Friday, May 30, 2014

Ballot Initiative Changes Proposed

Not exactly new as there has been discussion of tweaking the state's ballot initiative process for some time. A bill passed the state senate yesterday that would make some changes. The Sacramento Bee reports, 

"Senate Bill 1253 would create legislative hearings as initiative proponents are gathering signatures on their measures, allowing lawmakers to negotiate with interest groups before a measure lands on the ballot. It would also require more disclosure of donors giving the most money for and against initiatives."
Read more here:

Seems harmless enough except we started the initiative process so the voters could take action when the legislature doesn't. This is one of those glass half empty- glass half full things. They might well make some needed changes to initiatives. They could just as likely screw them up.

I'm ambivalent about that one, but I have a couple proposals of my own for the ballot initiatives. I might have mentioned them here before:

1- A ballot initiative should only involve one specific thing. For instance, there's one coming up on the November ballot that will raise medical malpractice awards. But it also has something in it requiring drug testing of doctors and I believe at least one other element. That should be a no- go. People shouldn't have to chose between all or nothing.

The medical malpractice initiative should be at least two separate initiatives- raising the awards and drug testing- each dealing with a particular action. You wouldn't have to vote for one if you weren't happy with the other. 

2- Initiative text should fit on a single legal size piece of paper using a readable font, with room for desired voter signatures. If the initiative details won't fit on a legal size piece of paper, it's obviously too complex or does too many things.

Anybody remember the indian gaming initiative when it was being circulated? I do, as I was one who gathered a few signatures for it. I don't know how many words that initiative contained, but the petition had to be folded like four times to make it the size of a regular piece of paper. The font was so small it was unreadable to the naked eye.

That initiative could have just said, "Native American tribes are allowed to have gambling on reservation lands or lands immediately adjacent to them", or whatever the actual limits were. You could have added a bit a bit more to make a full paragraph. No need for all the rest of the text that required six or more separate pieces of paper.

Those are my proposals and I think they'd be for the better. Some might point out that the state legislature and congress regularly pass laws that include any number of mandates and actions. I suggest we'd probably be better off if they adopted my proposals, too.


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