One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Four of my sister survivors from Contra Costa County know the importance of screening and timing. Survivor Joy White wanted to share this knowledge with other women, and she brought an idea about a special license plate to raise money for screenings and act as a reminder of the importance of regular mammograms. A small group of four survivors formed and the Pink Plate Campaign was launched.
Unfortunately Joy’s cancer came back, and spread to other areas. Needing to care for herself, she was unable to participate in the campaign, so “we did it for her,” Deborah Bordeau of Brentwood said.
Bordeau, Heather Solari, Chere Rush and Heather McCullough, calling themselves the “Survivor Sisters,” took up the mission to raise awareness of the importance of screenings.
With support from the State Department of Health Care Service, and the assistance of Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, the California Pink Plate Bill, AB49, was introduced in the California State Legislature. The survivors and Assemblymember Buchanan, who is a member of the Legislative Women's Caucus, agreed this was the best way to raise awareness and funds for screenings. The full-design plate, all pink with a pink ribbon, would be a very visible reminder.
“We want it to be noticed. We want want women to do self-exams. We want women to get mammograms,” Bordeau said. “We know early detection saves lives.”
Funds raised by the sale of the plates would be deposited into the Breast Cancer Control Account, which is managed by the State Health Care Service Department and funds the Every Woman Counts (EWC) program. According to the website, “The mission of the EWC is to save lives by preventing and reducing the devastating effects of cancer for Californians through education, early detection, diagnosis, and integrated preventive services, with special emphasis on the underserved.”
AB49 passed the State Assembly with a unanimous vote in May. But something happened on the way to the Senate.
Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, wrote on his Facebook page, “AB 49 violates state law as currently written. AB 49 would create a license plate that is pink and features the logos of private non-profit organizations, such as Pink Ribbon, Inc. and the Komen Foundation. State law does not permit a distinctive full plate design, decal, or message.”
The post also says, “Plates must now be sponsored by a state agency, and the revenue they generate must publicize or promote the official policy, mission, or work of a state agency. A state agency with the mission of promoting awareness of breast cancer prevention or research, such as the Department of Health Care Services, could create a special interest license plate.”
This post was made only two days after the Survivor Sisters met with Senator DeSaulnier at his Walnut Creek office. They wanted to make sure the bill was out of the Senate Rules Committee and on track to be heard by the Senate Transportation Committee July 2.
“We left thinking he was pulling it out of Rules,” Bordeau said. “This came out of the blue. It would have been respectful if he would have called and got clarification.”
Clarification, Bordeau said, that the bill is indeed sponsored by the Department of Health Care Services, which is a point in the text of the bill itself, and that there is not a state law making full-plate designs illegal. She said the state's “legacy plate,” which is a full-design plate, became available just last year.
Senator DeSaulnier is asking legislative counsel for an opinion on these and other issues. For example, the State was sued in 2004 and, because of the ruling in that case, will not allow a private organization to have a plate. The pink ribbon proposed is often identified with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and this serves as a point of contention.
“The ribbon is not a patented ribbon and it certainly doesn't tie into Susan G. Komen,” McCollough said. But that doesn't even matter, she furthered, because the plate itself hasn't been designed.
But nothing, including the design, can happen until the bill is voted on by the Senate, and that won't happen unless it's pulled out of Rules. If it isn't voted on July 2, the next opportunity will be next year.
“It makes no sense to not let the bill be heard,” said McCollough, who said that Senator DeSaulnier has the authority as the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee to pull it out of Rules to be heard by the Senate.
“He has the power to pull it out of Rules,” Bordeau said. “He can pull it out because he put it there. If he keeps it in Rules, he basically shuts it down until next year.”
“Our main issue is that we want it to be at least heard,” McCollough said. “Let it be voted on. If we need to make changes, we will.”
Some said women don't have another year. The sooner a woman is diagnosed and treated, the better her chances of survival are.
“To him (DeSaulnier) waiting another year isn't a big deal. To us it is a big deal,” Bordeau said. “It's terrible that he will try to stop this without having his facts straight.”
As of today, June 28, the bill is still in Rules, but the Senator is meeting with the Survivor Sisters and, hopefully, some of the miscommunications can be cleared up. According to staff at the Senator's office, the goal is to have the bill amended and out of rules by the deadline, July 2.