March 28, 2016

Capitol

On March 9, Dr. Bob Gould, San Francisco Bay Area PSR’s president, and Catherine Porter, policy consultant, walked the halls of the state Capitol and visited offices to educate legislators and staff on SF PSR’s work in furthering policies that advance human health and the health of the environment. Topics ranged from global warming through gun violence, with an emphasis on how to prevent both.

Dr. Gould and Ms. Porter met with state Senator Bill Monning (17th Senate district), the current Senate Majority Leader who represents all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties as well as portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties. Over the years, Senator Monning has been a tireless advocate for health-protective policies exemplified by his authoring legislation that would have established a sugar sweetened beverage tax with the revenues dedicated to support childhood obesity prevention programs, as well as legislation to place a consumer-warning label on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. He has also supported improving access to information to protect worker health, and improving access to the health care system for all Californians.

There were also visits to the offices of Assemblymember David Chiu (17th assembly district), representing the eastern part of San Francisco, and Senator Isadore Hall (35th senate district), both of whom are authoring legislation that SF PSR is supporting to help curb the public health threat posed by gun violence.  Almost 3,000 Californians die every year by gun violence, including suicides, and it is estimated that as many as twice that number suffer non-fatal injuries by firearms.[i]  Studies show that states with the toughest gun control laws have the lowest gun-related homicide and suicide rates. [ii]

In line with SF PSR’s long support of efforts to curb the particularly lethal consequences of mass attacks utilizing assault weapons, we are, among others, supporting AB 1663 (Chiu) which aims to redefine assault weapons to include military style semi-automatic firearms that do not have a fixed magazine, regardless of whether they have any other military-style features such as pistol grip and folding stock.  Under current law, guns without those features can have exchangeable or unfixed magazines. AB 1663 recognizes that the key lethal feature is the ability to rapidly reload and keep firing (read more here).

In addition to gun violence, another major issue of discussion was global warming and how we can help to expand and strengthen California’s pioneering efforts, such as subsumed in previous legislation such as AB 32, in combatting this looming threat to global health. SF PSR met with staff persons for Senator Fran Pavley, who is authoring SB 32, an attempt to extend and strengthen the AB 32 mandates that would expire by the end of the decade. We offered our support for SB 32, which calls for setting a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit that is equivalent to 40% below the 1990 level to be achieved by 2030.  We hope to enlist our colleagues in health care institutions and health professional societies in this critical work.

All the legislators’ offices acknowledged the critical need for health professional support of their initiatives, and especially underscored the import of having the involvement of medical students and other health professional students to demonstrate the concerns of our next generation of health leadership. As such, SF PSR is committed to doing our best to engage our base to help guarantee the success of this year’s progressive legislative proposals that could serve to strengthen public and environmental health in California, and provide an example for the rest of our nation.

[i] CDC reports that, nationwide, twice as many people suffer non-fatal injuries as die from gun violence. Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 61, Number 4, Deaths: Final Data for 2010, May 8, 2013. vitalhttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf

[ii] Eric W. Fleegler, MD, MPH; Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH; Michael C. Monuteaux, ScD; David Hemenway, PhD; Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH,  Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States  (May 13, 2013).http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390