislative hearings earlier this week, as part of the required review that applies to ballot initiatives that have reached the 25 percent signature threshold. Two of the initiatives, which address marijuana legalization and plastic bag bans, have not yet qualified for the November ballot. An initiative seeking to protect the federal matching funds for Medi-Cal hospital funds has been qualified since last year.
Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act
The effort to legalize non-medical marijuana use for persons age 21 and over was heard before a joint hearing of four committees: Assembly Business and Professions, Assembly Health, Assembly Revenue and Taxation, and Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development. A long list of proponents and opponents testified before the Committees including representatives of the cannabis industry, medical professionals, healthcare providers, and local law enforcement associations following an overview by the Legislative Analysts’ Office. The proposal for non-medical marijuana consumption, business licensure, and cultivation largely mirrors the current regulation and taxation structure under the medical marijuana regulatory framework passed last year. CSAC may take a position on the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act ballot initiative following its qualification for the November ballot and subsequent referral of the Executive Officers to CSAC policy committees.
Plastic Bag Regulations
A Joint Hearing of the Senate Environmental Quality and Assembly Natural Resources Committee reviewed the Environmental Fee Protection Act that could change existing regulations on single-use plastic bags. The initiative would alter the law that prohibits grocery and other retail stores from providing single-use bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags and returns that revenue back to the retailer. The Environmental Fee Protection Act would instead direct revenue from bag sales to various grants focused on environmental stewardship, drought prevention and wildlife protection. CSAC may take a position on the ballot initiative following qualification for the November ballot and subsequent referral of the Executive Officers to CSAC policy committees.
This issue is complicated by a referendum that also qualified for the November ballot that would overturn the plastic bag ban law all together, as established by Senate Bill 270 (Padilla, Chapter 850, Statutes of 2014). This law has not yet taken effect due to the pending referendum.
Federal Medi-Cal Matching Funds
A Joint Hearing of the Senate Health and Assembly Health Committees reviewed the ballot measure that would protect the Quality Assurance Fee contributed by hospitals and that the state uses to draw down federal Medicaid matching funds for hospital Medi-Cal services. The protection comes from a constitutional prohibition against diverting funds to other uses and removing the 2017 sunset date. CSAC has supported the Quality Assurance Fee legislation in the past and in December 2015 CSAC formally adopted a support position on this ballot measure. At the hearing a wide range of stakeholders, including CSAC, testified in support of the measure along with the California Hospital Association, California Medical Association, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Representatives from Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers spoke in opposition to the initiative.