Landmark Patient’s Right to Know Act and Bills Increasing Oversight of Construction Contractors, the Balconies They Build, Fire Safety Inspections, Underage Marriages and More Head to Governor’s Desk

August 31, 2018

Note to Editors: Updates with passage of landmark patient safety bill and writes through with roundup of all Senator Hill bills clearing Legislature

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – August 31, 2018

Landmark Patient’s Right to Know Act and Bills Increasing Oversight of Construction Contractors, the Balconies They Build, Fire Safety Inspections, Underage Marriages and More Head to Governor’s Desk

In All, 23 Bills by State Senator Jerry Hill Await the Governor’s Review

SACRAMENTO – California would become the first state to require doctors to notify patients if placed on probation for serious professional misconduct involving harm to patients under a bill passed by the Legislature Friday and now on its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

Senate Bill 1448, the Patient’s Right to Know Act, is one of 23 bills by state Senator Jerry Hill that await the governor’s consideration. Most of the senator’s bills cleared the Legislature in the final days of the 2018 session, which concluded late Friday. Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto bills.

“I am indebted to all the brave survivors who have testified about their traumatic and deeply personal experiences,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Grandmothers, former students, star athletes, a prosecutor and other professionals who endured the depredations of predators shared their stories with lawmakers to prevent other patients from suffering abuse. Again and again, they asked us to lift the veil of secrecy that has protected bad actors.”

“This legislation could not have come so far without their courage and commitment and without the bipartisan support of so many of my colleagues in both houses of the Legislature,” Senator Hill said.

The Senate sent Governor Brown SB 1448 just hours after the Assembly passed the bill. The votes by both houses capped three years of legislative efforts by Senator Hill, patient safety advocates and survivors of doctors’ abuse to change state law so that patients are given the information that physicians are already required to report to their insurers, hospitals and clinics.

The legislative push gained new momentum this year when star athletes whose testimony helped bring disgraced sports doctor and sexual predator Larry Nassar to justice lent their support to SB 1448.

“Patients have the right to be notified of their doctor’s status so they can make informed decisions about their care,” Senator Hill said. “As the testimony of survivors showed, leaving patients in the dark about this critical information makes them vulnerable to abuse.”

Senator Hill’s 2018 Legislation

Safety, protection and increased accountability were strong themes in the senator’s 2018 bills that were passed by the Legislature and sent to the governor.

Senator Hill’s bills would tighten oversight of doctors, construction contractors and the balconies they build, and fire safety inspections of schools and apartments. His bills also seek to better protect minors from forced underage marriages, prohibit housing discrimination against U.S. military veterans, and require that property owners install an automated external defibrillator in high-occupancy buildings undergoing significant remodeling or repairs.

Expanding opportunities for young people and for education also were major themes in Senator Hill’s legislation. His bills include measures to enable students with extreme medical conditions who rely on medical cannabis to receive their dose at school, extend a pilot program for four-year baccalaureate degrees at community colleges, and expand a pilot program that allows nonviolent young adult-offenders without a criminal history to serve their time in a juvenile detention facility with age-appropriate services.

Here is a list of the bills by Senator Hill that await the governor’s consideration.

Underage Marriage

SB 273 would increase safeguards that are intended to protect young people from being forced into marriage or domestic partnerships, especially those that result from or perpetuate abuse. The bill expands review requirements by Family Court Services and judges when individuals younger than 18 seek a court order to marry or enter into a domestic partnership in California. SB 273 also requires local registrars and the state to compile statistics on marriages and domestic partnerships involving minors. The state stopped collecting such data in 1985.

Oversight of Contractors and Apartment Balconies

SB 721 and companion bill SB 1465, improve oversight of construction contractors and the balconies they build at apartments in response to the collapse of a fifth-story balcony at a Berkeley apartment building in 2015. Six young people died and seven of their friends were severely injured when the balcony, poorly sealed and weakened by dry rot, gave way. All but one of the people killed and hospitalized were visiting students and recent graduates from Ireland, which has considered the disaster a national tragedy.

SB 721 sets requirements for inspection of balconies and other elevated exterior elements, such as stairs and walkways, at apartment buildings and complexes. Under the bill, 15 percent of the load-bearing, elevated exterior elements of apartment buildings with three or more units must be inspected every six years.

