The newly formed group called Californians Against Government Run Healthcare said it hopes to fight SB2 through a referendum on the March 2004 ballot. The group will need to collect 373,816 signatures to qualify the measure for a vote, according to a Contra Costa Times (California) report.
“SB2 is one of the worst job-killer bills passed by the Legislature in years,” said Sara Lee, spokeswoman for the California Chamber of Commerce, a member of the coalition and a strong opponent of the bill.
The coalition contends that the universal health-care bill was rushed through the Legislature and signed by Governor Gray Davis against the backdrop of the recall campaign that ultimately landed Davis unemployed. The bill requires all companies with 200 or more workers to offer insurance for employees and their families starting in 2005 or pay fees to support a statewide insurance program. Firms with between 20 and 199 employees will have to give workers, but not their families, insurance by 2006 or pay similar fees to the state. In most cases, companies will pay at least 80% of the monthly insurance premium, leaving workers to pay no more than 20% of the tab.
Supporters of SB2 say they will fight the referendum but are not too worried that it will defeat SB2. “They’re holding this simultaneous with a presidential election where health care will be a primary issue,” said Peter Warren, spokesman for the California Medical Association. “So we say, bring it on.”
However, the recent upheaval in the governor’s mansion may play a part in the ultimate fate of the bill. Even though Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger has not come out in direct support for the referendum, he opposes the concept of SB2 because it’s an additional burden for businesses, Schwarzenegger spokesman H.D. Palmer said.
“California businesses are struggling to make a profit and stay in business,” Palmer said. “The last thing they need right now is another mandated cost from Sacramento.”