Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California's Social Policy Sweep: Will Other States Follow Suit?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California's Social Policy Sweep: Will Other States Follow Suit?

Article excerpt

In a jam-packed legislative session, California lawmakers enacted a sweeping range of social policies, including bills mandating equal pay to women, allowing assisted suicide for terminally-ill people, and requiring student vaccinations.

The 675 bills signed this year by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, point to a commitment by state lawmakers to aggressively pursue a host of progressive goals - including comprehensive climate change legislation.

Observers say their efforts to actively legislate on controversial issues like assisted suicide may become a model for Congress and other states frequently mired in political in- fighting, though the state has side-stepped some long-vexing economic issues.

"Both the vaccine bill and the right-to-die legislation will be seriously looked at by other states," Sherry Bebitch-Jeffe, senior political science fellow at the University of Southern California, told the Associated Press."If it can pass here and it is perceived to work here, I think the proponents have a big positive jolt out of the victory in California."

The state has also made strides in tackling the thorny issue of illegal immigration, moving from denying government services to undocumented workers 20 years ago to attempting to create a path to "state citizenship" for them in a series of bills passed over the last few years, as The Monitor's Gloria Goodale reported.

Following previous moves to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses, pay in-state tuition rates at local colleges, and have access to financial aid traditionally denied to non-citizens, the state is now allowing undocumented minors to receive health insurance through the state's Medi-Cal program and state health exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

"California is far ahead of other states," Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate dean of the school of Public Policy at the University of California in Riverside, told The Monitor, calling the immigration proposals a model for other states and Congress.

"California is done waiting in vain for action on immigration from the federal government," he added.

Particularly significant is the sweeping climate change legislation, which pledges to increase the state's use of renewable energy sources to 50 percent by 2030. …

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