Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Assemblymember Jim Wood gave his annual report to Humboldt County supervisors Dec. 11, detailing his legislative work on wildfires, health care and reducing opioid abuse.
At the Dec. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, Wood delivered his yearly report and he described 2018 as one that’s been “a tumultuous year at best.”
That’s largely due to the state’s experiences with intense wildfires. Wood said that “in the last 14 months alone,” 122 lives and nearly 28,000 structures were lost.
The previous week, Wood introduced his first bill for 2019, Assembly Bill 38. It seeks to create a “state community fire preparedness council” which will sponsor and review community wildfire protection plans.
“Best practices” for emergency alert and evacuation will be developed along with statewide public education campaigns. Regional councils in high fire risk zones will be formed to develop vegetation management ordinances and other fire preparedness measures.
The legislation would also create a $1 billion revolving loan fund to help people “harden their homes against fire.” It also advances new fire-related construction requirements that would take effect in 2024.
‘Bigger is not always better’
Wood chairs the assembly’s health care committee and he described legislation that regulates the pharmaceutical industry. Assembly Bill 315 is “the first bill of its kind in the state” that applies oversight to pharmacy benefit managers that Wood described as “the middlemen that decide what drugs you can take working in conjunction with your health plan.”
They now comprise a $270 billion a year industry that is “unregulated completely,” he continued, “and we just want to know what’s under the hood and make sure consumers are actually getting the best bang for their buck.”
A Wood-sponsored bill signed into law will regulate health plan mergers for the first time. “In my opinion, bigger is not always better and if we find out that it isn’t, it’s important to have the opportunity to make changes there,” he said.
Another bill sponsored by Wood, AB 2472, calls for a council to be formed to study the feasibility of a public health care option.
But a $1 billion package of bills that proposed advancing health care for all did not move forward. Wood said the main obstacle was the cost to the state.
Before describing successful legislation that addresses opioid abuse, Wood said that “sadly,” three of the counties he represents are among the state’s top 10 for overdoses.
Humboldt County is number two in the state, Mendocino is third and Del Norte is number eight. Wood noted that many of the overdoses are happening to older residents.
One of Wood’s bills, AB 2760, offers a co-prescription for the overdose antidote drug Naloxone. He said that’s “important for families whose loved ones may be at risk for an accidental overdose.”
A “hard-fought” bill was AB 2789, which requires electronic prescribing. Although “not everybody was wanting to get on board with that,” many health care providers are already doing it, Wood said.
He added that electronic prescribing reduces fraud, allows tracking and improves accuracy.
Also among Wood’s work, AB 710 makes prescribing Epidiolex, the first “completely cannabis-derived medication” legal in California. It was approved last September by the FDA for treatment of childhood epilepsy.
Wood said the coming year will include efforts to support smaller-scale cannabis businesses.
Bills that support Klamath dam removal, transparency on skilled nursing facility operations and a $1.2 billion funding package for affordable housing development, sheltering the homeless and addressing poverty were also detailed by Wood.
He also supported Senate Bill 901, which includes $1 billion for vegetation management to control wildfires. Recognizing Wood’s work on the issue, Supervisor Rex Bohn presented him with a painting of an airplane dropping flame retardant on a raging wildfire.