By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
One of Schwarzenegger’s key efforts is his expansive health care proposal, which would require most employers to provide health insurance or pay into a state fund, extract “fees” from doctors and medical groups, and force insurers to provide coverage to all Californians.
On redistricting reform, Villines could also play a key role. His version would employ an independent citizens commission to draw new voting districts — to replace the current wildly shaped boundaries that ignore natural geography, city limits and cohesive communities in order to concentrate voters of the same political party. This herding of like-minded voters together, known as gerrymandering, ensures that voting districts in California remain either heavily Democratic or heavily Republican, allowing incumbents to be easily re-elected each time.
Villines is also “open to listening” to some who say the only way to pass redistricting reform is to take Congress out of the equation, since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatens a $10 million campaign against altering how the lines are currently drawn.
Villines and Schwarzenegger’s approach — using an independent citizens commission — is more popular in polls than that of Speaker Núñez, who opposes using an independent citizens commission to redraw the lines. His competing reform would use the state’s Little Hoover Commission to draw the districts, but some say watchdog group the Little Hoover Commission is less independent because it is appointed by politicians.
Even as Villines seems ready to mirror California’s more moderate voters’ views, he still seems drawn toward the hardcore partisanship that California voters continually say they do not want.
For example, he recently cast a key vote against modernizing Republican politics in California. Reformers inside the party wanted to encourage independent voters — the fastest-growing voter bloc in California. But the California GOP’s executive board voted 11-9 to exclude independent voters from next February’s Republican presidential primary. Villines and Ackerman went along with that restriction, while moderates like Schwarzenegger and former state Republican chairman Duf Sundheim fought it.
As Villines had told the Weekly, “I will frequently have to represent the views of my caucus.” But Sundheim was outraged, saying, “We moved forward, now we’re moving back.” And indeed, Democrats are welcoming California’s unaffiliated voters, known as “decline to state”s, to their own presidential primary next year, hoping to gain their backing later on, in the 2008 general election.
Schwarzenegger increasingly ignores the party per se and deals with Republicans as he needs to, such as with Villines and Ackerman. This time around, absent lobbying from Villaraigosa, the deal making resulted in a heavy blow for transit-challenged L.A.
Yet the flexibility shown by Villines indicates, at least to some observers, that there is hope yet for a Republican more conventional than the former action superstar to make his mark as a pragmatic problem solver in Sacramento.