Monday, July 25, 2011

The Legislature Attempts to Write Its Contempt for the Public Into Law

California Watch offers an update today on an issue we've been following all month: the Legislature's various attempts to gut the state's ballot initiative process.

First up, Ellen Corbett's SB 168 is now on Jerry Brown's desk awaiting signature. If approved, the bill would ban signature-gatherers from being paid per signature. Mark DeSaulnier's SB 448 would require paid signature gatherers to wear a scarlet letter badge distinguishing them from volunteers; this bill has now passed both Houses with slight amendments. DeSaulnier's SB 334, which also passed the Senate, would require ballots to list the top financial backers and opponents of measures on the ballot pamphlets voters receive. Proponents of these measures say they're about regaining control of an initiative process that's been "hijacked by moneyed interests." Critics say they're a power grab intended to make Sacramento less answerable to voters.

So who's right? Well, keep in mind that the worst "reforms" of the initiative process may still be on the way: Mike Gatto's ACA 6, a constitutional amendment that would prohibit placing initiatives on the ballot if they create a "net increase" in government spending (presumably, this would include measures that cut taxes); and Loni Hancock's SCA 15, which would bypass the two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases. Also keep in mind that the Legislature gave ample evidence of its contempt for the voters during the negotiations for the most recent budget. How did they respond to Californians' demand for on-time budgets, expressed last November in the passage of Prop 25? By passing an obviously unbalanced, unconstitutional budget to fit the deadline. How did they respond to voters' insistence, again last November, that local government funds not be raided by Sacramento? By raiding the state's redevelopment agencies to the tune of $1.7 billion. And how did they respond to last year's passage of Prop 26, which affirmed the two-thirds majority requirement for raising taxes and fees? By passing new vehicle and fire fees without a two-thirds majority, and moving forward with Hancock's measure. If the Legislature doesn't want people to think that they aren't grabbing more power at our expense, they really need to try harder.

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