Sacramento Report: Atkins’ ‘Delicate Dance’ on Single-Payer Health Care
Now that Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act are on hold, State Sen. Toni Atkins is treading carefully as she pursues a single-payer health care plan for California.
It seemed a special state Senate Health Committee hearing last Friday had a timely, heated topic on its hands: health care reform.
Then, just before the hearing began, President Donald Trump declared the GOP’s Affordable Health Care Act “dead.”
It was too late to pivot from the focus of the hearing — how California has benefited from the Affordable Care Act and what it stood to lose under House Republicans’ repeal plan — and too early for ACA fans to celebrate victory. Officials urged caution, describing repeal efforts as “on pause.”
This, of course, raised the question: What happens next?
Many in attendance believed they had the answer: single-payer health care.
They wanted to hear more about SB 562, legislation co-introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins, a member of the health committee, and Sen. Ricardo Lara that would move California to a single-payer system.
At the time of the hearing, the bill’s text said only that the Legislature intended to enact legislation to establish a single-payer system. Lacking details, SB 562 wasn’t a focus of the official hearing, but took center stage during public comment. Supporters argued that a single-payer system is the only way to bring down insurance costs and buffer California from future ACA repeal attempts.
It was the same scene the next day at a town hall at UC San Diego organized by Assemblyman Todd Gloria, where public comments supporting a single-payer system ran into the event’s scheduled end. (Disclosure: I spoke at Gloria’s town hall about my experience battling cancer, and how the Affordable Care Act facilitated my treatment.)
Yesterday, Atkins and Lara released details on their bill. Called the Healthy California Act, it would create a comprehensive health coverage system that basically cuts out private insurers and eliminates co-pays and deductibles.
There remain two looming issues: how to pay for it (in a statement, Lara said they’re “developing a detailed funding proposal,” though Gov. Jerry Brown’s questioned if that’s possible) and whether SB 562 undermines California’s embrace of the ACA. The legislation was proposed when the ACA’s future seemed far more dire. With the GOP plan now effectively dead, some lawmakers worry about the message it would send for California to abandon the ACA.
In an interview, Atkins described it as a “delicate dance.”
California “spent years investing in the Affordable Care Act and making sure that we implement it and get as many people covered as possible,” she said. “Do we want to put California in the position of saying, ‘Well California’s already given up on the ACA’?”
At Gloria’s town hall, she told the audience that while it was still early in the legislative process for SB 562, it wouldn’t turn into an either/or situation.
“We can protect the ACA and let California evaluate how we can do more,” she said.
— Kelly Davis
Anderson’s Move to Extend Bar Hours
Republican Sen. Joel Anderson is the joint author of a bill with San Francisco Democrat Scott Wiener to allow cities to let bars stay open and serve alcohol until 4 a.m.
In order to extend service, businesses would still need local approvals and permission from the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
“This was Scott Wiener’s brainchild and he invited me,” Anderson said. “I thought it was a great idea. He is far into the progressive side of the leger as I am into the conservative side, so if the two of us support something, everyone else has to support it.”
Anderson says the strength in the bill, SB384, is in the control it gives to local jurisdictions.
“If a neighborhood doesn’t want it, there are plenty of protections,” he said. “This is about allowing it to occur if people want it in their neighborhood. This is all for communities who want it, see value in it.”
Anderson specifically cited 5th Ave. in downtown San Diego, where there are a lot of hotels, but not as many residences, as a place where the 4 a.m. hour change could be a success.
Henish Pulickal, a member of the Pacific Beach Planning Group, and Gary Smith, president of Downtown San Diego Residents, both said that they think the 4 a.m. extension would negatively impact life for residents in their bar-heavy neighborhoods.
“No one is against the bars,” Pulickal said. “We understand the benefits of an economic zone. But does it make sense for all communities to let bars stay open until 4 a.m.? No, I’m confident our residents would say we don’t need more bar hours.”
Smith, on the other hand, doesn’t have as much faith in the ability of the local public process to prevent businesses from extending hours.
“I’m sure in Sacramento they think that local regulation could take care of it, but I don’t think so,’ he said.
Waldron’s About Face
State Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, a Republican who represents inland North County and parts of Riverside, cast a strange vote last week.
Waldron voted in favor of AB299, which strengthened legislation from 2007 that bars all public entities from forcing landlords to obtain information on their tenants’ immigration status or discriminate against a tenant based on immigration status.
The assemblywoman’s vote was strange because the legislation AB-299 strengthened was passed in direct response to an ordinance that Waldron proposed in 2006 when she was a member of the Escondido City Council that would have punished landlords for renting to undocumented immigrants.
Waldron’s 2006 ordinance was promptly hit with lawsuits and never implemented. State law changed the year after to ensure no other California city tried to do what Escondido did.
We tried to figure out why Waldron voted for the bill given her history and stance on illegal immigration, but she wouldn’t respond to numerous e-mails and phone requests. Even a CALmatters reporter in Sacramento, whose help we enlisted to track her down in person, couldn’t get an explanation.
Golden State News
• It’s been surprisingly difficult to find information about the results of a change in state education funding adopted three years ago, which redirected more money to schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families, foster youth and students learning English. (CALmatters)
• Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is getting pushback from religious groups for a proposed bill that would prohibit employers from firing workers for having an abortion or giving birth out of wedlock. (L.A. Times)
• U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris opened a 2026 committee for governor, shifting roughly $1million that’s banked in her 2014 committee for attorney general. (Sacramento Bee)
• Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are moving fast to combat Trump’s unraveling of U.S. climate policy – a battle reaffirmed after the unveiling of his energy plan earlier this week. (L.A. Times)
• Brown and other Democratic legislators unveiled a plan Wednesday to raise $52 billion to repair roads and bridges and improve public transportation. It would be funded by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees – something Californians revolted against years ago. (SF Chronicle)
• While selling the measure in Concord Thursday, he told reporters: “I’m going to my ranch in two years. You want to have a screwed up state with a bunch of potholes, go ahead. But that’s insane.” (Associated Press)
Correction: An earlier version of the Sacramento Report mistakenly identified Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) as Anthony Weiner.