State labor unions are once again trying to twist California’s century-old initiative process to work in their favor by going after paid signature collectors.

They’re backing AB 857, which would require at least 20 percent of signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the state ballot to be collected by unpaid individuals. Professional petition firms must register with the secretary of state and comply with all sorts of new regulations, while their petitions must be of a different color and carry a disclaimer.

Read More: here

California: Power from the people

Mon, Jul 8 2013 — Source: The Economist

DIRECT democracy is often blamed for making California ungovernable. The state keeps holding ballot initiatives (ie, what non-Americans call referendums). Voters decide that taxes must fall but spending must rise. Elected politicians struggle to make the sums add up. But last week this dysfunctional system was sideswiped. The Supreme Court, in upholding the right of gays to marry in California, may have weakened direct democracy throughout America, some fear.

Updated, July 3, 2013.

Since the US Supreme Court’s decision on Hollingsworth v. Perry, several outlets have written about the impact on the Initiative and Referendum process not only in California, where the case began, but nationwide in the states that allow I&R.

Here are links to several articles on the topic:

As California’s supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated today’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned the state’s voter-approved ban on gay unions, the president of a conservative law firm lamented what he saw as a blow to the Golden State’s ballot measure process.

“The big issue, from our perspective, was the issue of the rights of the individual to petition their government through the initiative process,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute.

Read More: here

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the legal proponents of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal the federal district court ruling, which had overturned the state’s voter-enacted ban on same sex marriage. In so doing, the High Court dealt a blow to citizen initiatives by blocking initiative proponents from defending their voter-enacted measures in federal court – even when state officials refuse to legally defend the initiative, thus dooming it to defeat.

From ancient Athens to the New England town meeting, direct democracy has long been celebrated at the local level. But the initiative, the most common form of direct democracy in the U.S., is most visible at the state level. Would it serve democracy if the initiative spread more to towns and cities?


City Clerk Gigi Hanna on Wednesday invalidated any signatures asking for a recall election that were gathered before the joint publication of the notice of intention to circulate a recall petition, statement of reasons for the recall and the targeted official’s response.

In letters sent Wednesday, Hanna matched an interpretation of the city’s charter that City Manager Allen Parker gave days before Hanna announced she would take control of the recall process from Parker.

Recall petitions may only be circulated seven days after those items are published in a newspaper of general circulation, if the recall target requests that, Hanna said.

Frustrated by a recent appeals court ruling that invalidates the state’s lethal injection procedures, supporters of the death penalty in California aim to bring a suspended system back to life.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos and other California death penalty supporters hope to circumvent legal challenges to executions through a new initiative measure. It would put in place a single drug injection procedure for inmates who have been sentenced to death, such as the infamous Night Stalker serial killer Richard Ramirez, who died Friday.

Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamante announced Friday that petitioners seeking to oust Lassen Supervisor Jack Hanson from office have collected enough valid signatures to allow a

In recent years, California’s Democrat-dominated legislature has repeatedly attacked the state’s citizen initiative process. Now they’re baaaaaack.

In 2011, Golden State voters were twice saved by the pen of the state’s Democratic governor:

•         Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 168, which made “productivity goals a crime,” pointing out that “per-signature payment is often the most cost-effective method for collecting the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify a ballot measure.”

The Pacific Grove City Council wants an independent analysis of a proposed ballot measure that supporters say will solve a crime committed 11 years ago.

The council voted 7-0 late Wednesday to get a third-party professional’s report on the citizens initiative that would reverse the city’s 2002 decision to give public safety employees a richer pension package known as “3 percent at 50.”

Proponents contend escalating costs under the state Public Employees Retirement System are threatening Pacific Grove with financial disaster. Their proposed ballot measure says it would void a decision taken illegally on the pension plan because citizens and council members were kept in the dark about future costs.

The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris granted the San Jose police union’s request for a judicial review of Measure B, the controversial pension reform ballot measure voters passed last year. In an opinion published Monday, Harris and her deputy attorney general, Marc Nolan, wrote that a review is needed to determine if the city of San Jose “fulfilled its statutory collective bargaining obligations before placing an initiative measure on the June 2012 ballot.”

In February the Long Beach Citizens’ and Patients Rights’ PAC (LBCPR) submitted over 43,000 signatures in an attempt to force a special election on the question of whether medpot dispensaries should be allowed to operate in Long Beach. But last month the City informed LBCPR that the organization failed to obtain the requisite number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Sacramento, California political columnist Dan Walters begs the question, has the Legislature become irrelevant because of an excessive number of ballot measures challenging their authority? Or is it the other way around?

Many, Walters included, think that the initiative process is flawed and should be reformed.  Democrats, having super-majority powers in the Golden State, are very much in a position to change things.  However, the reforms that are being proposed don’t seem so much like reforms as they do hindrances.

Walters argues that Democrats are pandering to their allies rather than seeking true reform to the initiative process.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee

The old argument about whether the chicken or the egg came first has a political counterpart in California:

Did the Legislature lose relevance as a policymaking institution because of the explosion of ballot measures, or did the latter occur because the Legislature had become dysfunctional?

Read More at the Sacramento Bee