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Good morning, California.

“All good politicians stick to a script, but Harris speaks like a woman who knows that facts are ammunition. Everything you say can and will be used against you.”—Atlantic’s profile of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, as she runs for president.

Gun safety may become doctors' 'lane'

Health care providers play a role in bipartisan gun legislation.

Remember when the National Rifle Association tweeted that doctors should “stay in their lane” and not take stands on gun control, and physicians answered by detailing their experiences treating the impact of gun violence with the #ThisIsOurLane campaign?

Now, legislation gaining bipartisan support would put into law how doctors, nurses and other health professionals might help avert gun violence.

  • Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman of Palo Alto, the bill’s author, argues that “health care providers are uniquely positioned to help prevent firearm-related harm.”
  • The concept predates the NRA vs. physicians twitter fight. But it would require that the state-funded University of California Firearm Violence Research Center in Sacramento develop information that physicians and other health providers could use to identify patients who are at risk for shooting themselves or others, and intervene.

Some of the information exists here.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, the center’s founder and director, pointed out that patients often visit doctors when they’re depressed or suffering from substance abuse. Those visits, he said, can offer a “teachable moment.”

His goal: “We’re going to change the practice of medicine and the profession of nursing and other health professionals when it comes to firearms.”

What’s next: The bill cleared its first committee with Republican support last week and faces its next hearing next Tuesday.


Painkiller could get a cancer warning

Studies have linked acetaminophen to various forms of cancer.

Acetaminophen, a widely used over-the-counter medication for aches and pains, could be in line for a cancer warning.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last week extended until May 29 the deadline for submitting comments on whether to place a warning on products such as Tylenol that contain acetaminophen. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group of over-the-counter medication manufacturers, sought the extension.

  • The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved over-the-counter use of acetaminophen in 1960. Subsequent studies have linked it to various types of cancer.

What’s ahead: The office’s staff scientists will review the data, and present a recommendation to a scientific review panel, which is tentatively scheduled to meet Dec. 5.

If panelists find that acetaminophen is a carcinogen, manufacturers would have a year to place a warning on products containing the painkiller. The state also could conclude the risk is so small as to not require a warning.

  • Voters established the warning requirement by approving Proposition 65 in 1986. Tom Hayden, the late California legislator and activist, helped lead the Proposition 65 campaign, and it was one of his proudest achievements.
  • Proposition 65 warnings have been added to scores of products ranging from second-hand tobacco smoke and diesel exhaust to charcoal and gasoline.

Dennis Raglin, a Los Angeles lawyer who defends companies against Proposition 65: “We are oversaturated with warnings.”

Legislators have attempted to limit Proposition 65-related lawsuits against companies that fail to properly warn, with limited success.


A limit on public records requests

Researchers, like those at UC Santa Cruz, have been hit with a host of public records requests.

Pending legislation would significantly limit the use of California Public Records Act requests to obtain unpublished work by researchers at the University of California and other public universities in the state.

Undark detailed the legislation in an article on Monday, citing reports that the number of public records requests sent to UC soared to 16,921 in 2017, from 3,266 in 2009.

  • An example: UC Santa Cruz researchers studying lead poisoning on condors had to cull through five years of emails with a request from the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation for all correspondence containing the word “‘lead’ in combination with other words like ‘condor,’ ‘bullet’ and ‘blood.’”

Undark: “Over the past decade, scholars working on everything from climate liability strategy to the use of biotechnology in animal agriculture, to the safety of abortions performed by nurse practitioners and midwives, have been subjected to public records requests made by groups critical of their work.”

All Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted for the measure by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, a Glendale Democrat. The Union of Concerned Scientists and Climate Science Legal Defense Fund support it.

Republicans voted against it, siding with the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation and First Amendment Coalition. The bill faces several more hurdles before it reaches Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Take a number: 21

A Center for Disease Control image of the measles virus.

The number of measles cases in California so far this year reached 21 last week. That’s equal to the number of measles cases for all of 2018.

Sacramento Democrat Sen. Richard Pan’s legislation to crack down on physicians who grant medical exemptions allowing parents to avoid vaccinating their kids will get its first hearing next week.

Kamala Harris watch

Elizabeth Wiel follows U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on the campaign trail.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, running for president, is featured in this long read by Elizabeth Wiel, who follows Harris on the campaign trail, detailing the view that she would be a formidable nominee, and her much commented-upon hesitancy as California attorney general to take stands:

“It’s hard not to be ambivalent about a cautious person, particularly a person who has been working for you but holding back, saving for the future.”

Set aside time to read it. You’ll gain new insight.

L.A. Times’ investigation rewarded

The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting.

The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most prestigious award, for its 2018 investigation exposing Dr. George Tyndall, the University of Southern California gynecologist accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students. To get a sense of the work that went into that investigation by reporters Harriet Ryan, Matt Hamilton and Paul Pringle, read this piece.

The scandal is the focus of legislation, described in this post, allowing Tyndall’s patients an extra year to sue USC.

Commentary at CALmatters

Julie Su, California Labor Commissioner: In California, paying women less is a form of wage theft. The law also prohibits paying someone less for substantially similar work on the basis of race or ethnicity. What makes California’s pay equity law particularly significant is that it does not require proof of discrimination or intent.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: While Gov. Gavin Newsom claims a global role in the immigration crisis, how he handles a more prosaic crisis in the Department of Motor Vehicles could have a greater effect on his political career.

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