Tags: Schwarzenegger | Makes | His | Mark | First | Year

Schwarzenegger Makes His Mark in First Year

Thursday, 02 December 2004 12:00 AM

The answers are as mixed as were feelings about Schwarzenegger’s candidacy.

According to the most recent opinion polls, Schwarzenegger is scoring well over 60 percent approval among the electorate – an amazing feat considering the Republican governor heads one of the most Democratic states in the union.

In political terms, all of this makes him “the rarest of political breeds,” according to the Christian Science Monitor, who dubbed him “a moderate.”

“We’ve become so accustomed to looking at politics as a great divide that a lot of us are a little bewildered when we confront someone who doesn’t fit the stereotypes,” Tim Hodson, a political scientist at California State University in Sacramento, told the paper. “What we’re dealing with is a moderate.”

The “moderate” political label, conservatively speaking, doesn’t do much to excite California’s Republican base. Make no mistake about it, California’s Republican Party is still “Reagan Country.”

The overwhelmingly Democratic state Legislature wanted to test the former six-time Mr. Olympia by sending him no fewer than 844 bills, ranging from gay rights to electricity deregulation.

His performance thus far is more likely to please them rather than the state’s conservative faction.

While he has disappointed Democrats with his pro-business bent, his vetoing of a minimum wage hike and steering clear of progressive economic policies, he has alienated conservatives by supporting gun control measures, environmental issues and a huge bill that conveys special work-environment benefits to gays, lesbians, transgendered individuals, cross-dressers and others with unique sexual perspectives.

Harrison Sheppard, head of the Sacramento Bureau for the Los Angeles Daily News, has provided a very comprehensive list of Schwarzenegger’s actions since taking office Nov. 17, 2003. Among other things, Arnold has:

During previous governorships, news from Sacramento had been slow to come by. Today, every time Schwarzenegger signs legislation or takes a policy position, it makes national headlines.

The interest is due not only to Schwarzenegger’s star status but also to the influence he may have on the rest of the Republican Party. California has been the “pathfinder” state for many – its trends and ways become hip. And we’re not talking Hollywood.

When Howard Jarvis, with the backing of conservative radio hosts such as Ray Briem and George Putnam, surprised the state’s establishment by winning Proposition 13 – a referendum that forced a rollback of California’s property taxes by as much as 57 percent – it led to a nationwide tax revolt and Ronald Reagan’s ascension to the White House. Even liberal Gov. Jerry Brown embraced the Prop 13 movement.

In one year, Schwarzenegger has carved out his own policy views, and they are being scrutinized.

Conservatives are also not very pleased with Schwarzenegger’s policies toward hardened felons, including murderers.

According to a report by the Los Angeles Daily News, Schwarzenegger “has proven to be 50 times more likely to give second chances to killers,” swaying from former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ near-zero-tolerance policy of freeing convicted murderers.

During his five years in office, Davis blocked all but six parole recommendations for murderers and kidnappers (two involved the same inmate).

But in his 12 months in office, Schwarzenegger has approved 60 parole recommendations from state parole officials, and for inmates who were found guilty of the most serious crimes.

“That makes him, on average, 50 times more lenient than Davis,” said the paper – but his aides deny he is soft on crime, pointing out that he’s blocked 88 recommendations since taking office last November.

And, his office notes, he opposes Proposition 66, which would soften the state’s “three strikes” law, which currently makes three-time offenders eligible for 25 years to life in prison.

Notes the San Francisco Chronicle, Schwarzenegger “burnished his environmental credentials by signing legislation to create a Sierra Nevada Conservancy, allow hybrid vehicles in carpool lanes, extend tailpipe controls to older vehicles, tighten pollution limits on cruise ships and limit bottom-trawling fishing.”

“Much to the dismay of conservatives, the governor signed legislation to strengthen the rights of same-sex domestic partners,” says Geoff Metcalf, noted conservative author, talk show host and editor of CalNews.com, a daily Internet news site. “He also signed legislation to allowed pharmacies to sell hypodermic needles without a prescription to literally anyone (including junkies). Schwarzenegger even lifted a ban on food stamps for convicted drug felons.”

“The consensus from the army of pundits following his every move is that he surprised and disappointed many on the political left and right,” says Metcalf.

Conservatives believe liberal Democrats have, by comparison, gotten much more out of Schwarzenegger.

One such measure, cited by the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, head of the California-based Traditional Values Coalition, is Assembly Bill 2900, “which amends something like six major sections of the California Code.”

“That includes education code, labor code, public utilities, unemployment insurance, welfare – it’s pretty broad,” he said.

Specifically, Sheldon says, the law “incorporates all the special rights not just for homosexuals but also for sex changers, cross-dressers and drag queens.”

National conservative talk radio phenom Michael Savage, whose show is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been the top-rated drive-time show there for years, has negative marks for Schwarzenegger.

“Clean needles for junkies; anti-family, pro-gay legislation; no clear statement since the election saying he will oppose driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, under any circumstance … a Democrat in country-club Republican clothing,” he told NewsMax.

Still, Metcalf says, Schwarzenegger is no lapdog for the liberal left.

The governor “did veto several major pieces of Democrat legislation,” Metcalf said. “The list includes: a minimum-wage hike; a prescription-drug package making it easier to buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies; prohibitions against overseas outsourcing of jobs; and [Democratic] Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s legislation to allow the state to drift back toward electrical energy competition between producers.”

He and other analysts say the Democrats attempted to portray Schwarzenegger’s pro-business policies as vehemently anti-labor, a familiar tactic.

“That spin didn’t deter Schwarzenegger who vetoed all 10 bills the Chamber of Commerce considered ‘job killers,’” Metcalf said.

If there is one campaign promise Schwarzenegger aims to keep, it is to make the state more business-friendly. Call it “Act II” of his first years in office.

Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bid to raise the mandatory minimum wage, a hike described by business as a “job killer.” He also has killed measures to harm giant retailers like Wal-Mart who want to build non-union superstores.

And unlike many sitting governors who care little about changing their legislatures, Arnold is already gearing up to help elect more Republicans to the state’s heavily Democratic Assembly.

Schwarzenegger says he wants to tackle what he believes are two of the state’s biggest economy-killing problems: runaway lawsuits and medical insurance premiums vaulting into the stratosphere (in many respects he and other analysts believe the two are related).

If he does that, his political label may change from “moderate” to “populist.”

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The answers are as mixed as were feelings about Schwarzenegger's candidacy. According to the most recent opinion polls, Schwarzenegger is scoring well over 60 percent approval among the electorate - an amazing feat considering the Republican governor heads one of the most...
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Thursday, 02 December 2004 12:00 AM
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