Initiative reform — one bridge short

Initiative reform — one bridge short

bridge too farAs someone who participated in the working group on initiative reform package that ended up as  SB1253 by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week — I can say the bill is, well, okay as far as it goes. But to invert a title used for a World War II book, A Bridge Too Far — which tells the story of the Allies trying to go too far with a battle strategy — the initiative reform in my mind came up one bridge short. In other words, it did not go far enough.

The bill lengthens the signature gathering period a month, a plus for grassroots organizations. It allows proposition proponents to pull an initiative if a legislative compromise is reached, an incentive for ballot measure authors to work with the Legislature and vice-versa; and certainly a step that can save state money and voter aggravation.

The measure also brings the Legislature into initiative discussions early. Once proponents collected 25 percent of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, the Legislature would hold committee hearings on the measure. This, of course, means additional work for committee staff and members and those who count the signatures.

Tim Draper’s unsuccessful Six Californias initiative, under these rules, would have had its day in front of legislative committees (and one would assume be covered by many media observers).

Last bridge

However, SB1253 didn’t cross the last, crucial bridge.

Discussed endlessly in the work group was the sensitive issue of writing the titles and summaries for ballot initiatives. Currently, that job resides with the attorney general.

Attorneys general of both parties have been criticized over the years for slanting titles and summaries to benefit certain political interests. This should not come as a shock because the attorney general is a partisan officer.

That is why many supported turning over the initiative title and summary authorship to a more neutral party.  The idea of removing the job of writing a ballot initiative title and summary from a partisan elected official is one I long supported, as I recommended in 2011 at a conference sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society and the League of Women Voters.

That reform did not make it into SB 1253 — a bridge too far for a majority of the working group and Steinberg, but a bridge that should be crossed.


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  1. Queeg
    Queeg 4 October, 2014, 17:26

    When all is done…….the globalists …….

    Spare you the usual diatribe cause I like you all-

    Reply this comment
  2. Mack
    Mack 5 October, 2014, 15:28

    There should be a hand-held ap for signature gatherers so people who sign can see their voter registration information to eliminate all the ‘invalidated’ signatures that occur.

    Something is strange about a system when half the signatures on an initiative get thrown out, but ZERO votes are thrown out on election day for fraud.

    Reply this comment
    • SeeSaw
      SeeSaw 5 October, 2014, 18:07

      How do you know that “zero” votes are thrown out by election day for fraud? Let’s see your data!

      The initiative system will continue to be a joke, as long as paid signature gathering is allowed. Many of the gatherers lie about the intent of the initiatives just to get the signatures.

      Reply this comment
      • ECK
        ECK 5 October, 2014, 18:16

        Yeah, so what? Many title & summary writers lie about intent just to get votes, as do politicians re: elections.

        Reply this comment
        • SeeSaw
          SeeSaw 5 October, 2014, 19:26

          So what is your point? I simply challenged the statement made by another poster that zero votes are disallowed in elections–opinions are one thing–facts are another. The title and summary writers for initiatives in CA are the, respective, AG’s. If you are a responsible voter, you will be informed about the intent of any, respective, initiative that you are going to support, or not. The six-states initiative, for example–some thought it would be so much fun to see the circus that would ensue, if it got on the ballot. Most of the signature gatherers will tell you that the object is to just get the initiative on the ballot, good or bad. If you can cite any instance where a CA AG has lied about the title and description of any initiative, just to get votes, bring it on.

          Reply this comment

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