This week, a coalition of medical marijuana advocates hopes to begin a drive to gather about 500,000 signatures required for placing a proposal on the November ballot that would establish a state-administrated enforcement bureau to oversee entities that grow, distribute and test medical marijuana products. The initiative must be reviewed and approved by the state attorney general and secretary of state before the group can collect signatures.

Read more at California Healthline.

Today, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, is unconstitutional. The ballot initiative was passed by California voters in November 2008 and challenged in federal court by two gay couples. The Ninth Circuit decision upholds the ruling by retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who first struck down the ballot measure in 2010.

In a separate decision, the appeals court refused to invalidate Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a long term same-sex relationship.  ProtectMarriage, the backers of Prop 8, are expected to appeal Tuesday’s decision to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Patients facing skyrocketing health insurance premiums, including one who is now uninsured due to rising prices, joined consumer advocates today to launch an historic all-volunteer signature-gathering effort to qualify an initiative measure for California’s November ballot to regulate health insurance rates.  Millions of registered voters will be receiving ballot petitions to sign in the mail and in their email, reminiscent of the volunteer mail effort that qualified insurance reform Prop 103 for the ballot in 1988.  View the mailer and email at:

A proposed June ballot measure that would have prohibited the city of Sacramento from requiring labor organization agreements on publicly-funded construction projects has failed to gather enough signatures.

Sacramento County elections officials ruled today that 62 percent of the signatures it inspected from proponents of the Fair and Open Competition Sacramento measure were valid. Another 19 percent of signatures were from people not registered to vote and 7.5 percent were from voters registered outside of the city.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee.

A couple of months ago, at a discussion on the initiative process at a Zocalo Public Square meeting in Los Angeles, the panelists were asked what one thing they would change with the initiative process. As a panelist, my answer: Take away the power to write the initiative title and summary from the attorney general’s office.

Now come two newspaper columns that highlight the mislabeling of initiatives by the current Attorney General, Kamala Harris. John Diaz, editorial page editor of the San Francisco Chronicle simply used the word “unfair” to describe some of the titles and summaries written by Harris.  Columnist Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee argued that Harris’s titles and summaries “fixed the game” to sway political outcomes.

When a political party achieves dominance of any government, one expects that it would use its hegemony to enact its public policy agenda.

That’s the way democracy is supposed to work.

Using dominance to change the political system with the aim of perpetuating control is another matter. It fixes the game and undermines democracy.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee.

Two California governance reform groups have combined forces and resurrected a budget accountability initiative using what every successful ballot measure needs: Cash.

With matching $3 million pledges, billionaire Nicolas Berggruen and his California Think Long Committee is joining forces with California Forward, a government reform organization led by former Contra Costa Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak and former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

The Think Long Committee last week announced it would postpone its reform initiative until 2014.

Read more at Mercury News.

A petition for a ballot initiative to abolish the California High-Speed Rail Authority was approved for circulation Tuesday.
The measure seeks voter approval of a constitutional amendment to eliminate the body tasked with overseeing a high speed rail system linking Northern California to Southern California. Voters in Nov. 2010 passed Proposition authorizing $9.95 in general obligation bonds to get the project underway. However, in recent months, the project has come under increasing criticism for the planned route, costs and management. The Authority CEO resigned earlier this month.

Read more at News 10.

Days before his death in October 2004, Christopher Reeve went before cameras one last time. Instead of playing Superman or another role, Reeve appeared as himself in TV commercials urging California voters to approve Proposition 71. The ballot measure authorized the state to borrow $3 billion over 10 years to use toward stem cell research at universities and institutions statewide.
“Stem cells have already cured paralysis in animals. Stem cells are the future of medicine,” Reeve declared. “Please support Prop 71. And, stand up for those that can’t.”

The billionaire insurance baron-backed ballot measure to surcharge millions of California drivers by 40% has qualified for the November 2012 ballot, according to the California Secretary of State. Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph, who has already contributed over $8 million to the ballot measure, will reprise the company’s previous effort to enact auto insurance surcharges with Proposition 17, which Californians rejected in June 2010 despite $16 million in deceptive advertising by Mercury.

Read more at Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch.

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen’s Think Long Committee for California will not press a ballot measure this year to alter the state’s tax system, a move seen helping Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to put a tax measure to voters.
Berggruen’s bipartisan group of business and civic leaders said in a statement on Tuesday that it would put its proposal for an independent Citizens Council for Government Accountability on hold.

Read more at Reuters.

Gov. Jerry Brown is taking a mulligan, tripped up by a typographical error and forced to re-file his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

The Democratic governor on Friday filed paperwork with the state for “The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012- ver. 2.” The measure is identical to one Brown filed in December, the governor said in a filing with the attorney general’s office, “except that we have corrected a typographical error that resulted in two numbers being transposed.”

Re-filing an initiative can delay the attorney general’s preparation of its title and summary, potentially condensing the period for a proponent to gather signatures and making that effort more expensive.

A proposed California ballot initiative to require parental notification for abortions and another initiative to end the death penalty both won the support of the state’s Catholic bishops, who say the proposals will bring “common sense, compassion and prudent justice” to public policy.
Both initiatives bring into focus “important moral issues” about how society treats “nascent life, family life, and even a sinful or errant life.”

Read more at Catholic News Agency.

Lawmakers and child advocates are seeking greater penalties against sex traffickers and pimps to combat the growing industry of human trafficking. Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, threw her support behind a ballot initiative effort to increase fines and prison time for human traffickers called the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.

“We’ve collectively been ignorant about how prevalent the crime is here,” Speier told the Daily Journal yesterday. Speier kicked off a signature-gathering effort in San Francisco yesterday alongside Chris Kelly, Facebook’s former privacy officer, Marc Klass and others to support the CASE Act, which needs 750,000 signatures to qualify for the November state ballot.

A proposed ballot initiative could make harder for undocumented immigrants to be deported from California.
The initiative, called the “California Opportunity and Prosperity Act.” was filed last month. The law would decriminalize eligible undocumented immigrants and make deporting them a lower priority.
To qualify for the program, undocumented immigrants would have had to lived in the United States before 2008, have no felonies on their criminal record, speak English and have paid their taxes.
The measure’s supporters say the program funding would come from registration fees. 

Read more at San Diego 6.