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Public Policy Newsletter Article

State Year In Review

  • 2020-12-03T16:00:00.000+0000
  • Author: Jimmy Jackson

As with our member companies and the public at large, the key in California state advocacy in 2020 was adaptability. The pandemic altered not only the way advocacy is done, but also the type and volume of legislation considered this year. The State Legislature, responding aggressively to positive COVID-19 tests among members and staff, operated in fits and starts. In person meetings were all but eliminated, and testimony at hearings was mostly offered remotely.

Another consequence of the pandemic was that fewer pieces of legislation were considered. As it became clear the number of days in session were going to be cut significantly, allowing less time for committee hearings, legislative leadership made it clear that bills not related to the state budget or dealing with issues created or exacerbated by the pandemic were highly unlikely to be granted a hearing, much less moved through the legislative process.

Against this backdrop, many bills of concern as well as bills Biocom supported were culled due to not meeting this standard. Some are expected to be reintroduced in the 2021-22 session, while others will likely fall victim to the state’s projected budget shortfall caused by the pandemic. A full list of bills monitored by Biocom for the 2019-2020 session can be found here.

One bill signed into law critical for Biocom members to be aware of is AB 685, which mandates employee notifications if there has been a potential workplace exposure to someone testing positive for COVID-19. Biocom was part of a large coalition opposing the bill during the legislative process and continues to work with the author to address issues with the new law going into the new year.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has published definitions that will be used in enforcement of the new law. Many of the definitions mirror language requested by the business community, and overall set the foundation for what companies need to know to implement the bill’s requirements. One bill Biocom had a significant positive impact with was AB 713. This bill addresses discrepancies between current state consumer privacy laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), some of which could affect collection of patient data in California required by the FDA, particularly in post-market surveillance. Biocom was a key member of a broad coalition, led by industry partner AdvaMed, that included CRO’s, hospitals, health plans, drug stores, dentists and consumer privacy groups, and Biocom’s relationships with key parties in Sacramento allowed this bill to stay on track in spite of steep odds.

As happens everywhere, policy makers and their staff in Sacramento have had many questions throughout the development curve of the pandemic. In an attempt to address some of those questions, we initiated a Biocom COVID-19 Briefing Series in Sacramento in August. So far sessions have been held giving a general overview on progress and (in partnership with CA Biotech Foundation) on progress in immunizations, with a session on testing to be held in the near future. Sessions on therapeutics and plasma based therapies are planned for early 2021 after new legislators are seated. Each session features a legislator as moderator.

Perhaps the most important service the policy department provided to our members this year had nothing to do with legislation, however. Working via Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, we successfully secured Biocom’s invitation to participate in partnership with CA Office of Emergency Services Free PPE program for business. Ultimately, Biocom secured and distributed the following over 2.7 million surgical masks and over 100,000 N-95 masks to be used by critical workers in life science labs and production facilities during the pandemic. Thank you to OES for allowing us to partner with them in distributing this vital PPE to those on the front lines in the life sciences.