"A gang of good fellows are we... We laugh and joke, we sing and smoke... No matter the weather, when we get together, we have a jubilee." --Hail Hail, The Gang's All Here (1917)
The above photo (which is found on the governor's website) was snapped last July, just after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the four legislative leaders had signed off on the 2005-06 budget.
As we know now, the happy times were fleeting. The governor's reform agenda was rejected by the voters, while many Democrats (and their allies in labor union circles) proclaimed victory.
Which brings us to now. Can they all get along?
For now, the answer seems to be "yes."
Leaders from both parties met with reporters on this first day of the 2006 legislative session and proclaimed that, believe it or not, bipartisanship is not dead. It will not be easy, especially for those Democrats who may harbor a desire to block the Schwarzenegger agenda, in hopes of helping a Democrat defeat him in November's gubernatorial election.
Those Democratic combatants, however, will run into problems with Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland).
"This man is the governor right now, and I'm pledged to work with him," said Perata. "There will be those who'll want to step on the cape and make sure nobody gets off the ground," he said. "I ain't gonna be one of them."
Republicans were also talking compromise, though not conceding some key issues. For example, a joint afternoon press conference with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-LA) and Assembly GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) included a discussion of an infrastructure bond. One such version of a bond was introduced today in the Assembly by Nunez.
But McCarthy hinted that Republicans may want to address more than just how to pay for infrastructure improvements... and he specifically mentioned his party's interest in alterations to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Changes to CEQA are anathema to many Democrats.
And the clock is ticking on the era of compromise. For starters, a massive bond may need to go to voters for approval this fall-- which would mean legislative action by, at latest, the end of April. And by then, many lawmakers will also begin turning some of their attention toward campaigning.
"The next 60 days are crucial," said McCarthy.