GOOD COP, BAD COP IS THE SAME GUY
A classic negotiating ploy is to have two parties on the same side assume contradictory roles — one cooperative, the other combative. For the second time in his governorship, Arnold Schwarzenegger is engaged in high-stakes negotiations with the Democratic legislative leadership, and for the second time he is simultaneously playing both roles.
One day, Schwarzenegger is negotiating with Democrats over the details of workers' compensation reform legislation, the next he is pouring $1 million from his special political account into an initiative campaign that would take lawmakers out of the equation and put the issue directly to voters. Yesterday, Press Secretary Margita Thompson was giving reporters an upbeat report that negotiations were progressing; today, Schwarzenegger staged a rally at a suburban Sacramento Costco to help gather signatures for the initiative petition.
The tactic certainly keeps legislative leaders guessing and allows Schwarzenegger to continually negotiate from a position of strength.
Democrats, perhaps having learned a trick or two from their last go-round with the new governor, have added their own twist. Late last week, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez made a point of publicly stating that the only issue holding back an agreement was finding a way to ensure that any savings that result from the reforms are passed along to California businesses in the form of lower insurance rates. Nunez' message: We're not going to make it more difficult for workers to be compensated for on-the-job injuries just so insurance companies can line their pockets with higher profits.
The issue clearly scored some points. Schwarzenegger's political advisers announced his committee would no longer accept contributions from insurance companies — although, already having accepted $100,000 from the state's largest private workers' compensation carrier, the governor cannot claim uncorrupted innocence as he continues to resist suggestions that insurance rate regulation be included in the reform package.
Legislative sources say Nunez has decided to bring a comprehensive workers' compensation reform bill to a vote on the Assembly floor, even if Democratic leaders and Schwarzenegger are unable to sign off on a deal. If that bill includes most of what's included in the initiative — such items as stricter definitions of what constitutes an injury, limits on what doctors can be selected by injured workers and arbitration procedures that would reduce the role of attorneys — and also insurance rate regulation, the package could put Schwarzenegger in a bind by creating a powerful argument that could be used against an initiative in the fall.
If opponents could argue that Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that had many of the same provisions as the initiative but also included a guarantee that insurance companies wouldn't pocket the savings, the governor could painted as a shill for the insurance industry.
In Capitol negotiations these days, there are good cops and bad cops all around.