Schwarzenegger Says Plan To Eliminate Regulatory Boards Needs Further Review
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in a letter to the Little Hoover Commission on Thursday said that his proposal to eliminate 88 state regulatory boards and commissions -- including some health-related bodies -- requires further review before it should be sent to the Legislature, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rau, Los Angles Times, 2/18).
The proposal would eliminate, among other boards, the Board of Registered Nursing and would consolidate the responsibilities of the Medical Board of California to the state's consumer services agency.
The proposal also would consolidate the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board into a single, nine-member commission called the Employment and Benefits Appeals Board.
The commission, which has been reviewing the proposal since January, last month criticized the proposal, citing concerns of reduced public oversight and over-consolidation of state functions.
The commission was expected to release a critical assessment on Feb. 24 (California Healthline, 2/17).
The commission's recommendations are advisory, but "a negative assessment would have made the Legislature's consent to the governor's changes unlikely," the Times reports. Commissioners received more than 2,000 letters on the proposal, 52 of which supported it (Los Angeles Times, 2/18). Since its introduction, many have said the proposal "contradict[s] one Schwarzenegger mantra -- a more open government," according to the San Francisco Chronicle (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/18).
In the letter, Schwarzenegger wrote, "Based on written and oral testimony submitted at your hearings, I have concluded that this proposal will benefit from further review" (Los Angeles Times, 2/18).
Schwarzenegger said, "We're going to include some of the things that the legislators like, and we had some good discussions with the legislators, and so we want to perfect and improve them because, like we always said, [the legislators are] my partners" (Chorneau, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/18).
Schwarzenegger spokesperson Ashley Snee said the governor is "still committed to the proposed eliminations."
Little Hoover Commission executive director James Mayer, said, "We're interpreting this to mean that he's withdrawing the plan from consideration" (Marimow, San Jose Mercury News, 2/18).
According to the Times, the move was a "major concession" by the governor because he originally submitted the plan under rules that would allow lawmakers to accept or reject the proposal without making any changes. The retreat indicates that Schwarzenegger is "[a]dmitting defeat in one of his first concerted efforts to reshape state government," according to the Times.
Julianne D'Angelo Fellmeth, administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law, said, "If you were at that first Little Hoover Commission hearing, it was very clear the whole thing was a nonstarter. There wasn't really anything at all about the proposal that the commissioners liked. And they asked a lot of good questions, and there were not a lot of answers." She added, "It's heartening to see that the governor is now listening" (Los Angeles Times, 2/18).
Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said, "The governor has finally started to recognize his own mistakes."
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nursing Association, called Schwarzenegger's proposal a "clumsy" effort that reveals he is a "trainee running the fifth-largest economy in the world" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/18). She added, "This governor has visions of autocratic power that run roughshod over the legislative role and public oversight, regulatory protections that patients, consumers and the public have counted on for decades" (San Jose Mercury News, 2/18). She said that the proposal "was so extreme that even many large hospital systems opposed it, prodding even the conservative hospital industry lobbying arm, one of his most fervent allies, to disagree with the governor."
Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Nevada City) said, "While I agree with most of the governor's proposals, I thought the decision to eliminate a number of boards and commissions went too far. As a practicing oral surgeon with decades of experience, I understand the useful purpose that the Medical Board of California and other health-related boards play in the protection of the consumer" (Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 2/18).
Bill Hauck -- co-chair of California Performance Review Commission, which recommended some of the board eliminations -- said that Schwarzenegger is "not going to relent in terms of trying to effect the kind of change that he came to Sacramento to accomplish. He's just going to have to figure out another way. He won't stop. He shouldn't stop" (San Jose Mercury News, 2/18).