Legislative Day 2014 Update by Erin Swift, O.D.

As many of you know, March 13th was Legislative Day in Sacramento for optometrists in California.  Each year, we have one day to speak directly with legislators to discuss important issues related to optometry.  Because ours is a legislated profession, the importance of this day cannot be overstated.  This year was particularly critical due to SB 492, which passed the Senate last year and will be heard in the Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee of the Assembly sometime in June 2014.  SB 492 is a scope expanding bill that will dramatically change the way we practice optometry.  The bill is four-pronged: a) eliminates prescription medication restrictions and allows ODs to prescribe any medication for the treatment of ocular conditions, b) includes use of injections, specifically for the purpose of immunizations, c) includes the ability to perform minor surgical procedures, such as removal of lid lesions (papillomas, chalazion, etc), d) and includes the ability to use laser therapy for procedures such as SLT, LPI, and YAG posterior capsulotomy.  The good news is that COA negotiations with CMA (specifically ophthalmology) have gone well and they have agreed optometrists are capable of performing all procedures specified in the bill.  The bad news is that the length of training to obtain certification is far from agreed upon.  The COA recommends a 32 hour training course, which is equal to requirements in other states (OK & KY).  The CMA requests a 2-3 year “residency” lasting more than 2 days per week and 4 hours per day.  On May 13th, COA had another meeting with CMA, but no agreement was reached; as of now, the negotiations are ongoing.

As for other optometric-related legislation, SB 430 has been proposed by Assembly Member Wright that would require a comprehensive eye exam for all children before entering kindergarten.  The bill is sponsored by the California Teachers Association and is fully supported by COA.  Several vision screening bills have also been submitted, SB 1172 and AB 1840.  SB 1172 proposes adding near vision testing to the current school screening process.  COA has a “support if amended position” if the bill is changed to include a comprehensive exam.  COA spoke with the author, Senator Steinberg, and he is willing to consider the amendment.  AB 1840 would authorize school vision screenings to assess vision using an eye chart or any other scientifically validated screening test.  The apparent intent of the bill is to allow photo-screening and other new technology that may be developed in the future to screen for vision defects in children.  The COA opposes this bill believing only comprehensive eye exams can reliably diagnose ocular abnormalities.

It was a very informative day and hopefully successful.   Please continue to build relationships with your local legislators in order to get SB 492 passed.  I would like to thank those who volunteered their time to fly to Sacramento last month: Drs. Greg Hom, Allison Pierce, Ketan Bakriwala, Joe Garvin, Dick Skay, Doug Osborne and Bob Meisel.  Your dedication and lobbying efforts are much appreciated!