Single-Payer Activists Confront Assemblymember Jim Wood at July 20th Meeting

District 2 Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) was the featured speaker at the July 20th meeting of the Windsor Democratic Club, discussing his 2017 legislative activities. He covered the highlights of the recently passed $183 billion state budget, with expanded support for K-12 education and additional funding for preschools. Wood reported that gas taxes have been increased to pay for repairs to our highways, the condition of which is costing motorists approximately $700/year in repair costs to their individual vehicles. He touched on other legislation in which he is engaged, including Assembly Bill 1433, which proposes using funds from the recently passed Cap and Trade Extension for carbon sequestration through better management of our forests and natural and working lands.

After his initial remarks, it became very clear that the most people in the audience were interested in only one piece of legislation, Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, a bill to create a single-payer health care system in California. The progressive flank of the Democratic Party has been electrified by this issue, and are vocal in support for the bill, authored by State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

In late June, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) decided to hold the bill indefinitely in the Assembly Rules Committee, calling it, as written, “woefully incomplete.” Rendon said that the bill failed to adequately address “financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters.” Wood, the chair of the Assembly Health Committee and a career dentist, said he supported a single payer system as a goal, but supported Rendon’s decision to ask the bill’s authors to come up with some solutions to the areas that had not been covered in the current bill.

Numerous speakers in the audience expressed dissatisfaction with Wood for not working to move the bill forward. Wood patiently reiterated the difficulties of supporting such a major overhaul of our healthcare supply system without adequate details, particularly when funding for our current system is under attack by the Trump administration and GOP-controlled congress. Currently, the federal government supplies approximately $200 billion yearly to help fund the California health care. Given the attacks to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, this federal funding is now very much in jeopardy.

Concerns about the federal situation were not expressed by the single-payer activists in attendance. Several activists said that Wood was an impediment to single payer legislation despite his seemingly logical objection to the current bill. The single-payer folks didn’t seem to want to accept Wood’s statement that the bill is alive, but requires more collaborative work to arrive at a final product that will address the real concerns raised by Speaker Rendon and others. Wood did commit to speak with Rendon to ask him to publicize the bill’s progress and status.

Assemblymember Wood was the first speaker in a three consecutive Thursday program sponsored by the club. Supervisor James Gore will speak to the club on July 27 at the Windsor Round Table Pizza and State Senator Mike McGuire will speak on August 3 at the Cloverdale Vets Building. All meetings are at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.

— Barry Hirsch

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