Findings will then be published widely on the internet through both websites and e-mail networks. This requires no action by the legislature.
It requires grassroots activists to join together and become
researchers and bloggers who assemble and disseminate information about
the propositions that are about to enter the pipeline.
First introduced at the beginning of the last century in response to railroad domination of the state legislature, the California initiative process
was conceived as a form of direct democracy through which regular
citizens could influence the political process. In recent years,
however, it increasingly has been taken over by corporations, wealthy
business interests, billionaires, and in this last election, tax-exempt
religious organizations. The outrage following this election cycle provides a unique opportunity to reform this process at last.
There is no shortage of ideas for reform. In 2000, Assembly Speaker Hertzberg formed a commission to study and recommend changes, and the Center for Governmental Studies has issued their second edition of Democracy by Initiative. Action is what is needed next.
Some of the identified problems within the current system include:
Confusing language and headlines. Summaries that omit key consequences.
Dumbed down slogans used to sell the measures to voters.
2. Media that does not reach enough of an audience and lack of background knowledge resulting in no evaluation or opinion.
3. Two-thirds vote needed to amend a constitutional initiative once passed, yet only a majority needed to pass it (even in a low-voter primary).
4. Too many complex initiatives making it overwhelming for voters to make informed decisions.
5. Repeating subject matter initiatives, e.g., this year's Prop 4 defeated for the third time.
contributions from interest groups that will benefit financially from
passage of the measure. Disclosure insufficient to tell voters of these
connections. Greater detail needed in filing statements. Secretary of
State's website alone is not enough.
agenda driven by initiatives rather than the elected state legislature.
Budget hamstrung by initiatives that impede the budgetary process.
Voters told that bonds are "not taxes," when, in fact, they take money
directly off the top of the general fund used to pay for other state
gathering by paid gatherers who do not know or care about what the
measure would do and often lie about the content (currently illegal,
but still done).
of the state of California now is more than 110 pages long--longer than
all other states except for Louisiana. The state's current financial
crisis is exacerbated by the ballot-box budgeting promoted by
ill-conceived measures sold to voters who often do not receive adequate
information to understand the consequences of the initiative. Enough!
It is time for reform to begin.
list of problems is by no means complete. Nor is the following list of
possible changes that would require action by the state legislature. This is to be considered an opening conversation to be joined and expanded upon by all interested citizens.
Initial recommendations of this Initiative Reform Task Force include:
initiatives be voted on only in general elections and NOT in low
turnout primaries. There was some discussion that there be a required
percentage of participating eligible voters, but no consensus was
reached on what this level should be.
constitutional amendments to be submitted to the voters in two
successive general elections and require 2/3 passage in each election.
3. No initiative that allows subversion of the state budget by ballot-box budgeting.
4. Limit the number of initiatives on each ballot.
the signature gathering is concluded and the Secretary of State has
qualified the initiative to appear, institute a waiting period during
which the state legislature may act. The proposed period was three
months, however, it was noted that in some areas the period is one
6. Citizens' commission to evaluate proposition labels and summaries done by the Attorney General's office.
independent expenditure committees and require that supporters have to
spend money directly with the name of the corporation or person on all
signature gatherers must wear a large button or sign that discloses who
is paying them. Prohibiting payment for signature gathering was also
that the entire language of the measure be on each signature page, or
that to each citizen be given a copy that must be read PRIOR to signing
History of all previous bond issues with dates and recipients to be
prominently disclosed on an initiative involving a bond for the same
Initiative Reform Task Force currently includes members from the
Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains,
the Courage Campaign, the Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica Democratic
Clubs, Valley Democrats United, and Westside Progressives. It is
anticipated that it will grow into a statewide network of citizen
activists to proactively monitor and analyze ballot initiatives BEFORE
the signature gathering is completed to provide an early alarm.
The Yahoo group we will use: firstname.lastname@example.org