Unified Legislative Health Care Reform Plan

Legislative leaders have combined their bills to create a unified alternative to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s health care reform bill.  Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President pro Tem Don Perata announced on Thursday that the Senate bill (SB 48) would be rolled into an amended version of the Assembly bill (AB 8).

That Democrats in the legislature felt a need to present a unified approach is not surprising. They both have incentives to resolve the health care reform debate this session. These pressures include a desire to demonstrate accomplishments on “big issues” prior to expected ballot initiatives on reapportionment and term limits next year.

It’s also not surprising Speaker Nunez and Senator Perata resolved differences between their original health care reform bills by adopting the most expensive and intrusive option. (AB 8 and SB 48 Key Compromises).  This gives them plenty of negotiating room as they prepare for the inevitable talks to come with Governor Schwarzenegger. And adopting provisions advocated by their liberal and union constituencies has positive political benefits for them as well.

So now the pressure is on Governor Schwarzenegger to stake out his position by publishing details of his plan. The ideal format would be in the form of legislation, although that’s not really necessary for the Governor to have influence. Once the negotiations begin the legislative language will change quickly. The key is to have starting points with roughly equivalent levels of details.

In a future post I’ll discuss the key provisions of the new AB 8. For now, the most interesting dynamic to watch is the pre-negotiations positioning. It’s going to be a long summer.