Assemblymember Rivas Introduces Legislation to Increase Access to Rural Broadband, Telehealth, and Electronic Court Filings

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) introduced three bills aimed at improving access to fundamental services in rural California, including high-speed internet, rural healthcare, and court services. These bills focus on access and equity, two values important to rural communities. 

Rural communities are often underserved and overlooked when it comes to basic services that should be available to all Californians. It is unfortunate that as we enter a new decade, socioeconomic status is still linked to high-speed connectivity at home. AB 2163 will equip all California fairgrounds with adequate broadband and telecommunications infrastructure needed to support our local, regional and state emergency and disaster response personnel and systems,” Rivas stated.

Broadband offers many benefits, both to people and society as a whole. Access to high-speed internet is critical for participation in civic, economic, and education systems. “Clearly, rural areas face many challenges accessing basic healthcare services. AB 2164 would improve telehealth services and access to specialty care, such as, behavioral health and addiction services within Medicaid patient populations in both rural and medically underserved urban communities,” said Rivas.

“Utilizing evolving technologies and developing innovative uses to increase access to basic public services, will create greater efficiencies in our rural communities,” Rivas added. “That is why I am also introducing AB 2165, a bill that would encourage courts to offer electronic court filing, by allowing them to recover costs associated with offering those services.”

Rural Access Bill Package:

Rural Broadband Act of 2020 -- AB 2163

With the increased threat from natural disasters facing California, including wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes, a resilient and dependable communications network to aid first responders and communicate with the public in a timely manner is a matter of life and death. This bill would create a grant program to install the proper infrastructure and technology needed to launch and maintain broadband on all California fairgrounds

E-Consult Services and Telehealth Assistance Program – AB 2164:

Today, one in six Californians are dependent on a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for their healthcare needs. Additionally, one in three is covered by Medi-Cal. The populations served by FQHCs and Rural Health Clinics (RHC) are especially vulnerable to gaps in care when referrals to specialists require additional appointments, time off work, travel, or other challenges for Medicaid or underinsured patients. The E-Consult program, established by this bill, would expand network capabilities by increasing access to specialty care through telehealth.

Electronic Court Filings – AB 2165:

Many rural Californians do not have easy access for filing court documents in person. If electronic filing is permitted or “optional,” the court can only charge a fee for the costs of “processing” a payment. AB 2165 would encourage courts to offer electronic filing by removing the fiscal disincentives for courts that permit electronic filing.

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Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.