|Despite California's laser bill not making it past the Assembly this time around, the COA is already working on plans to push the legislation forward next year. Click image to enlarge.
Optometrists in California are experiencing a sad feeling of déjà vu after the recent announcement that the state’s laser bill, AB 1570, is officially out of the running for the 2024 legislative session, despite passing the Assembly Business and Professions Committee just a few weeks back. ODs and advocates in the state first began pursuing this legislation in 2022 and secured enough votes for passage only to see it ultimately vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom, who expressed concern about optometrists’ level of training on advanced procedures in his letter defending his decision. This time around, there seems to be no reason offered why the bill was killed.
“Our scope of practice bill, AB 1570, died today,” Kristine Shultz, executive director of the California Optometric Association, regretfully wrote in a message sent out to COA members on January 18. “It was held back on Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File. This means there was no vote and no official reason given.” She added, “I’m very disappointed in the Legislature, but I’m proud of all of you.”
Despite the loss, it’s encouraging to see such a tremendous level of support displayed by optometrists and advocates across the state. The COA shares that about a dozen optometrists showed up in person to testify in support at the Business and Professions Committee Hearing on January 9 with very little notice. Additionally, Ms. Shultz says “23 COA members met with their lawmakers in person or via Zoom to advocate for this legislation and 248 people called their lawmakers in the last two weeks. Some had their family and employees call, too. These actions didn’t go unnoticed at the Capitol.”
The COA’s lobbying team has already regrouped to begin discussing the options moving forward. One thing is for sure—the battle for lasers isn’t over.
“The legislative process isn’t easy,” Ms. Shultz reminds her colleagues, both within California and beyond. “Setbacks like this can sometimes represent our biggest learning and growth moments. I’m grateful to be working for such a dedicated group of people that are trying to do the best for their patients every day,” she says.