Health care vote puts San Francisco mayor Ed Lee in tight spot 

click to enlarge Mayor Ed Lee has until Oct. 28 to decide whether to veto the health care program amendment. (Examiner file photo) - MAYOR ED LEE HAS UNTIL OCT. 28 TO DECIDE WHETHER TO VETO THE HEALTH CARE PROGRAM AMENDMENT. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Mayor Ed Lee has until Oct. 28 to decide whether to veto the health care program amendment. (Examiner file photo)
  • Mayor Ed Lee has until Oct. 28 to decide whether to veto the health care program amendment. (Examiner file photo)

San Francisco’s landmark universal health care program was amended by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday despite strong opposition from the business community, and now the focus is on whether Mayor Ed Lee will cast his first veto since coming into office nine months ago.

The battle over the health care law has turned into one of the most intense political debates of the year, pitting the San Francisco Labor Council and its progressive allies on the Board of Supervisors against business leaders. The debate has intensified just weeks before the Nov. 8 mayoral election.

“It is a simple issue. It is about protecting the right of workers to have health care,” said Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the legislation to amend the 2006 Health Security Ordinance. It was approved Tuesday in a 6-5 vote.

The legislation prevents employers from taking back money each year placed into health reimbursement accounts, the way 860 businesses comply with The City’s health care law. A recent city study found 80 percent, or $50.1 million, set aside in these accounts went back to employers and was not spent on employees’ health.

Business advocates say jobs would be lost and businesses could even close if they were forced to take the $50 million annual hit.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who opposed Campos’ legislation, suggested the proposal was about the politics of the mayoral race. “If the intent here is to fix this we could do a lot better,” Elsbernd said. Campos has dismissed such suggestions and says workers deserve a swift fix.

Today, three mayoral candidates, state Senator Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor John Avalos, and head of the Democratic County Central Committee Aaron Peskin, will join Campos on the steps of City Hall to call on Lee to sign the legislation into law. They will be joined by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, an author of the 2006 law.

Lee has all but said he would veto the legislation. On Tuesday, Lee introduced an alternative proposal that he said would improve workers’ access to health care while also protecting jobs.

Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey said that Lee “is focused on finding a solution. He is not considering [a veto] yet.”

The board is scheduled to take a final vote on the legislation on Oct. 18. Lee would then have 10 days, until Oct. 28, to decide whether to issue a veto. It takes eight votes on the board to override a mayoral veto.

How Board of Supervisors voted

A yes vote means the supervisor supported David Campos’ legislation amending the Health Care Security Ordinance.

John Avalos
David Campos
Malia Cohen
Jane Kim
Eric Mar
Ross Mirkarimi

David Chiu
Carmen Chu
Sean Elsbernd
Mark Farrell
Scott Wiener

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