Newsom vetoes LGBTQ health bill due to its price tag

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday September 26, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on lower-income access treatment for STIs due to its cost. Photo: Courtesy AP
Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on lower-income access treatment for STIs due to its cost. Photo: Courtesy AP

California Governor Gavin Newsom has spiked another bill that LGBTQ advocates had supported this legislative session due to its price tag. This time it was legislation aimed at helping lower-income state residents access treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Newsom on Sunday vetoed Senate Bill 1234, the STI Prevention & Treatment Fairness Act authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). It had sought to expand access to services for the prevention and treatment of STIs to income-eligible patients who have confidentiality concerns, including LGBTQ+ patients, through the state's Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment program.

Such patients of the program, known as Family PACT, would have been reimbursed for the cost of their care, subject to an appropriation by the Legislature and any potential draw down of federal matching funds.

"With STI rates rising for the past seven years, we need to turn the tide and expand access to confidential and high quality STI care for LGBTQ+ patients," the advocacy group Essential Access Health had tweeted earlier this summer as to why lawmakers needed to pass the legislation.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson expressed disappointment with Newsom's decision. The Los Angeles agency was a main cosponsor of the legislation.

"We are disappointed with the governor's decision to veto SB 1234," stated Thompson. "But, as the latest data from the CDC makes clear, the STD epidemic is only growing worse in California and across the U.S. — with syphilis rates up nearly 28% in the last year alone. APLA Health will continue advocating for forward-thinking policy and funding initiatives to address this crisis, including ensuring that all LGBTQ+ Californians have access to convenient, low-cost sexual health services regardless of ability to pay."

In his September 25 veto message Newsom didn't dispute that more needs to be done to address the now decades-long rise in sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Nonetheless, without dedicated funding for it, Newsom said he couldn't sign SB 1234 into law.

"While I support the author's efforts to reduce STDs and reinfections in California, SB 1234 would expand Family PACT services beyond the federal definition of family planning thereby creating a state-only program that creates significant ongoing General Fund cost pressure not accounted for in the budget," wrote Newsom.

An analysis of the proposed bill for state lawmakers noted its cost was unknown but likely would require "possibly tens of millions of dollars for increased utilization of services related to the prevention and treatment of STDs." It added that should SB 1234 result in the number of services provided in the Family PACT program increasing by 10% then the cost would increase by approximately $37 million, which would require $28 million in federal funds and $9 million from the state's general fund.

In a number of his veto messages this month, Newsom has repeated his stance that because the Golden State is "facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing."

Newsom has added that his chief focus is on "existing obligations and priorities, including education, health care, public safety and safety-net programs."

With bills passed this session totaling $20 billion in one-time spending commitments and more than $10 billion in ongoing commitments not accounted for in the state budget, Newsom has argued that "bills with significant fiscal impact, such as this measure, should be considered and accounted for as part of the annual budget process."

It was the same reasoning Newsom used to explain why he vetoed last Monday Assembly Bill 2663 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland). The bill would have instructed the state Department of Social Services to launch a five-year pilot project called the Youth Acceptance Project in counties that volunteered to sign up for it. The state agency would have entered into a contract with the nonprofit Family Builders by Adoption to provide therapeutic-style support and intervention services to LGBTQ+ youth who receive, or are at risk of receiving, child welfare services.

There are nine other LGBTQ-related bills still before Newsom to either sign into law or veto by the deadline to do so this Friday, September 30. They range from adding protections for transgender and LGBTQ incarcerated youth to assisting LGBTQ foster families and trans employees and professors at the state's community colleges and public universities.

Newsom in recent weeks has signed two LGBTQ-related bills into law. AB 2873, authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), requires applicants of the state's low-income housing tax credit programs, as well as any of their subsidiaries and affiliates, to annually submit a report to the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee on how they plan to increase procurement from LGBTQ business enterprises and those owned by women, minorities and disabled veterans.

AB 325, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), will assist LGBTQ veterans discharged under the military's homophobic "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. It establishes the Veteran's Military Discharge Upgrade Grant program to help fund service providers that will educate veterans about the discharge upgrade process and assist eligible veterans to apply.

UPDATED 9/26/22 with a statement from APLA Health.

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