Legislation on healthcare and climate change that sat idle in a conference committee since the summer began moving in the final days of the session. Conference committees are a mix of state representatives and senators tasked with ironing out the differences between House and Senate bills.
A healthcare bill (SB2984) was adopted just before Christmas and signed by Governor Baker on New Year’s Day. The major component of this bill regards telehealth. While a video or telephone visit with a healthcare provider is a valuable tool that has helped during the pandemic, it was initially intended to be an option that would lower healthcare costs for small businesses. Unfortunately, the bill sets telehealth payment rates at the same level as in-person visits for two years. That won’t lead to the cost savings promised by this new technology. NFIB will continue pushing the Legislature to finally tackle health costs for small employers as the newly elected Speaker of the House has repeatedly stated he would like to focus on another healthcare bill in the 2021-22 legislative session.
On Sunday, January 3rd a conference committee working on a climate change bill (SB2995) that impacts energy costs was released. By Monday evening, both the House and Senate voted in favor of this bill with only 11 lawmakers voting to oppose it. It is anticipated the bill will raise the cost of energy for transportation, residential, manufacturing, and commercial users in the Commonwealth, and impact suppliers of electricity and natural gas. The bill aims to reduce carbon emissions by getting to net-zero by 2050. The language in the bill is open-ended as to how that will be accomplished.
The bill also permits municipalities to adopt a “net-zero” building code to ensure all new residential/commercial construction meets that energy standard. This vague language will lead to a great deal of uncertainty in the construction industry and could result in fewer structures being built. This piece of legislation also bans the sale and installation of certain appliances that fail to meet California energy standards, including coolers, showerheads, toilets, heaters, and other appliances. The bill was sent to Governor Baker who can veto, sign, amend, or simply allow the bill to wither and die heading into the new session on Wednesday, January 6th.