Skelton Right on Initiative Reform

John Seiler:

I was so shocked this morning when I saw George Skelton’s column that I had to read it twice. I actually agreed with him.

He’s calling for reform of the state’s broken initiative process. He bashes Attorney General Kamala Harris for her ultra-biased title and summary for a pension-reform initiative. Skelton made the same arguments as my colleague Steven Greenhut did here on Greenhut called it “totalitarianism.”

Here’s Skelton: “In her title and summary of a conservative pension proposal, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris somehow felt it necessary to define public employees for voters. They include ‘teachers, nurses and peace officers,’ she noted. You know, all the admired people — the ones with their faces in the anti-pension-reform TV ads. No mention of parking meter readers or tax collectors.

“She also claimed the proposal ‘reduces pension benefits for current and future public employees,’ ‘eliminates constitutional protections for current and future public employees’ vested pension benefits’ and ‘prohibits public retirement systems from providing death or disability benefits to future employees.’


Skelton points out that a previous reform gave the writing of the title and summary to the attorney general. I would add that people should have seen that was an obvious mistake because the AG’s main job is running for governor. Harris obviously is. The previous AG was Gov. Jerry Brown. And before him, Bill Lockyer thought about running for governor, but didn’t; and Dan Lungren ran, but lost. Also, during World War II, AG Earl Warren put loyal Japanese-Americans into concentration camps to increase his popularity, which plopped him in the governor’s chair.

Skelton proposes shifting the writing of the title and summary to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which already produces the initiatives’ ballot analyses that nobody reads. That might be an improvement. It also might lead to the politicization of an office that so far has remained mostly, and surprisingly, non-partisan.

My suggestion: Farm out the writing of the title and summary to Switzerland. They do democracy better over there and have national initiatives. Then again, it would end up wrecking one of the last remaining free countries on earth. Everything the Golden State touches turns to pyrite.

Feb. 16, 2012


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