While the California budget remains in limbo, having long missed its deadline for approval, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing another critical deadline with important implications for young children. As of 10 a.m. today, he has only 86 hours to make decisions regarding more than 700 bills on his desk. Among them are several that would improve the health, well-being and school readiness of young children.

First 5 LA supported a number of bills during this year’s legislative session. Five of these child and family-friendly bills made it to Schwarzenegger’s desk:

  • AB 1825: This bill by Assemblyman Hector de La Torre (D-South Gate) would require all health insurance policies to cover maternity care services for women in California. AB 1825 has the potential to ensure that children are born healthy by increasing access to prenatal services that reduce infant and maternal mortality. The bill would also improve health outcomes, such as the rates of low birth weight or preterm births, infectious disease transmissions and respiratory distress syndrome.
  • AB 2084: Authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), this measure would address nutritional standards in licensed child care settings in an effort to fight childhood obesity. By requiring licensed day care facilities to limit young children’s consumption of full-fat milk and juice, bar sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage water consumption as an alternative, this bill will help children establish and maintain healthy eating habits.
  • AB 2720: If passed, this bill, penned by Assembly Speaker John A. P?rez (DLos Angeles), would establish the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative Fund and positions the state for the receipt of federal dollars related to the 2010 Healthy Food Financing Initiative contained in President Barack Obama’s budget. The lack of access to healthy, fresh food in lowincome communities has contributed to severe health problems. Improving access to healthy food helps address this crisis. Studies show that better access to healthy food corresponds with healthier eating and lower rates of obesity and diabetes.
  • SB 1381: Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) first proposed this law that would phase-in the requirement that students starting kindergarten must turn 5 by September 1st of the school year. The bill also calls for a transitional kindergarten to be created for those “young five” children whose entry into kindergarten is delayed. Transitional kindergarten will better prepare students for school, and reduce the need for costly special education aimed at improving success in school. This is especially important for low-income children, who often receive less academic preparation.
  • SB 220: This legislation by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Mateo) would require health insurance policies to include coverage for tobacco cessation services. Smoking among pregnant women is the leading preventable cause of infant death. Secondhand smoke can result in lifelong health problems for young children, and can harm fetuses in utero. Secondhand smoke also puts young children at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), respiratory illnesses, middle ear infections, impaired lung function and asthma. According to the California Health Benefits Review Program, SB 220 would help 8,000 Californians quit smoking every year – many of them expectant mothers or parents with young children.

The governor has until September 30 to sign or veto bills passed by state legislators. Please call Kate Sachnoff at (213) 482-7577, if you would like more information on state legislation supported by First 5 LA.