The Contractors State License Board helped craft SB 1465. The bill requires contractors who settle construction defect lawsuits that involve load-bearing portions of multifamily rental residential structures for a million dollars or more to report those deals to the CSLB. The reports would be confidential unless the board pursues disciplinary measures.

Architects and engineers must file similar settlement information to their licensing boards, but no such requirement exists for construction contractors. In the three years before the balcony tragedy, the general contractor that built the Berkeley apartment complex paid $26.5 million to settle construction defect cases – information that was not known to regulators until it was discovered and disclosed by news reporters.

Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, coauthored SB 721 and SB 1465.

Utility Ratepayer Protection

SB 819 prohibits electrical and gas companies from passing costs arising from damages caused by the utilities’ negligence to ratepayers. The bill protects ratepayers while providing incentives for utilities to act responsibly and fulfill the expectation that they operate and maintain safe and reliable systems. Senator Hill introduced SB 819 after the Northern California wildfires in October 2017. Senators Bill Dodd, D-Napa, Mike McGuire, D-North Coast/North Bay, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, joined Senator Hill in introducing the bill. Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblymembers Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, are coauthors.

Refining Standards for Alcohol and Drug Rehab Facilities

SB 823 increases consumer safety by requiring the Department of Health Care Services to adopt the treatment criteria of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, or an equivalent evidence-based standard, as the threshold for care by licensed recovery or treatment facilities addressing adult alcoholism or drug abuse. The bill also requires that the licensees maintain the standards appropriate to their level of care.

Extending Utilities’ Corporate Tax Savings to Ratepayers

SB 1028 ensures that the savings enjoyed by privately owned utilities from the recent federal tax break for corporations are passed along to ratepayers. The bill provides clear direction to the California Public Utilities Commission that any changes to utilities’ taxes be adjusted for in rates so that if utilities receive tax savings, customer rates will be lowered.

Age-Appropriate Settings for Young Adult Offenders

SB 1106 extends a pilot program that allows low-level, nonviolent young adult felons, who are 18 or older but under 21 and do not have a history of crime, to serve their time at juvenile halls, rather than at county jails with adults. The deferred judgment pilot program aims to improve outcomes for young adults by giving them access to services and environments that are age-appropriate. The bill extends the sunset date for the pilot program from January 1, 2020, to January 1, 2022. The bill also enables a sixth county, Ventura, to join Alameda, Butte, Napa, Nevada and Santa Clara counties as pilot program participants. The bill builds on Senator Hill’s SB 1004 of 2016, which authorized the pilot program.

Easing Property Tax Burden for Nonprofits That Privately Fund Affordable Housing

SB 1115 aids nonprofits and religious organizations that privately fund and provide affordable housing by raising the cap on property tax exemptions from $10 million during a fiscal year to $20 million. Nonprofits that provide affordable housing to low income individuals and families, but do not receive tax subsidies or grants from the state or federal government, have a cap placed on the amount of property tax that may be exempted annually. Only 75 properties in California owned by 26 nonprofits are subject to the cap. Raising it would help nonprofits like the St. Francis Center in Redwood City and the AIDS Health Foundation in Los Angeles. Both have worked for decades to provide affordable housing and services in two of the state’s tightest and most expensive markets.

Aiding Students Who Rely on Medical Cannabis

SB 1127, Jojo’s Act, helps students who require medical cannabis for extreme medical conditions attend school. The bill allows K-12 school districts and county boards of education to choose whether to allow a student’s parent or guardian to administer medical marijuana in a nonsmokable and nonvapable form to the child on campus.

The student must be a qualified medical cannabis patient with a doctor’s recommendation. The medical cannabis would not be stored on campus and must be brought to school by the parent or guardian then taken away after the student receives the necessary dose. School districts and counties opting into the arrangement may opt out for any reason, including concerns about losing federal funding as a result of the policy.

Seven states – Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and Washington – have passed legislation allowing students to use medical cannabis at school. None have lost federal funding. The bill is named for a South San Francisco High School student living with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who takes medical cannabis to forestall debilitating seizures that prevent him from attending school and leave him barely able to function.

Senators Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Jeff Stone, R-Riverside, coauthored SB 1127.

