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Right-To-Die Law Faces Delays, Challenges

Maynard Family / AP / File

This undated file photo provided by the Maynard family shows Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminally ill woman who moved to Oregon and took lethal medication prescribed by a doctor and died on Nov. 2, 2014. She was weeks shy of her 30th birthday.

Maynard Family / AP / File

A political move to make physician-assisted suicide legal in California may have long-lasting consequences. Supporters could not get the bill approved in the regular legislative session, so they reintroduced it during a special session on health care. The governor has signed the bill into law. But it won’t take effect until the special session ends. That likely won’t happen for months.

Jack Pitney is a Government Professor at Claremont McKenna College. He says lawmakers who supported the measure can already say they voted for it, so there’s no incentive to rush the special session.

"No individual legislator has a responsibility for calling the Legislature back into session," he says. "So they don’t really feel the political pressure on an individual level to do what’s necessary to put this into effect."

But Pitney says supporters saw an opportunity with the special session and took it.

"From their perspective it seemed like a logical thing to do at the time," he says. "But in hindsight if they wanted it to go into effect more quickly it might have been wiser to do it in the regular session."

The special session might drag on because lawmakers are supposed to approve a new structure for taxing health plans to fund Medi-Cal. It's a complicated debate. The federal government says California’s current structure doesn’t meet federal standards.  

The law is facing challenges on another front as well. Today the Secretary of State announced opponents have been cleared to begin collecting signatures for a referendum to overturn it.