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California has a rich tradition of citizens taking control through the initiative process. Nothing should be done to diminish that.

However, the Public Policy Institute of California has released an interesting report on possible reforms of the process. The 20-page report released in October concludes with three proposals:

• Connect the legislative and initiative processes. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed by the institute supported the idea of having initiative sponsors meet with legislators to seek compromises before an issue is placed on the ballot.

Read More: here.

While much of the rest of the country is ramping up for the holiday season, political forces in Sacramento are girding for political battle.

Though the 2014 election is nearly a full year away, a series of de facto deadlines are fast approaching that will shape the makeup of next November’s ballot.

Initiatives to raise medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public-employee pensions are among the ballot measures being considered. Each of those proposals, if they go forward, could induce campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars. Decisions about whether to proceed will be made within the next couple of weeks.

The Legislature might be flatlining and cobwebs are gathering around the White Sepulcher’s Corinthian columns, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lotta politickin’ going on in the Golden State.

A largely under-the-radar industry is shifting into second and third gear in anticipation of 2014, even-numbered election year that it is. This motley band is the ballot measuremongers who profit off pimping and pillorying initiatives they help put before voters.

They are pollsters, strategists, ad buyers, signature gatherers, lawyers, videographers, direct mailers, fundraisers, mouthpieces and coalition builders—a phalanx of folk who critics claim feast off the host body of the vox populi. If that’s true, it’s quite the sumptuous spread.

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly took the first step toward preventing voters from forcing recall elections against elected officials not accused of any legal or ethical wrongdoing. While this move may appear self-serving — in 2011 and 2012, three Republican State Senators were removed from office and Gov. Scott Walker (R) had to face voters midway through his term — it raises questions about whether the current recall system several states have is beyond repair.” The Wisconsin Assembly has the right idea: mid-term recalls of public officials without cause hurt America’s republican democracy.

The evolving role of the referendum

Mon, Nov 25 2013 — Source: UPI

Two weeks ago, all across the United States, citizens with the right to vote once again went to their local polling place to exercise one of the greatest rights provided under the U.S. democratic system of law.

In many states, not only did those same voters cast ballots for the candidates they felt would best represent their interests, they were also asked a question or set of questions in the referendum voting section of the ballot.

Now, the utilization of the referendum is far from being a new concept. However, the types of questions and their potential consequences have become increasingly complex.

This week’s qualification of a referendum for the November 2014 ballot will be the sixth time in a decade that voters get the final say on a state law.

A “yes” vote will uphold this year’s legislation ratifying the state’s casino compact with Madera County’s North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. A “no” vote will overturn it.

The as-yet-unnumbered referendum is the 49th to qualify for a California ballot since 1912, after the process was included in then-Gov. Hiram Johnson’s package of government reforms.

Read more: here

Tim Eyman may wind up losing more from this month’s election than just an initiative.

The Mukilteo resident’s last ballot measure put him at deep odds with longtime allies in the business community, and it could take a while to regain their trust — and their all-important financial support.

Read More: here

The evolving role of the referendum

Fri, Nov 22 2013 — Source: UPI

Two weeks ago, all across the United States, citizens with the right to vote once again went to their local polling place to exercise one of the greatest rights provided under the U.S. democratic system of law.

In many states, not only did those same voters cast ballots for the candidates they felt would best represent their interests, they were also asked a question or set of questions in the referendum voting section of the ballot.

Read More: here

Californians have a love-hate relationship with direct democracy.

We love that we have the ability to set the politicians straight, either by getting a jump on them on the next big issue or reversing course when we think they’ve made a big mistake.

But we’re not wild about reading through all those damn initiatives that appear on the ballot every year, or sorting through the claims and counter claims of the interest groups that sponsor and oppose them. And we don’t like the way that big money pays to get most measures on the ballot and then underwrites the campaigns.

Read more: here

Note: This post was written last month. Eyman’s measure lost in the November elections, winning just over 37 percent of the votes.

If you haven’t heard of Tim Eyman, you probably haven’t lived in Washington state. He’s a libertarian-minded activist and force of nature who is responsible for more initiatives than any one in that state’s history.

I know and like Tim personally, but disagree with him not only on policy issues but also on the initiative process. Still, there’s a lot of good in his current initiative, numbered 517 in Washington state, and people interested in governance reform in California should take a look at it.