Fighting all, then wooing all

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When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stumbled through his Lost Year in 2005, analysts questioned the wisdom of his strategy to take on all of Sacramento's organized-labor special interests at once. It would have been one thing, they noted, to take on the prison guards alone, or the California Teachers Association alone. But to anger prison guards, teachers, firefighters, the AFL-CIO, police officers and nurses all at one time — that was a prescription for disaster.

Since his November defeat, Schwarzenegger has pulled off quite a turnaround. In the wake of last week's stinging rebuke of the administration's apparent retreat on prison reform, it's now clear that Schwarzenegger has gone from taking on all the unions at once to attempting to appease all the unions at once.

To review:
-- The administration abandoned a rule-making attempt that would have redefined lunch-break rules for workers. The proposed change had been bitterly opposed by the AFL-CIO.
-- The administration abandoned an attempt to adopt emergency rules that would have allowed hospitals to suspend portions of the state's landmark law guaranteeing minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. The proposed rule was the No. 1 beef of the California Nurses Association, the group that protested at scores of Schwarzenegger's special-election fundraisers.
-- Schwarzenegger, who a year ago disputed the education community's assertion that he had broken a $3 billion funding promise, in May not only acknowledged that there was a broken promise but also proposed a multiyear plan to repay schools the disputed money. That issue is what drove the California Teachers Association's anger.
-- The administration, after saying last year it intended to revisit the issue of pension reform after having been forced to drop its proposed special-election initiative on the issue, has been utterly silent about pensions this year. That's the issue that ignited the opposition from police and firefighters' unions.
-- Last week a special master appointed by a federal judge publicly accused the administration of retreating on its efforts to reform a prison system that Schwarzenegger himself had said early last year has “too much political influence, too much union control and too little management courage and accountability.? Two agency secretaries who had promised to reign in union influence have resigned this year. And just today, Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan to try to build additional prisons because existing prisons are so crowded they are "unsafe for staff and inmates alike." These are the kinds of issues that motivated the prison guards' union to join the anti-Schwarzenegger union coalition last year.

One by one, the groups that Schwarzenegger assailed last year as "special interests" are having their interests addressed by the governor.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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