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Capitol Roundup: Single-Payer's Cost, Equal Pay, Guns In Schools


Four hundred billion dollars. That’s the first estimate of how much it could cost to create a single-payer health care system in California. Meanwhile, the Assembly has passed bills that would ban guns on school campuses and address the gender pay gap.

Here's a roundup of the big stories from the state Capitol Monday:

California Single-Payer Health Care Cost Pegged At $400 Billion

We now have our first estimate of how much it would cost for California to create a statewide, single-payer health care system.

A legislative staff report says half the $400 billion cost could be covered by existing federal, state and local funds. The remaining $200 billion, it says, could be raised through a 15 percent employer payroll tax.

The report adds that after subtracting the money that employers and employees already spend on health insurance, new spending under the bill would range from $50 billion to $100 billion a year.

Still, despite passion and momentum among Democratic activists, a $200 billion payroll tax would be a heavy lift at the state Capitol. Several lawmakers who say they support single-payer health care in theory worry about the state’s ability to pay for it. Gov. Jerry Brown has also raised cost concerns.

Backers are studying funding sources and savings they say would allow California to reach universal coverage.

But opponents argue it’s simply not realistic to create a new program more than twice as large as the state budget.

Assembly Backs End To Gun-Free Schools Law Exemption

The California Assembly has voted to eliminate the authority of school districts to allow guns on campuses. Currently, a superintendent can issue written permission to “concealed carry” permit holders on a case-by-case basis.

Asm. Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) says her 30 years as a teacher have shown her the importance of eliminating guns from schools.

“Being on a campus every day with students, I can tell you: Having a gun is not an additional protection,” she says.

But Asm. Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who spent 28 years working for the California Highway Patrol, says lawmakers should let district leaders decide whether to allow guns into schools.

“I believe that we’re losing the vision of what really threatens children on campus,“ he says. “It isn’t guns; it’s behavior.”

The measure passed the Assembly Monday with two votes to spare and now moves to the state Senate.

Latest "Equal Pay" Bill Bans Employers From Seeking Salary History

The California Assembly has voted to prohibit employers from asking for salary histories from job applicants. It’s the latest effort in the state Legislature to address the gender pay gap.

Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is the bill’s author. She says employers often base a worker’s pay on his or her salary history – and women have historically worked in jobs that pay less than predominantly male professions.

“Teaching, social work, dietary things – women shouldn’t be able to go from that profession to something else and be inherently underpaid,” Eggman said Monday during Assembly floor debate.

“The job pays what it’s paid; it’s worth what it’s worth. And it shouldn’t be used as a moving target to pay qualified women less due to their past history,” added Asm. Marie Waldron (R-Escondido).

But the California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, arguing lawmakers should first give two newly-enacted equal pay laws a chance to work.

Asm. Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach) argued employers should be able to use as much information as possible when evaluating potential employees.

“All this bill simply does is reduce transparency and reduce information in terms of what employers have to be able to be help making good hiring decisions,” he said.

The measure would also require an employer to provide the pay scale for an open position upon an applicant’s request.

It passed the Assembly Monday by a bipartisan vote of 54-6, although several moderate Democrats joined Republicans in abstaining. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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