Congratulations, Senate President pro tem…


Congratulations to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, on finally assuming his post in the new legislative session that started today.

The Sacramento Bee has a full profile by Steve Wiegand on Senator Steinberg, and an extensive photo gallery by Brian Baer that includes several shots of the Senator at the Health Access 20th Anniversary event last week, speaking both to the crowd (pictured at right) and to me while sitting in the front row waiting to be introduced (pictured below).

At our event, we got a little preview of what Senator Steinberg said today at his swearing in, from his empahsis on legislative product, his commitment on comprehensive health reform, and his effort to move on children’s coverage in the next few months. To the Senate chambers today, he reiterated these points and gave more specifics, both about his plans for health care and for the budget process as a whole.

The whole swearing-in speech is available on Senator Steinberg’s website, posted here.

To get of sense of this new legislative leader, it’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are some segments of interest to health advocates:

This is a day of great celebration, but there is no shame in acknowledging what public opinion tells us. The public has lost faith in our ability to effectively tackle California’s major problems. Our system is broken. Thirty years after the passage of Proposition 13, our system of state and local government finance is so tied in knots, that it is next to impossible to connect first-rate public services with a stable, ongoing set of revenues to pay for those services….

As we take stock beginning this new session, we have a myriad of real challenges. Millions of Californians lack access to health insurance and quality healthcare….

Today I want to propose three tenets to guide our work. First, let’s change the budget process. Two, let’s demonstrate some early, big successes in the legislature. And, three, let’s make education and the economy, the filter through which we focus, most of our work.

First, on the budget, we all have ideas and our own definitions of reform. Certainly many of those ideas divide along partisan and ideological lines. And those differences will be debated and fought out here, both in the legislature and, undoubtedly, eventually, at the ballot box. But in the meantime, we face a $28-billion-plus problem which demands immediate attention. We will not rest—this Senate will not rest—until we make a dent, and a big dent, in that number.

…let’s speed up the 2009-10 budget process. Let’s set our own expectation and deadline of getting a budget done by May 15 of 2009.

Number two, today I want to announce that beginning with the Special Session, we are going to constitute the Budget Committee as a committee of the whole. Every member of the Senate is going to be a member of the Budget Committee; every member of the Senate is going to sit on a substantive budget subcommittee….

Today I also want to announce the formation of the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes. This office will be charged with more aggressively evaluating the institutions and programs of our state government….

…Our legislature needs to build back its confidence, that it can consistently produce results. Working with the Assembly and working with Governor Schwarzenegger, let’s commit ourselves today to four signature successes within the first 120 days of this legislative session….

Healthcare. Last session, the governor showed a great vision in putting forward a proposal that would have covered nearly all Californians with health insurance. The governor’s vision is still the right vision, and we can get there; we can set a date certain. If we don’t get this done by the end of 2010, we can certainly get it done by the end of 2012, but we need to get started. And so I suggest that within the first 120 days that this legislature pass a comprehensive bill that covers all children in California and begins marching towards preventative healthcare in California. And we don’t have to do it alone. We have the First 5 Commission; we have private foundations; and we have a new friend in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama, who has promised to make healthcare and children’s healthcare one of his signature priorities.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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