FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 30, 2004

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Betsy Imholz 415-431-6747

Governor Schwarzenegger Sides With Special Interests by Vetoing Key Consumer Protection Bills

SACRAMENTO, CA – When Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned during last year’s California recall election, he promised to stand up to special interests and be the people’s governor. But a flurry of vetoes by Governor Schwarzenegger of key consumer bills is casting serious doubt on whether he’s following through on that pledge.

Over the past few weeks, Schwarzenegger has vetoed bills on a range of important consumer issues, including those addressing deadly hospital infections and the high cost of prescription drugs to car dealer rip-offs and the secrecy of recalls involving contaminated meat.

“Unfortunately, the Governor’s promise to stand up to the special interests appears to be an empty campaign slogan rather than something Californians can depend on when it comes to consumer protection,” said Betsy Imholz, Director of Consumers Unions West Coast Office.

“On virtually every important consumer bill that made it to his desk this year, Governor Schwarzenegger sided with big money special interests over the interests of average Californians.”

Among those bills vetoed by the Governor were:

SB 1487 (Speier) / Mandatory Hospital Infection Reporting: requires hospitals in the state to report the rate at which their patients develop infections, which kill an estimated 9,600 Californians every year and add $5 billion to the nation’s healthcare bill.

SB 379 (Ortiz) / Safeguarding Uninsured from Hospital Overcharging: prohibits hospitals from overcharging uninsured patients and ensures that they are properly informed of their rights and financial options to cover their hospital bills.

AB 1957 (Frommer), SB 1149 (Ortiz) / Facilitating Cheaper Drug Purchases for Consumers: requires the state to establish a web site with links to certified Canadian pharmacies so Californians can safely purchase drugs at cheaper prices.

SB 1144 (Burton), SB 1333 (Perata) / Facilitating Cheaper Drug Purchases for State: SB 1144 allows the Department of General Services to contract with Canadian sources to purchases drugs for Corrections, state hospitals, and other select state agencies; SB 1333 authorizes the state to reimburse pharmacies that purchase drugs for Medi-Cal and AIDS Drug Assistance Program beneficiaries from Canadian pharmacies meeting quality standards.

AB 1960 (Pavley) Accountability for Pharmacy Benefit Managers: imposes a fiduciary duty on pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) to the purchaser and requires disclosure of rebates, discounts, and other price cuts received by the PBM.

SB 1585 (Speier) / Public’s Right to Know About Recalled Meat: requires state health officials to notify the public which retailers have received contaminated beef or poultry that is the subject of a recall by the USDA.

SB 1154 (Figueroa) / Rebate Rights for Consumers: ensures consumers receive rebates by retailers in a timely manner without having to jump through frustrating and unnecessary hoops.

AB 1839 (Montanez) / Car Buyers Bill of Rights: gives consumers new rights, including safeguards against high cost mark-ups and auto financing overcharges.

AB 2868 (Nunez) / Refund Anticipation Loan Protections: increases consumer protections for taxpayers who take out high-cost refund anticipation loans.

SB 339 (Alpert) / Debt Collection Reform for Child Support Payments: protects custodial parents who contract with debt collectors to obtain needed child support payments from excessive fees and abusive and misleading contract terms.

AB 2598 (Steinberg) / Safeguards Governing Foreclosures By Homeowner Associations: prohibits home foreclosures for sums under $2,500 owed to homeowner associations and establishes stricter practices governing foreclosures for sums over $2,500 owed to homeowner associations.

Among the priority bills for Consumers Union signed by Governor Schwarzenegger were:

AB 1733 (Reyes) / Cell Phone Number Privacy: mandates that wireless companies must get their customers’ permission first before listing their cell phone numbers in a planned directory and prohibits carriers from charging fees to keep numbers unlisted.

SB 1765 (Sher) / Rules for Pharmaceutical Marketing: makes mandatory the voluntary guidelines developed by the pharmaceutical industry regarding gifts, meals, and other inducements given to doctors and other prescribers by drug companies.

AB 1959 (Chu) Collecting Unpaid Drug Rebates Owed to State: requires legislative oversight of the Department of Health Service’s Medi-Cal rebates for drug purchases to ensure the state collects the estimated $1.3 billion it is owed for unpaid rebates.