Los Angeles Times Examines Schwarzenegger’s Role in Nov. 2 Ballot Initiatives
The Los Angeles Times on Thursday examined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) role in the initiatives, including several health-related measures, that might appear on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot. According to the Times, even before the governor has taken a position on many of the initiatives, some of his top political aides are working to "pull apart the coalitions that support them" to "keep the governor from getting dragged into a lengthy campaign" and keep voters' attention on "measures that Schwarzenegger may want to put there." Summaries of health-related initiatives that already have qualified for the ballot and those that could appear are provided below.
- Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: A measure to repeal a law SB 2 that would require some employers to provide health insurance to workers or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage has been approved for the November ballot (Halper/Salladay, Los Angeles Times, 4/15). Under the law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, employers with 200 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007. The law will exempt employers with fewer than 20 employees. The law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 employees unless the state provides them with tax credits to subsidize the cost of health insurance for employees. Schwarzenegger said he would not take a position on the measure.
- Emergency Department Services: Supporters of an initiative that would add a 3% surcharge to state residents' telephone bills to fund ED services on Monday submitted nearly one million signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The initiative is projected to generate $550 million annually (California Healthline, 4/13). However, the California Healthcare Association, which was a previous backer of the measure, has "already bolted," the Times reports. Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the measure.
- Children's Hospitals: Signatures are being verified for a measure that proposes a $750 million bond issue for the construction and expansion of children's hospitals in the state.
- Mental Health Services: Signatures are being verified for an initiative that would levy a 1% tax on personal incomes that exceed $1 million annually to fund expanded mental health services statewide. Assembly member Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that he plans to meet with the governor to discuss the measure.
- An initiative to overhaul the state worker's compensation insurance system is still in circulation and could appear on the Nov. 2 ballot or the 2006 ballot (Los Angeles Times, 4/15). Under the workers' compensation proposal, which is expected to receive the governor's support if the Legislature does not approve a workers' compensation reform package, insurers would be prohibited from raising their expenses or profits from the levels reported to the state on July 1, 2003, for three years. Insurers could seek approval from the Insurance Department for adjustments in their actual costs of paying claims but not any other costs or profits during the three-year period (California Healthline, 4/13).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.