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But at the end of the day, it’s the substance of legislation that matters. Especially when it comes to health care reform. After all, health care represents about 15 percent of the state’s economy. In dealing with this issue, lawmakers will impact job creation, business growth, government resources and, most importantly, the pocketbook of every California family.
The desire of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to pass something quickly is understandable. There’s a lot of strong political reasons for each to reach a deal before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment on September 14th. However, because it is understandable doesn’t make it sound. The artificial deadline results in a focus on the wrong question. Instead of asking “what package can be signed?” the meed is to ask “what legislation should be signed?”.
So long as the final version of the bill is being written behind closed doors (or in the Governor’s famous smoking tent) the focus will remain on the wrong question. It’s not that the Governor’s and Legislative Leadership’s staffs aren’t well intentioned, smart and hard working. They are all three. It’s just that good public policy is achieved through vigorous public debate. The final package needs a thorough airing it can’t get in the insular world of a few rooms in downtown Sacramento.
Getting health care reform right is more important than passing a bill quickly. If that means calling a special session of the Legislature to allow time for robust public input, then so be it. A special session presents challenges of its own, but the result will be far more substantive than what’s likely to emerge before September 14th.