Argument Between Legislators Doesn’t Stop Bill from Moving Forward

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BY VICTORIA TANNER

After two weeks and no additional meeting, on Tuesday, June 14, the Multi-Services committee moved the Pharmacy “Take-Back” Act forward to the next full legislative session.

Information about different routes for the act and another heated argument between the bill’s sponsor and another legislator did not impede it from moving out of committee.

Discussing the act was item four on the agenda but Committee Chair Philip Soskin moved it to the ending of the meeting. When he reached the item for a second time he said he had not “seen any changes” between what was proposed two weeks ago and Tuesday night.

Before the act’s sponsor Legislator Lon Hofstein spoke, the Legislature’s council, Elena Yeger, explained to the committee and audience about research she discovered the same day.

She also received quotes from several companies regarding the cost of picking up and transferring the pharmaceuticals and sharps to be properly disposed. Yeger did not reveal the numbers during the committee meeting.

“Different from those [pick-up programs], are EPRs,” she said.

EPR Laws are Extended Producer Responsibility laws, which ultimately holds the pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers responsible for the collection and disposal of medicine and sharps.

Counties in California have enacted EPR laws – including Marin and Santa Clara counties. Yeger said she has spoken to an organization that helps draft EPR legislation that would be willing to speak with Hofstein if the legislators want to create an EPR law instead of the current bill.

The main difference between an EPR law and the current bill up for discussion is the funder of the program. The current proposed legislation has pharmacies paying for collection bins and disposal while EPR laws often have pharmacies pay the initial cost with manufacturers reimbursing them later.

Legislator Aron Wieder was angry with Hofstein’s decision to not speak with Wieder about the bill before bringing it into committee. He mentioned Legislator Charles Falcigilia’s method for bringing in and passing a law regarding the sewer commission.

“The way to do that is by conversation,” Wieder said as he praised Falcigilia’s method and criticized Hofstein’s. “He [Falciglia] didn’t present half-baked stuff.”

Wieder said he arrived in committee without any information about Hofstein’s bill and wants the legislator to “listen and learn from others who’ve passed laws.”

“The way to do this is the Falciglia way, not the Hofstein way,” he said.

Hofstein interrupted Wieder to ask if the committee is going to move the bill forward or not.

Soskin added that he has objections to the bill in its current form but will move it forward on the condition that the final version is submitted at least 10 days before the hearing. He also created a subcommittee of himself, Hofstein, Wieder, Falciglia and Legislator Ilan Schoenberger to go over the law before the final version is due.

“Unlike Wieder, I will not try to embarrass, [or] insult another legislator,” Hofstein said. He responded to Wieder’s earlier comments and thought, “maybe legislator Wieder needs to go through a behavior management course.”

Soskin cut off Hofstein claiming everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that “this is not something political, [we are] trying to accomplish things for the betterment of this county.”

Although Soskin tried to steer the conversation away from anger, Hofstein and others, including Legislators Christopher Carey and Vincent Tyer, reacted to Soskin’s belief that Wieder’s comments were not personal attacks.

“These comments were clear,” Hofstein said. 

“Unbecoming of an elected official…this will only lead to a blood bath. It becomes a verbal blood bath,” he said leading Wieder to interject “on a day after 49 people were slaughtered” referring to the mass shooting that took place on early Sunday morning at an Orlando gay club  on Latin night.

Soskin tried again to gain control of the argument. He told the legislators it is their job to “carry on the people’s business.”

A date for the hearing will be set at the next full legislative meeting on Tuesday  June 21.    

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