Newswire

Direct democracy, and specifically the initiative process, is advancing around the world.

Except in the U.S. and in California.

Ireland’s constitutional convention has voted overwhelming to introduce a new initiative process that would include both petitions to the government (what some Californians persist in calling, misleadingly, the “indirect initiative” even though it is a direct appeal to lawmakers) and petitions that would trigger popular votes.

Read More: here

Wisconsin legislators have taken the first step to amend the state Constitution to make it harder to recall them, the governor, attorney general and other state officials.

The potential change follows a record 13 recall elections that targeted the governor, lieutenant governor and 11 state senators over a one-year period. Three Republican senators were recalled.

Read More: here

While much of the country is gearing up for the holidays, political forces in Sacramento are girding for battle.

Already, special interests are lined up with plans that could shape next year’s general election ballot. They are considering propositions to increase medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public employee pensions, among other ideas.

Each of the proposals could spawn campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars. Decisions about whether to proceed will be made in the next couple of weeks as de facto deadlines loom.

Next November, South Dakota voters will decide the outcome of two initiated measures — one raising the minimum wage and the other limiting health insurance companies.

If history is any judge, both are likely to fail.

Only 13 of 51 initiated measures attempted since statehood have earned a majority, with an average support of 44 percent.

Some of those successful measures have reflected powerful sentiments among the state population: to keep nuclear waste out, to tax cigarettes more and, most popular of all, to impose term limits on members of Congress — though that was ruled unconstitutional.

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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