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Schwarzenegger Drops Legal Fight Over Hospital Staffing

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has dropped a yearlong fight with California nurses over hospital staffing levels after a bitter feud that escalated last year when he boasted, "I'm kicking their butts."

Acting on behalf of the governor, California's attorney general Thursday dropped his legal battle over a new state rule requiring one nurse for every five patients. For the past year, Schwarzenegger had been trying to block the rule in favor of a 1-to-6 ratio.

Schwarzenegger's office and Attorney General Bill Lockyer's spokesman had no immediate comment. But a spokeswoman for the CA state Health Department, Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, said that in the 10 months that the 1-to-5 rule has been in place, hospitals have been able to adapt, "so we're going to move forward."

The governor's action came two days after California voters rejected all of his proposed government-overhaul initiatives and on the same day he took "full responsibility" for the election debacle.

The 1-to-5 staffing ratio was not among the issues decided at the ballot box Tuesday but has been a long-sought goal of the 60,000-member California Nurses Association. Schwarzenegger sided with the hospital industry in opposing the 1-to-5 ratio, citing the added financial burden and the nation's nursing shortage.

Tensions between the governor and the nurses union escalated in December 2004, when he labeled the union a special interest and said he was "kicking their butts."

Since then, the union has attacked Schwarzenegger in TV commercials, on freeway billboards and at nearly every public event he held, including fundraisers in New York and Boston.

In a September interview with The Associated Press, Schwarzenegger said his comment was a mistake and called the reaction to it a learning experience.