The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Is Perata Ready to Push ABX1-1 Through State Senate?

Posted by Alan on January 10, 2008

On December 17th, the day the Assembly passed ABX1-1, the health care reform compromised worked out by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Nunez, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s told a San Jose television station the bill was “dead on arrival” in the upper house. 

Earlier that day he had asked Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill to submit a report to the Senate on ABX1-1’s impact on the state’s finances. The implication of the Senator’s statements. at the time, was that the report would heavily influence the legislation’s fate. If the study determined the legislation’s impact on the state’s $14.5 billion deficit would be positive or merely minimally negative, the Senate would likely pass the bill. If, however, it found ABX1-1 would make the state’s already bad fiscal situation worse, the legislation would likely to go nowhere.

The Legislative Analyst’s report is due soon, but Senator Perata no longer seems to be waiting on it. According to a post by Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub on the paper’s CapitolAlert web site, Senator Perata implied today that the Senate will be passing ABX1-1.

Mr. Weintraub reports Senator Perata as saying the Senate may amend ABX1-1, but they won’t change the plan’s financing mechanisms. This is because Governor Schwarzenegger and Speaker Nunez have already started the process of qualifying a ballot initiative to authorize the $14.5 billion needed to finance the health care reform package for the November 2008 ballot. Only if voters approve the measure will the provisions of ABX1-1 take effect (assuming, of course, the likely law suits don’t delay implementation).

Turning over the ultimate fate of ABX1-1 to voters seems to appeal to Senator Perata and could explain his optimism the bill will pass the Senate prior to publication of the Legislative Analyst’s report. He’s in a bit of a political bind and the initiative makes dealing with the situation easier.

Senator Perata has reportedly been under heavy pressure from his political allies to keep health care reform on track in California. And he is a long time supporter of comprehensive health care reform, so he’d sincerely like to see the proposal move forward. However, back in December, the Senator called passage of health care reform legislation before Sacramento addresses the state’s looming budget crisis “imprudent and impolitic.” 

How to make his supporters happy, achieve a long desired legislative goal, and avoid being imprudent and impolitic? If the Legislative Analyst determines ABX1-1 won’t harm the state’s financial situation, he’s off the hook. “She said it’s OK, so it’s OK.”

But even if the report finds enacting ABX1-1 will make California’s budget situation worse, the Senator can say something along the lines of, “I support the goals and policies of this bill. And while the state can’t afford it, if voters decide its the right thing to do then I’ll live by their decision.” In other words, anything the voters do is, by definition, neither imprudent nor impolitic.

Whatever his motivation, Senator Perata’s recent comments make it much more likely voters will determine the outcome of California health care reform effort.


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