Politics, grilled very lightly

John Taylor: April 06, 20070 Comments

It's hard to flesh out public policy while picking halibut bones from your mouth. Which explains why politicians may attend lots of dinners, but food is not the main course.

There were plenty of views exchanged, lots of Valley togetherness, and very little partisanship, as state Sen. Dave Cogdill and Assembly Members Juan Arambula and Mike Villines table-hopped among 30 or so attendees at an April 5 Maddy Institute dinner at Fresno's Downtown Club.

The take-aways from several hours of gab? Top issues in Sacramento are prison reform, health care reform and balancing the budget.  Toss in air quality, "green" energy, dams and modifying term limits and you have a pretty full plate, not counting the other nearly 3,000 bills that were introduced this session.

Health care reform -- you need an abacus to track the versions -- will likely take most of the two-year session to produce something. Whether it's something that Dems and Reps can shake hands on, well. 

The prison health situation is currently being assessed in shouts and headlines because a federal judge handed over the mess to former Santa Clara hospital CEO Bob Sillen and gave him a blank check.  Receivership is a hot skillet that burns money, smokes the traditional political process and inflames lawmakers whether or not they were in charge when things got out of control.

The complexity of health and prison reform nearly push revising term limits and -- gasp! -- redistricting behind the Wizard of Oz curtain.  The idea of slowing the churn and increasing the learning time for Assembly members and Senators sounds like a good idea -- yesterday's chiropractor isn't necessarily tomorrow's balancer of the state budget, but it's nearly playing out that way.  But throw in redistricting -- ending the practice of carving up the electorate so you always have a unchallengeable base of support -- and yow, there's that dang halibut bone.