On Schadenfreude and The Timing of Political Power

There’s a lot of quiet sniping about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failure to have his administration’s health care reform package introduced as legislation. The smell of schadenfreude is in the air and you almost hear them say, “He may be a movie-star-gazillionaire-governor, but we have a bill and he doesn’t!”

Big deal. What the Governor does have going for him is, well, he’s a movie-star-many-multi-millionaire-governor. Cripes, he even appears on The Apprentice. He has what’s known as clout. The ability to shape debates and influence legislation. He’s above needing a particular bill. He has the power to hijack most any of them.

The fact is, no bill becomes law as introduced. They are shaped by amendements, compromises and, sometimes, the force of powerful individuals. Look at what happened with AB 1672, the small group health insurance reform bill of the 90’s. You can trace it’s genesis back to AB 350, introduced by then Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown. It would have created a “pay-or-play” system in California. It sparked the reform debate, but never became law. Instead, a conference committee was convened for AB 1672, which as originally introduced dealt with auto insurance, if I’m not mistaken. Stakeholders negotiated for months and the result was a very good piece of legislation.

The moral of the AB 1672 story is, the health care reforms being introduced now are merely the starting point. Eventually real negotiations will start. The political sausage making process will kick in and the political clout the governor enjoys will come into play. It would be fun to watch if the outcome wasn’t so darn important.