PRESS RELEASE: Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Further Support Watsonville Community Hospital

For Immediate Release

Contact: Richard Stapler,

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced the signing of Senate Bill 969 authored by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). The bill will provide additional oversight of the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District in its initial years post-formation. This is a follow up bill to Senate Bill 418 (Laird, Chapter 1, Statutes of 2022), that moved through the legislative process with urgency in under three weeks in response to the potential closure of the Watsonville Community Hospital in Santa Cruz County.

“The residents of Pajaro Valley and their loved ones deserve continued assurance that their access to vital services, and the jobs of those who work to keep them healthy, are here to stay,” noted Laird. “SB 969 does just that. I applaud Governor Newsom for his continued support of keeping the doors of Watsonville Community Hospital open to the public.”

Since the signing of Senate Bill 418, the court approved the sale of Watsonville Community Hospital to the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project on February 23, 2022, and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors made the initial appointments to the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors on March 22, 2022. Fundraising continues in the community, as efforts have moved to corporate and individual philanthropy campaigns.

In the 2022-23 state budget, Senator John Laird and Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) secured $25 million to help finalize the purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital for the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District.

Laird states, “The urgency of SB 418 being in place in time for the days-old hospital district to make a successful bid to purchase the Hospital requires that the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District be created outside of the standard Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) process. SB 969 therefore includes statutory direction to the Santa Cruz County LAFCO to provide additional reporting and oversight to the district during the initial years of its existence.”

SB 969 garnered unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature and received no “No” votes.

Governor Newsom’s signature of SB 969 will ensure oversight of the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District during its formative years to help facilitate an orderly transition of health services in the region in a transparent manner and takes effect January 1, 2023.

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Senator John Laird represents the 17th State Senate District, which includes all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, the majority of Monterey County, as well as parts of Santa Clara County. He previously served as the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board, a member of the State Assembly, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Aids Project, and two terms as Santa Cruz Mayor. His lifetime of public service and social justice advocacy saw him become one of the first openly gay mayors to serve in the United States. Senator Laird has been a long-time resident of Santa Cruz with his spouse John Flores.