California Lawmakers Pass Several Bills

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Measures dealing with health insurance cancellation, mortgage lenders, chemicals and college aid to illegal immigrants are approved.

SACRAMENTO, CA — Insurance companies could no longer cancel with
impunity the health coverage of sick people under a measure passed
Sunday in the last hour of the Legislature’s session.

Lawmakers also moved to require that chain restaurants tell patrons the calorie content of their food; restrict unscrupulous practices by mortgage
lenders; launch state review of chemicals; ban the sale of recalled
products; and give college financial assistance to illegal immigrants.

The Legislature finished its work on bills
Sunday, but because lawmakers have yet to agree to a budget — it is 63
days overdue — they will return next week to work on a spending plan.

really is a sad note that we wrap up the session and we will have the
distinction of saying this is the longest the state has gone without
having a budget," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).
"We’re going to continue working until we adopt a budget."

of the session’s most contentious proposals won bipartisan support in
the end, despite strong objections from insurance companies.

The insurance measure would ban companies from canceling policies retroactively except under certain conditions, such as whena person intentionally misleads an insurer about his or her health history when applying for coverage.

insurers have been fined a combined $15 million in the last couple of
years for rescinding the health insurance of more than 3,300 people.
Under AB 1945 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate),
insurers could cancel policies only under specified conditions, and
their rescission decisions would be reviewed by state regulators.

De La Torre said that under his bill, health insurers would no longer be "the judge and the jury when they dump somebody."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill, he has
called upon legislators to stop insurers from kicking sick people off
their rolls.

The lower house also passed a companion measure by
Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles), AB 2569, that would require
insurers to continue covering the family members of people whose
policies have been rescinded.

In the Senate on Sunday,
lawmakers gave final approval to a measure that would force
Californians to face some dietary facts when ordering stuffed-crust
pizza, char-grilled rib-eye and chalupas.

Under SB 1420 by Sen.
Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Pizza
Hut, KFC, Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse would have to at least make
brochures available at cash registers or put placards on tables that
list the calorie content of various menu items.

By January 2011, under the measure, the same restaurants would have to list calories on menus or menu boards.

bill would provide California with reliable nutritional information and
help consumers make more informed choices when eating out," said
Padilla, who noted that 16 million Californians are overweight.

Those who voted against the bill included Sen. Bob Margett (R-Arcadia).

"It’s an imposition on restaurants, including added costs, when most
people who are managing their weight know pretty well how many calories
are involved," he said.

Lawmakers trying to prevent another
foreclosure crisis in California also gave final approval to a measure
by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that would ban certain practices
by mortgage lenders and brokers.

Those practices include steering prospective home buyers to high-interest loans and offering incentives to brokers to do so.

measure, AB 1830, would also bar brokers and lenders from making false
statements about certain loans and eliminate amortized loans that lead
a borrower to owe more on a loan that its original balance.

called the bill "overreaction" and "overregulation," but Lieu noted
that none of them defended the practices he seeks to ban.

many of us here think it’s OK to make misleading statements?" asked
Lieu before the Assembly voted 43 to 21 to pass his bill.

other action, the Assembly approved a measure that seeks to create a
process for analyzing the risks of the chemicals to which Californians
are commonly exposed.

AB 1879 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los
Angeles) would authorize state scientists to review the health effects
of chemicals and take action, if necessary, to restrict their use.

Feuer’s bill won widespread support.

"It really sets the type of policy we should embrace," said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita).

related measure approved by the Assembly is aimed at getting recalled
products, such as toys containing lead paint, off store shelves and
into hazardous-waste sites.

AB 1860 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman
(D-San Rafael) would make it illegal to sell a recalled product and
require retailers to remove such products from their stores. Such
removal is now voluntary under federal rules.

In what has become
an annual rite, the Assembly also passed a measure by Sen. Gil Cedillo
(D-Los Angeles), SB 1301, to allow illegal immigrant students to
receive financial aid at state universities.

Schwarzenegger has
twice vetoed similar legislation, saying it would siphon financial aid
from students whose parents obeyed immigration laws.

Contact the author at: [email protected]

Consumer Watchdog
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