South San Francisco, CA February 15, 2016 Submitted by Leslie Guevara, Office of Senator Jerry Hill
Hill Introduces Bills to Protect Patients, Adopted Children, Prevent DUIs from Re-Offending and Require the CPUC To Closely Oversee Utilities’ Wildfire Prevention Efforts
Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, introduced legislation to compel doctors on probation for serious offenses to notify their patients, prohibit the “rehoming” of adopted children, prevent DUI offenders from driving drunk again, and require the CPUC to tighten its oversight of utilities’ work to prevent wildfires caused by powerlines.
The bills are among the legislation Hill introduced in the past week to focus on safety, protection of patients, public health and youth, and affordable housing. The legislation to protect adopted children is fourth this year to be inspired by a winning entry in the senator’s “Ought to Be a Law…Or Not” contest.
Here are summaries of the bills:
Ø Patient Notification Requirement for Doctors on Probation, SB 1033 – Requires physicians on disciplinary probation for sexual misconduct, gross negligence, substance abuse and other serious offenses to notify patients before visits take place and to obtain signed confirmation that patients received the alert. SB 1033 also requires the Medical Board of California to draw up regulations for this stricter disclosure requirement and the steps doctors must take to abide by the new rules. The legislation follows the Medical Board’s rejection of a proposal in November to require doctors on probation to tell their patients verbally and in writing. Instead, the board formed a task force to consider less “prescriptive” ways to address the issue; the board also said it is enhancing its website, which includes information about licensees.
“Those alternatives are not acceptable,” Hill said, noting that physicians placed on probation are required to disclose that information to hospitals and malpractice insurers. “Patients have just as great, if not a greater, right to be informed of their doctor’s disciplinary status and its cause. It’s not sufficient or realistic to expect patients to check their doctor’s probation status on the Medical Board’s website before an appointment.”
Ø Stopping DUI Offenders from Driving Drunk Again, SB 1046 – Would require all DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicle. SB 1046 expands California’s four-county pilot program, which was set in place by AB 91 of 2009, so that it is a statewide requirement. A recent report by Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that IIDs in the California have prevented more than 1 million instances of drinking and driving since 2010. SB 1046 follows Hill bill last year, SB 61, which extended the duration of the pilot in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties until July 2017 so that the DMV could complete its report on the program, which had been expected last year.
Ø Preventing “Rehoming” of Adopted Children, SB 1040 – Prohibits parents from giving children they’ve adopted to someone who is not a relative without state oversight, authorization and court approval. Specifically bars anyone who is not licensed to place children for adoption from advertising in print, on air or on the Internet that a child is available for adoption. The bill would also prohibit anyone from soliciting children for adoption on the Internet. Alarmed by reports of adoptive parents “rehoming” children by advertising them online, a San Mateo resident suggested legislation to prevent trafficking and other abuse of adopted children, particularly those from other countries.
Ø Prevention of Wildfires Caused by Powerlines, SB 1028 – Requires the California Public Utilities Commission to take a more aggressive approach to oversight of utilities’ efforts to prevent wildfires. Utilities’ wildfire mitigation plans would be subject to CPUC approval and the Commission would be required to audit implementation of the plans. Power lines are a leading cause of the state’s wildfires, second only to wildfires caused by the burning of debris. The September 2015 Butte fire that claimed two lives, destroyed 921 structures and burned nearly 71,000 acres appeared to have been caused by contact between a PG&E power line and a tree. SB 1028 resulted from a hearing of the Subcommittee on Gas, Electric and Transportation Safety that Hill held last November to examine why the CPUC has been slow to improve wildfire prevention standards despite gaps that were revealed during Southern California’s devastating 2007 fire season. That year power lines were implicated in the Grass Valley, Malibu Canyon, Rice, Sedgewick and Witch Fires, which burned more than 334 square miles and led to two deaths.
Ø Streamlined Public Access for Utility Safety Records, SB 1017 – Closes a legal loophole that makes it difficult for the public to get public records from the CPUC. Public Utilities Code Section 583 requires a Commission vote to release documents that have been designated by a utility as “confidential.” While there is no penalty for a utility to designate clearly public information as “confidential,” CPUC staff is subject to a misdemeanor for release of this information—regardless of whether the utility’s claim of confidentiality has any validity. Utilities have used this as a shield to prevent public access to safety information. SB 1017 enables the CPUC to develop regulations to permit streamlined public access to safety-related information without requiring a vote of the commissioners to release public records.
Ø Affordable Housing, SB 996 – Helps nonprofits that provide low-income housing in the state by reducing the amount of property taxes nonprofits pay on land that will be used for affordable housing. Sister Christina of the Saint Francis Center in Redwood City submitted this bill idea in Hill’s “Oughta Be a Law…Or Not” contest to seek relief for nonprofits like the center that are trying to create low income housing. The Ministry Services of the Daughters of Charity, which provides community services in East Palo Alto, also submitted a letter urging legislation to address the problem. Introduced earlier this year, this legislation was reintroduced as SB 996 last week.
Ø Right on Red, SB 986 – Addresses constituents’ concerns that the fines charged for right turn-on-red traffic violations are onerous. Urging legislation, John Dillon of San Bruno described the financial challenges individuals on budgets and fixed incomes face when confronting a ticket that’s $500 or more. SB 986 changes the base fine amount only for right-turn-on-red traffic violations so tickets are roughly $250 instead of about $500. The violations are currently in the same ticket category as exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph on the highway, or failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies have found that less than .04 percent of crashes nationwide involve “right on red” turns. The legislation would not affect other red light violations. Introduced earlier this year, this legislation was reintroduced as SB 986 last week.
In January, Hill introduced another bill stemming from his “Oughta Be a Law…Or Not” contest. SB 814 resulted from a San Mateo resident’s call for a crackdown on water guzzling households. SB 814 requires water districts to fine households that use excessive amounts of water. Currently, only one water district in the state imposes penalties on households. The gross overuse that captured the constituent’s attention was described in news stories about households that consumed thousands of gallons of water a day compared to the household average of 250 gallons.
Further information about Senator Hill’s new legislation is available here.