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The most contentious bill in the 2011 legislative session's final days would subject the multibillion-dollar health insurance industry to state rate regulation -- and it's spawned a boatload of campaign contributions, according to a new compilation.

Assembly Bill 52 is now pending on the Senate floor after clearing the Assembly on a 45-28 party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Carried by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, and sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, the measure also enjoys support from consumer activists, labor unions and other Democrat-friendly groups, while it's opposed by the health insurance industry and business groups.

Maplight, an organization that tracks campaign contributions and ties them to specific issues, says in its report that advocates of the measure have contributed nearly three times as much money to state senators as its opponents.

The Senate outcome is uncertain, even though Democrats could pass it without Republican votes, because it's also drawn opposition from local governments, pension funds and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, the latter citing costs of implementation.

Advocates say that the measure would protect health care consumers from being gouged, especially in light of the federal government's new mandatory coverage law.

Maplight says that advocates of the measure have contributed $1.3 million in the last three years to senators who will be voting for or against the bill while opponents have given $455,000. The contrast was especially evident among senators who voted on the bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, Maplight said.

It should be noted, however, that the groups weighing in on AB 52 typically have other issues pending before the Legislature, and the pro-AB 52 groups historically support Democrats, while those opposed are more likely to support Republicans.

The full Maplight report can be found here.


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