California Health Care Reform Initiative Timing

The Health Care Security and Cost Containment Act, ABX1-1, can become effective only if voters approve a ballot measure providing financing for the health care reform package. Supporters of ABX1-1 are hoping to place that funding initiative on the November 2008 ballot. As posted earlier, a Field Poll released Friday shows strong support for the measure, although the survey failed to probe for reactions to arguments likely to be made by opponents.

Contrary to the impression folks might have from the large number of initiatives California voters face every year, qualifying a ballot measure takes time, money and perseverance. While every aspect of the qualification process is challenging, the biggest obstacle facing supporters of the Health Care Security and Cost Containment Act is time.

That’s why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez are pushing so hard on Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to have his house consider the legislation sooner rather than later. The Senate can — and should — make changes to ABX1-1. Without knowing what these changes are, drafting the initiative is challenging.

If the Governor and Speaker had their way, the Senate would convene this week and pass the bill as is. Senator Perata says he won’t call the Senate into session until January 7th. And he won’t bring ABX1-1 up for consideration until the Legislative Analyst has had a chance to evaluate it’s impact on California’s budget. Realistically, that means a vote is unlikely before January 15.

Will that leave enough time for the qualification process to begin?

According to an excellent post on the Sacramento Bee’s CapitolAlert web site by Shane Goldmacher, the answer is “probably not.” This is a post well worth reading.  Go there, I’ll wait.

For those looking for solely the bottom line …

It is virtually impossible to gather enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure in less than 30 days. That’s the key stat. Before the signature gathering can start, however, the Attorney General has to do some paperwork. That can take weeks. If the Senate takes until January 15th to pass the legislation and the Governor and Speaker wait until then to submit the initiative to the Attorney General, there will be virtually no chance to meet the deadlines for the November ballot. It’s not impossible, but the chances are slim. We’re talking really, really slim here.

To get the full story, check out Mr. Goldmacher’s post. And I suggest you read it before time runs out.