Getting into crunch time

With the end of session only eight days away, and a major gubernatorial election coming this November, the legislature is frantically trying to push through key legislation that will allow it to claim some victories and progress going into the election season. Of course, so is the Governor as he tries to re-establish his damaged credentials as anything but a right-wing movie-star-turned-politician. Schwarzenegger and his Bush advisors are desperate to have some constructive accomplishments that appeal to California’s average voter. So he’s got to do more than demonstrate he’s Big Businesses lackey and sign into law some legislation that actually does something for the average Californian.
The Democratic leadership is, of course, well aware that this is the year for major reform efforts to force Schwarzenegger to move out of his Right-wing stupor and become the governor he promised he would be. To force his hand, Democrats and Progressives have targeted important legislation like increasing the minimum wage and making healthcare available for all Californians. If we can’t get this key legislation signed into law this year, and if Schwarzenegger gets re-elected, there is no way he is going to sign legislation creating these important reforms during his next four year term
All the political experts agree that Schwarzenegger needs to appeal to the center to get re-elected. Of course, should he be re-elected, we can expect another George Bush-like performance after he was handed his second term— he won’t and doesn’t have to give a damn about the will of the people or doing anything but handing out favors to his supporters and mugging for the camera—something we know our Governor does only too well. Bottom line: It’s now or never for important efforts to help working people and to make California a leader in providing health care to its people.

It was announced Monday that a compromise had been reached on the minimum wage bill and that California’s lowest paid workers will see a modest but important increase over the next several months from a paltry $6.75 an hour to a still well-under liveable wage of $8 per hour. A small but important step. Score one for each side.
Equally important, this week, Senator Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840–often referred to as the Health Care for All bill, will come to the Assembly floor for a vote. It is critically important that this measure be put on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto. That will tell a big part of the story as to what this Governor is really all about. Those of us who believe his suddenly rediscovered “moderate” approach to governing is no more than election year posturing, want to force his hand. Will he sign such an important and nation-leading approach to healthcare delivery for all people, or will he show yet, again, that he is beholden to the big businesses that fund his campaigns, special elections and photo-op based approach to governing?
You can bet the healthcare industry, led by the insurance industry giants, will be working overtime to kill the bill before the Governor has to decide which way to go. If Schwarzenegger feels his credibility with the overwhelming majority of California’s voters is on the line, he just may sign this important reform and we’ll actually move California forward and into the forefront on healthcare in this country. If he isn’t put on the spot by having the bill put on his desk though, he’ll be able to skirt this important issue until after the election when his business and insurance industry cronies will be expecting a handsome return on their 100 plus million dollar investment into this election and his ill-conceived special election last November.
With California’s health care system in dire straits and people without adequate healthcare for themselves and their families, this is the time to initiate real reform in our state and lead the nation in achieving the efficiencies that will assure greater access to quality care for all. With polls showing that a majority of Claifornians supporting universal health care, it’s time to push the envelop on this issue.
Let’s hope that admidst all the frenzy and panic of bills that show up on legislators desks at the last moment and literally hot-off-the-press, they’ll keep in mind that this is the time and the year to force this governor to move away from the far-right wing of his party that has so intrigued him up until re-election time, and get some meaningful legislation passed to move California forward—and force this governor to either stand up to his big corporate handlers or show what a puppet he is for their greed and indifference to the public good.
It’s crunch time for the Governor as well and we’ll be watching.