California has become a canvas for people from out of state to paint upon. They're using not oils, not watercolors but ballot initiatives. Dan Morain at the LA Times reports on all the out-of-state donations to big California initiatives: the gay marriage ban, the Humane Society attempt to regulate farm animal confinement, and two alternative energy measures.
Capitol Weekly examines how the use of the Internet by the proponents of Prop 2, the Humane Society's California ballot initiative to change the rules of farm animal confinement, show the way to the future of initiative politics. Joe Trippi is in the middle of this campaign.
The Arizona Republic shows how self-interested the sponsors of that state's November ballot initiatives happen to be.
Writing in the LA Times, friends of the blog Dan Morain and Nick Riccardi report on the lack of ballot initiatives that could draw conservatives to the polls in presidential swing states. Things were very different in 2004.
The San Francisco Chronicle thinks the California state constitution is too easy to amend. It's been amended more than 500 times. The paper doesn't say it outright, but it might make sense to make it more difficult to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot, while making it easier to qualify an initiative statute. The constitutional change requires more signatures -- a number equal to 8 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election -- than the initiative -- 5 percent.
I've been wrestling with what the best formula would be. I think that if certain kinds of initiatives are to be more difficult, thus limiting the people's ability to legislate or amend the constitution directly, then it ought to be much easier for the people to overrule the legislature via referendum. How about rolling back that current requirement for signatures -- now 5 percent of the gubernatorial votes -- to something like 1 percent?
John Fund writes in the Wall Street Journal that the left is waging a war on direct democracy by attempting to obstruct gatherers for conservative initiatives. There's some truth in the argument, but it goes too far. Blocking campaigns of the type Fund describes have long been part of the initiative game. Experience and academic studies show they're ineffective. And a lack of organization and money in the Connerly camp is a big part of the reason for the failure of the anti-affirmative action measures.
The real war against direct democracy is a bipartisan one, and it's being waged by elected officials who, in the name of "cleaning up" signature gathering, change the law to make it harder to gather signatures. These laws usually restrict "out of state" gatherers (petition circulators are a traveling army, so almost everyone who knows how to do this is at some level "out of state") or limit the time to gather sigantures (a true liberal, democratic form would extend or even lift deadlines to permit community groups or true grasroots organizations to gather signatures over the period of a year or more).
One of the prime uses of the California initiative process is budget theft: a special interest, unhappy with its cut of state spending, passes a ballot measure to increase or fence off its budget. But sometimes the loot doesn’t stay stolen.
Just ask the road lobby. Alarmed by reports that Republican legislators want to grab dollars from transportation accounts to paper over the state’s budget deficit, it has launched a radio ad campaign to defend its booty.
The loot at issue is the portion of the state’s sales tax revenue derived from the sale of gasoline.
Until this decade, the state, for tax purposes, treated gasoline like any other purchased good. California levied the normal state sales tax on sales at the gas pump and put the money into the general fund, along with the revenue from sales of surfboards, Steely Dan records, and other goods. This money helped pay for schools, health care, and prisons. (The sales tax should not be confused with the separate 18-cents-a-gallon state excise tax on motor fuels, a levy on road users exclusively dedicated to fund road maintenance and improvement.)
The "top two" open primary and a measure dedicating 15 percent of lottery revenues to public safety. Details are here.
THE GROWING BALLOT: Friend of the blog Robert Greene has this excellent update on the rapidly expanding California ballot. The voters have done their part through signature gathering; now the legislature adds its own measure to the ballot.
HIGH SPEED RAIL: The much delayed bond measure establishing a high-speed rail system in California will finally appear on this November's ballot. But the legislature can't reach a compromise on oversight for the funding.