In a state where politics and public servants reflect the public’s deeply-held political beliefs, California has been embroiled in a loud and even violent row over two bills approved last week. The legislation — Senate Bill 54, the paid family leave bill, and Assembly Bill 752, the nurse-midnight budget protection bill — both enjoyed majority support but have been treated with near-primal contempt by so-called trade-union “moderate” Democrats and Republicans, with one bill shot down, one passed, and thousands of nurses across the state coming out to protest against both.
What’s in the bills that so provokes this response? On paid family leave, a salary of up to $75 per hour will allow working mothers with small children to bond with their babies or care for ill or elderly relatives.
And on keeping nurses safe in the work place: If a hospital fails to provide strong and safe patient-care practices, including hiring a doctor or nurse in times of crisis, patients could be discharged. And physicians and nurses could be removed from jobs for failing to enact those policies.
They’re completely different laws, of course — but that doesn’t make them any less incendiary to the vast majority of people who rely on health care. The public, they’re fear-mongering. It seems that the California Medical Association and California Nurses Association don’t give a shit.
And guess what? The overwhelming majority of everyone else in the state is pissed off at them. Many California nurses are being harassed with picket signs, phone calls, and online threats. The SMNPA says it’s simply checking for the “best public interest.” But it’s clear that the bill has stirred a deep anger and resentment among many.
To their credit, the California Nurses Association and the California Medical Association — in combination with the California Hospital Association — have spent the last week talking to worried doctors and nurses on both sides of the argument, and negotiating an effective deal. Whether or not you agree with them, it’s clear that they want to get this bill done in a manner that they think will reassure everyone.
“The way it’s going now with a loud mob doesn’t make for a good discussion,” one MD tells me. “We want to figure out a way to talk about the bill as a compromise. But the past couple days have been offensive.”
And she’s right: It certainly doesn’t feel like the bill — or the task of enacting the bill — is going anywhere.