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After authoring the workers’ comp bill, and regulatory maze, SB 1160, Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), is moving from chair of the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee to chair of the Senate Insurance Committee. And, although it’s pretty early to discuss it in the open,  he may have an ulterior motive.

People around the Building are saying that Mendoza may be angling a run for insurance commissioner. “He wants to familiarize himself with the subject and the issues and get to know the insurance community,” says one expert. He spent only one legislative year as head of Senate Labor Relations before jumping to the Chair of insurance.

Mendoza, elected in 2014 can run for a statewide office without giving up his Senate seat.

As chair of Labor and Industrial Relations, he authored numerous bills including SB 422, which “modernized” outdated code to remove the “derogatory” term alien—in reference to illegal aliens -- from the California Labor Code.

He has some consumer bona fides in that as an assemblyman he made sure California was the first state to ban the use of trans-fats in restaurant food preparation.

Mendoza has already dabbled in workers’ comp and its many regulatory facets, evidenced by his utilization review bill SB 1160 that was signed by the governor. Moving over to Senate Insurance seems to be a logical step in a direction.

“He feels comfortable with a lot of insurance related issues. He’s comfortable getting down in the weeds. Senate Insurance provides a way for him to branch out,” says Tim Kirkconnell, his communications director. As for a future insurance commissioner run: “He hasn’t said anything to me about it,” Kirkconnell says.

Other individuals have opened financial committees for insurance commissioner including Susan Bonilla, a former assemblywoman from Contra Costa County.   Sources in Sacramento say she is not running. Former Fresno Democrat Henry Perea also filed. He is currently advocating for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and is not likely to give up the big pharma paycheck.

Also filing for an exploratory committee is Democrat Paul Song. In 2013, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones appointed a Dr. Paul Song, a radiation oncologist, as a visiting fellow at the California Department of Insurance. Dr. Song is a devotee of social justice causes and served as chairman of the Courage Campaign. In 2016, Song was forced to resign from the Courage Campaign after using the phrase “corporate democratic whores,” at a Bernie Sanders rally to describe candidates beholden to pharmaceutical companies. He insisted he was not referring to Hillary Clinton.

Bonilla, Perea, and Song could not be reached for comment.   


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