Peninsula lawmaker see nine bills signed into law

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law nine bills sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gordon, who represents parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in the 24th Assembly District.

Foster youth, patients who rely on expensive medications and adaptations to climate change are among the most significant concerns addressed by the new laws.

HOMELESS AND FOSTER YOUTH
Assembly Bill 379 ensures homeless and foster youth are able to file complaints with the state Department of Education when their educational rights have been violated.

Foster students have, for over a decade, been legally entitled to remain at their schools of origin, and have also had the right to transfer partial credits if their living situation necessitates switching schools.

But those rights have too often been ignored, Gordon noted, and AB 379 enables affected students to enforce their rights.

The new law requires the state to inform foster and homeless youth of their rights on an annual basis, but Gordon acknowledged kids sometimes need adult advocates to help them understand and exercise their rights.

“Foster children are moved around frequently, and can have outcomes that are not great,” Gordon said, “Sometimes their records get lost in the process.”

EXPENSIVE MEDICATIONS
Gordon’s expensive medications bill, AB 339, was a response to Kaiser Permanente’s abrupt reclassification of HIV/AIDS drugs and other lifesaving medications, which took effect Jan. 1. AB 339 places a $250 monthly cap on out-of-pocket costs for any single necessary prescription, and prevents insurers from placing those drugs in their highest cost
tiers.

The change, which placed such drugs in Kaiser’s most expensive tier, panicked some patients, whose monthly drug costs would have increased by several thousand dollars in many cases.

After public outcry, Kaiser quickly reversed its decision, but a company spokesman noted Kaiser was not the only provider to consider such price hikes.

AB 339 doesn’t change the prices of drugs or alter the yearly cap on out-of-pocket consumer health expenses, which can reach $6,600 when multiple prescriptions or other treatments are involved. Gordon said it does prevent patients who need expensive drugs from being hit with their entire out-of-pocket co-pay obligation at the beginning of a given year.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENT
Gordon has championed various efforts to study and respond to climate change, and he said AB 1482 expands California’s goals in that area. Where the state previously focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Gordon explained it will now be required to also plan for
adaptation to the effects of climate change, chief among them being sea level rise.

The law tasks the Natural Resources Agency with coordinating adaptation efforts so they’re
consistent across agencies and jurisdictions.

Less sweeping in scope, but also environment-related, is AB 495, which increases the purchasing authority of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space and East Bay Regional Park districts. Both organizations were previously required to solicit bids on contracts worth over $25,000, and that limit is doubled to $50,000.

Gordon said the change gives the affected agencies parity with other open-space districts around the state, whose purchasing limits have already been raised in response to inflation. And it allows the districts to spend less time administering such purchases, thus saving money.

“There are numerous situations where the districts would have greater flexibility and save on
bureaucratic costs,” Gordon noted.

Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District General Manager Steve Abbors applauded the legislation.

“With the passage of AB 495, we are able to reallocate hundreds of hours of staff time away from
paperwork and toward publicly approved and funded projects that improve the greenbelt,” Abbors
said.

For a complete list of all nine recently passed Gordon bills, visit http://tinyurl.com/gordonbills.

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