Democrats battle for ballot initiative reform
July 25, 2011
One hundred years after California adopted the ballot initiative process, legislation to reform it is steadily making its way through the state Legislature. Reform proponents hope they have a new opportunity to change the process with Gov. Jerry Brown, after previous efforts were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. [CaliforniaWatch]
A bill that would ban signature gatherers from getting paid per signature is waiting on Brown’s desk. Another bill, which would have paid signature gatherers wear a badge to distinguish them from volunteers, passed the state Senate on a party-line vote and was slightly amended in the Assembly, California Watch said.
During the fight against Ernie Dalidio’s proposed 131-acre development on his land in the county bordering the city of San Luis Obispo, opponents paid some name takers for each signature they were able to get. Signature gatherers were given scripts with suggestions on how to talk opponents and proponents of the project into signing the forms because it was a way to have their voices heard.
In 2010, after four years of anonymity, Thomas and James Copeland were identified as the principals of the LLC that committed 16 campaign violations in their fight against Dalidio’s proposed development and fined $80,000.
And another bill would require that the top financial backers and opponents of ballot measures be disclosed on the ballot pamphlets voters receive. Senate Democrats also passed that bill over Republican opposition, California Watch added.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek, who wrote the badge bill and funding disclosure bill, told California Watch the abuse of the initiative system is one of the biggest problems in California governance.
His bills are “baby steps to getting the general public to realize that the initiative process has been hijacked by moneyed interests on the left and right,” he said. “It’s just transparency.”
Opponents argue the reform effort is a power grab by Democratic legislators who want to make citizen legislating harder, California Watch said.