Some Groups Considering Health-Related Ballot Initiatives for Next Statewide Election
Some Democrats and liberal groups might try to include measures on the next statewide ballot addressing "some long-favored policies and programs" -- including health coverage for children and prescription drugs -- that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "has so far blocked," the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, some aides to the governor have said that he might call a special election next fall to address some proposals to reorganize state government, but Schwarzenegger "has not yet committed" to the idea. The next statewide election otherwise would take place in June 2006.
The Times reports that three health-related ballot initiatives are under consideration, including measures that would:
- Require employers to provide health insurance to their employees;
- Expand state health insurance programs to provide coverage for all children in California; and
- Address prescription drug costs by permitting reimported drugs from Canada or encouraging pharmaceutical firms to discount their prices.
Some Democrats and health care advocates say ballot measures could persuade Schwarzenegger to compromise on some legislation, including bills addressing prescription drug costs, "even if the measures never come before the electorate," the Times reports.
Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles) said, "We are considering taking a page out of [Schwarzenegger's] playbook and going to the ballot, where I think the people of California will agree with the Democratic Legislature that it's time for relief from skyrocketing drug prices." He added, "What we're feeling is, with this governor, this is the only way we're going to get relief."
However, Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a political consultant who has worked with Schwarzenegger and other Republicans, said, "If the left sees the special election as a place to pile on their agenda, then conservatives will be right behind them," adding, "The special election could start off as an exercise in good government but end up an exercise in bad government, i.e. partisan warfare."
The "approach could also increase the Capitol's partisan rancor, and even Democratic leaders say it could provide voters with a fresh signal that the Legislature is becoming irrelevant," the Times reports.
In addition, supporters of such ballot measures likely would have to collect signatures to qualify the initiatives for the ballot because Republican legislators would be unlikely to support the measures and Democrats do not account for the necessary two-thirds of the Legislature needed to place measures on the statewide ballot. Campaigns in favor of the measures could cost "tens of millions of dollars" in part because of opposition expected from pharmaceutical companies and business groups, the Times reports.
Schwarzenegger also is expected to oppose such ballot measures, according to the Times (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 12/25/04).