I moderated a panel this morning on redistricting reform sponsored by the Voices of Reform project. The turnout of panel participants was not encouraging. The organizers invited the four legislative leaders to come or send a representative, to be joined by a person from the governor's office.
Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines attended, as did Cynthia Bryant, a deputy chief of staff for Schwarzenegger. But the speaker never committed to coming or sending anyone, and did neither. A representative of Perata's office had confirmed to attend but did not show up. That left the discussion a bit one-sided.
It was still rather informative, however. Villines and Ackerman both said they were enthusiastic about reform, looking for something that could pass muster with voters, and open to just about anything. They both said the idea of using judges to pick an independent panel is probably dead. Villines said he has had maybe a half dozen conversations with the speaker since November on the subject, and he believes Nunez is sincere about supporting an independent commission. He said they are probably most divided over how big of a role the Legislature should retain. He favors no role, while he said Nunez would like to keep the Legislature involved at some level.
As a final question, I asked all three panelists how they would rate the chances of something passing on this subject in the Legislature this year. Ackerman and Villines both rated it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Bryant, saying she had to echo her boss's optimism on just about everything, gave it a 10.
The entire discussion is supposed to be webcast on the VOR site soon.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:54 PM
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court decision striking down Maryland's "Wal-Mart" health care law, which would have required employers to spend 8 percent of payroll on health benefits or pay a surcharge to the state. The court ruled that the state law violates a federal law that gives the national government a clear field to regulate employee benefits. This could have direct consequences for Schwarzenegger's proposal, which would require employers to spend 4 percent of payroll on health care or pay a tax to the state.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:36 PM
The governor addressed the Sacramento Press Club in his annual visit today and didn't break news. But that won't stop us from sharing a few tidbits.
--He clarified his position on the presidential campaign, sort of, saying he didn't intend "to chase the presidential candidates from state to state" but did plan a few strategic speeches around the country to try to bring attention to the issues he cares about and thinks the feds should be taking care of, including global warming, health care and immigration.
--He declined to endorse a candidate in the early running, suggested he would consider endorsing a Democrat or a Republican, then backed off that and said he would probably endorse a Republican but not until hearing what they all have to say.
--He said California should move its presidential primary from June to February so it can become "relevant" in the presidential nominating process. Right now, he said, the state is an "afterthought" except when it comes to fundraising.
"They take the money and run," he said.
--Asked about an LA Times editorial that said the U.S. Constitution should be amended so he could run for president, Schwarzenegger quipped:
"That's why I am for comprehensive immigration reform." He then added that he's not thinking about running for president at the moment.
--He said he has no relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but respects her and looks forward to forming a connection. He's also hoping she can deliver more federal money for California.
--He clarified his position on President Bush's new strategy in Iraq. He said he thinks the United States should not leave Iraq in chaos but should set a clear date by which its forces will leave so the country's government can prepare and build its forces to handle its own security. He suggested the end of this year. In the meantime, he won't second-guess Bush's decisions on how many troops to send and what to do with them.
On health care, he rejected suggestions that he is trying to do too much, too soon, and said flatly that he would not settle for a plan to cover all California children.
"This is going to get done," he said. "This is a state that has the opportunity to do big things. Not little things."
Brushing off criticism that his agenda is too ambitious, he drew an analogy from his former career, saying:
"The only way you know if you can lift 500 pounds is you put 500 pounds on the bar."
He also disclosed that he met this morning with representatives of consumer and business groups to try to start finding common ground on the health care issue, which has vexed state leaders for a generation. More such meetings are planned for the weeks ahead.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:57 PM