Fire Inspection Accountability

SB 1205 ensures that fire departments report annually to their local governing authority about compliance with state mandates for safety inspections of schools, apartments, hotels, motels and lodging houses.

The bill directs the report to be made when the local governing authority discusses its annual budget, though the local body can chose to do so at another time during the year. The legislation responds to a Bay Area News Group investigative report that revealed several fire departments are years behind in their safety investigations of schools and apartments.

Prohibiting Drones Over State Prisons

SB 1355 prohibits individuals from operating drones at or over a state prison, a jail or a juvenile hall, camp or ranch. The restrictions do not apply to employees of the facilities who operate such devices as part of their job and have specific permission use them. Violating SB 1355 would be an infraction punishable by a $500 fine.

The TNC Access for All Act

SB 1376 mandates the California Public Utilities Commission to develop regulations for transportation network companies on accessibility for people with disabilities. The bill requires the CPUC to engage in workshops with stakeholders, levy a fee on TNCs to help pay for wheelchair-accessible vehicles and create a program for groups to spend that fee to advance deployment of such vehicles.

Increasing Availability of AEDs

SB 1397 requires high-occupancy buildings undergoing tenant or building renovations of $100,000 or more on or after January 1, 2020, to be equipped with an automated external defibrillator. The bill follows Senator Hill’s 2015 legislation, SB 658, which streamlined and updated state law on installation of AEDs, including training for their use at schools. SB 658 also eased liability related to good faith, not-for-profit acquisition and use of AEDs.

Extending Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program at Community Colleges

SB 1406 extends a pilot project that allows 15 community colleges to offer a four-year baccalaureate degree program. The proposed changes allow the colleges to enroll students for the pilot for a few more years so that the final cohort of participants begins their four-year degree program no later than the 2022-23 academic year and completes it by June 30, 2026. The bill follows SB 850, 2014 legislation introduced by then-Senator Marty Block with Senator Hill as coauthor. SB 850 authorized the pilot program and set the original cutoff date for enrollment so that participants would complete their four-year degree program by the 2022-23 academic year.

Protecting Military Veterans from Housing Discrimination

SB 1427 prohibits housing discrimination against military veterans and personnel. The bill also bars landlords from discriminating against homeless veterans who use federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers to pay for some or all of their rent. California law prohibits employment discrimination against U.S. military veterans and individuals currently serving in the nation’s armed forces but does not protect them from housing discrimination. SB 1427 closes that gap.

The Patient’s Right to Know Act

SB 1448, The Patient’s Right to Know Act, coauthored by Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, would require physicians who are disciplined by their regulatory board for the following four categories of misconduct to notify their patients prior to their visit:

  • Sexual misconduct with a patient
  • Drug abuse that can harm patients
  • Criminal conviction involving harm to patients
  • Inappropriate prescribing resulting in patient harm and five or more years of probation

In addition to physicians, SB 1448 would apply to surgeons, osteopaths, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, podiatrists and acupuncturists who are placed on administrative probation by regulators on or after July 1, 2019.

Currently, doctors are legally obligated to notify their insurer and their hospital or clinic about their probation status, but patients receive no notice. SB 1448 would ensure that consumers are fully informed if their doctor is on probation for cases of serious professional misconduct that involved patient harm or potential patient harm.

Impounding Unlicensed Limos and Chartered Buses

SB 1474 enables the California Public Utilities Commission to better pursue enforcement actions against unlicensed transportation carriers. The bill allows the CPUC to contract with the CHP or sheriff’s departments to assist in impounding vehicles, such as limos and chartered buses, that are under the CPUC’s jurisdiction.

Business and Professions Bills

As chair of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Professional Development, Senator Hill introduced legislation on the operations by regulatory boards for professions and vocations. Four sunset bills await Governor Brown’s review: SB 1480, which applies to a range of boards, SB 1481 on the Structural Pest Control Board, SB 1482 pertaining to the Dental Hygiene Board and its licensees, and SB 1483, which applies to the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation.

SB 1491, a bill on healing arts boards and their licensees, was introduced by the Senate business and professions committee. The legislation also is before the governor. So is SB 1492. Also a Senate business and professions committee bill, SB 1492 pertains to the Department of Consumer Affairs and its Board of Accountancy, Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. The Senate concurred in amendments to SB 1492 and passed it on Monday.

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Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404 (cell), leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov