Last month’s election saw California Democrats capturing a supermajority in both houses of the legislature for the first time in more than a century. The supermajority will allow Democrats to exercise taxing powers without Republican support. Now, some on the left are clamoring for the Democrats to use the supermajority to enact broad progressive legislation. Could a new supermajority now mean single payer has a better chance of making it through the legislature after failing to pass both houses earlier this year? That remains to be seen for several reasons.
First, the Democrats won’t really have an effective supermajority for about a year. That’s because a couple of Democratic state Senators won seats in Congress. Those vacant Senate seats will have to now be filled through special elections, and the likely successors will be members from the Assembly, leaving their seats vacant. In addition, another state Senator is running for a Los Angeles City Council seat.
Second, Democratic legislators have signaled that they are in no hurry to start unleashing a host of new spending programs. Despite the fact that a changing California electorate seems more amenable to tax increases – as evidenced by the overwhelming passage of the pro-schools measure, Proposition 30 – the Democratic leadership is still taking a cautious approach when it comes to asking voters for more revenue.
Third, we don’t yet know how many of the 29 incoming Democratic lawmakers can be counted on to support single payer legislation. For these reasons, it is imperative that as many Californians as possible be educated about the benefits of a publicly financed healthcare plan, and how single payer is a much better alternative to the inefficient, profit-based system we currently have. We also need to educate the public that under the Affordable Care Act, California could apply for a federal waiver in 2017 to replace the ACA insurance exchanges with the state-based public system, becoming a laboratory of innovation and setting a great example for the rest of the nation. The movement is going to need an army of citizens to put pressure on their legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown to move forward on providing true universal health care for all Californians.