Rick Claussen, consultant to the redistricting initiative in California, reports that the final count of sigs, after last night's turn-in, is just under 1.2 million. With those numbers -- nearly twice as many as the number of required valid signatures -- the initiative should have no trouble qualifying for the November ballot.
REPUBLICANS GO AFTER GOVERNOR: This story from the Redding paper is worth a read for those who follow California politics. Republican politicians in the far north of the state sharply criticized Schwarzenegger's handling of the budget, during a public meeting late last week and: Sam Aanestad, a state senator, sounds particularly angry. He says that Schwarzenegger is sending mixed signals (though that's hardly a new charge, and accurate given the incredible diversity of his administration and his management methods, which encourage internal arguments). But he goes even further by saying that Schwarzenegger does not have the state's best interests at heart. "He's much more interested in the governor's future than in Californians'. He's got two more years. He can slide through and become a senator," Aanestad said.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: My post Friday on Gov. Schwarzenegger's personal spending on initiatives should have said that his latest donations to the redistricting initiative come from his political committee, not his own pocket. As the Sacramento Bee correctly points out today.
In retrospect, the California workers' compensation reform of 2004 represented the high-water mark for Gov. Schwarzenegger and his attempts to govern by initiative. Schwarzenegger and business allies -- especially the carrot producer Grimmway -- went through the process of drafting and collecting signatures for initiative -- with the governor promising to drop the initiative if the legislature gave him the reform he wanted. On the deadline day for turning in signatures, lawmakers gave Schwarzenegger much of what he wanted..
But workers' comp is not one of those things that gets "reformed" and stays "reformed." In California, reform is often a history of back and forth swings, as business and labor react to change the system when it either becomes too costly to business or does not produce enough in benefits for workers. In 2004, the pendulum had swung to the point that business was complaining, as California boasted the highest workers' comp costs for business of any U.S. state. But Schwarzengger's reform may be pushing the pendulum the other way. At the California Progress Report, Frank Russo has an interesting post on how benefits for the permanently disabled have declined. He is pushing legislation sponsored by Don Perata to boost such benefits.
NO REVOCATION IN FLORIDA: A Florida appeals court ruled that voters cannot revoke their signatures on ballot initiative petitions. The court struck down as unconstitutional a 2007 on signature revocation, saying that such revocation was not part of the state constitution and could "serve to burden" the initiative process. The context: Florida, more than any other state, has taken measures to restrict direct democracy and signature gathering--this ruling could undermine part of that move.
Governor Schwarzenegger has used ballot measures more often than any political figure in American history. He has spent more $25 million on his political career, most of that on ballot initiatives (and to the TV ads and signature gathering such campaigns require). He's kicked in more than $1 million into a new redistricting initiative which has little chance of passing. (CORRECTION: This $1.25 million donation comes not from personal funds--but from one of his political committees).This begs a question: is the blockbuster democracy industry taking advantage of the wealthy governor?
Friend of the blog John Myers of KQED (the Northern California NPR affiliate) has an excellent blog item reporting about the question of exactly when and how Gov. Schwarzenegger might put in writing the budget reform proposal he is talking so much about. Given the complexities of any budget reform, Californians will need as much time as possible to figure it out if they are to vote on a reform measure this fall.
Rick Claussen, the consultant and initiative expert who has been brought in to help qualify the current redistricting initiative in California, got in touch this week. Claussen, who works from the Sacramento suburbs, is one of the grown-ups in the direct democracy business and has one of its strongest records, particularly in winning "yes" campaigns, which are much more difficult than "no" campaigns. He worked on previous Schwarzenegger ballot campaigns in 2004 and 2005, and he expressed confidence by email that the redistricting measure will qualify in time for the November ballot.
Claussen says the initiative is on track to hit its target of 1.1 million signatures the first week of May; signatures will be submitted the week of May 12. That number of signatures is nearly twice the 694,354 legally required to make the ballot. But in the initiative business, it is standard operating procedure to submit hundreds of thousands more signatures than legally required -- in large part to speed up the qualification process. When more signatures than required are submitted, county elections officials -- who do the counting in California -- can count using "random sampling" techniques, rather than by going through every signature. If the random sample shows that the number of valid signatures is greater than 110 percent of the legally required number (and a validity rate of 70 percent is considered good in this business), then the initiative automatically qualifies for the ballot. This makes things much faster.
It looks more and more likely that California voters will have to bless whatever budget and revenue plans that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature agree upon to deal with the state's rapidly escalating budget crisis. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are pursuing a privatization of the lottery in order to produce more revenues, but changes to the lottery, which was established by ballot initiative, would likely require voter approval.
If Californians see the petition circulators outside their grocery stores smiling this week, you'll know the reason: Gov. Schwarzenegger. The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert is first to report that the governor has kicked in another $700,000 to the redistricting initiative. As reported here first Sunday, the per-signature price paid to gatherers goes up, from $2 to $2.25 this week, making it the best-paying of the three major measures still on the street.
This continues Schwarzenegger's pattern of putting his money where his mouth is. For all of the criticism he's received for his more than $100 million in fundraising since launching his political career in 2003, Schwarzenegger has been the number one donor to his own career -- more than $25 million -- and most of that money has been spent not on his own election but on ballot measures to advance his agenda. Governing has never been so expensive in California.
DEPARTMENT OF MOON HOWLING: The Las Vegas Review & Journal takes a long look at one of the country's more important signature firms, National Voter Outreach and its CEO Rick Arnold. I've interviewed Arnold in his Carson City home, and found him to be one of the more thoughtful people in the petition trade, critical of its problems and clear-eyed about its limitations. This story is built heavily around criticism from the liberal/progressive Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is quick to lable signature gathering as corrupt (at least in cases where it opposes the cause in question). There is a "shocked, shocked" quality to this criticism. The signature gathering business has plenty of problem workers, many of them poorly trained folks who, for lifestyle reasons, have taken a job that usually pays them in cash. But BISC and other critics invariably propopse to criminalize the process of gathering signatures, as in Oklahoma. In supporting these restrictions, liberals are hurting themselves, by establishing precedents restricting political speech that can be used by their political opponents. And such restrictions don't stop direct democracy. They merely slow it down, adding to the costs (and thus the influence of interest groups) that progressives love to denounce. The more you regulate, the more firms like National Voter Outreach will benefit.