August 2014 E-Newsletter

August 12, 2014

YOUR IDEAS

Do you have an idea for a new law? Here's your chance to share it with me. Just click here.

I and my staff will evaluate your idea for its necessity, legality, practicality, its cost, and whether the proposed change is redundant. And, we'll inform you if we draft a bill based on your idea.


CREEK CLEAN-UP

Join me for my annual Los Gatos Creek Clean-up. Do something good for our environment and our community, and enjoy the outdoors.

Los Gatos Creek Clean-Up
Saturday, Aug. 16, 9 am - 11 am
Registration: 8:45 am
Campbell Park
Campbell and Gilman avenues
Parking Available at the Campbell Inn
For more information or to RSVP, call (408) 558-1295 or click here.
Weather permitting

Trash bags and gloves will be provided. Dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy shoes.


LEGISLATION

This month, the Legislature approved SB 1046, my bill to allow the Department of Insurance to levy fines of up to $2,500 a day against health insurers that defy mental health parity laws. SB 1046 now moves to the Governor for his consideration.

The bill brings uniformity to California's laws by remedying a disparity in penalty authority between the Department of Insurance, which regulates self-employer and individual insurance plans, and the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates health plans.

Under existing law, the DMHC can hand down per-day penalties for on-going violations of mental health parity. However, California's codes do not give the Department of Insurance, which oversees roughly 10 percent of health care consumers, similar powers. If the bill is ratified by the Governor, it will close this loophole.

As chairman of the Mental Health Caucus and Senate Mental Health Select Committee, I have been working to strengthen our enforcement of state and federal mental health parity laws. The statutes require health insurers to provide treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse equitable to physical illnesses or injuries. In other words, same co-pays, same deductibles, no caps on visits.

But thousands of Californians with health coverage who say they need mental health treatment reported they received no services or inadequate services despite parity laws, according to a UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

In state budget negotiations, I was able to set aside nearly $3 million for the Department of Insurance and DMHC to conduct initial front-end parity compliance reviews and hire additional staff to enforce parity laws.


UPDATE

Several years ago, Assemblymember Lloyd Levine and I authored AB 811 to promote energy efficiency, jobs, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by making the installation of solar energy equipment affordable for property owners.

Today, AB 811 is powering CaliforniaFIRST, a new 17-county program - including Santa Clara County. The program, unveiled on Aug. 5, utilizes AB 811 to allow property owners to get low-cost loans through special assessment districts to expressly finance the installation of energy- and water-efficient equipment and devices.

Repayment of the loan is spread out over 20 years and it's made through annual property tax assessments. The loan stays with the property when it is sold.


VETERANS

California is home to over 185,000 women who served in the U.S. military. Yet, a California Research Bureau survey of female veterans reveals many are unaware of the benefits that they have earned through their military service.

The 2013 California Women Veteran Survey shows their knowledge of all state veteran benefits to be relatively low with the exception of California's Employment Development Department Employment Assistance and Unemployment Benefits.

The survey queried respondents about 14 different available state benefits. Fewer than 15 percent reported using any of the benefits. The two least commonly used benefits - the Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Program and the Business License, Tax and Fee Waiver, were used by fewer than 2 percent of those surveyed.

The military service of California's women veterans entitles them to a number of state benefits including employment assistance, property tax exemptions, and tuition fee waivers for dependents.

Learn more about the benefits available for allveterans visit the CalVet website.