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Jon Fleischman

New Audacious Effort To Eliminate Ballot Initiatives From June Statewide Elections?

It is hardly a secret that at a statewide level the voters of California have been “inconvenient” to the special interest groups that control the State Capitol..  You need look no further for proof of this than California Democrat Party Chairman and former State Senate President John Burton’s recent screed in the Sacramento Bee, railing against the ballot initiative process.  Just last week there was an article in the Los Angeles Times, Democrats propose measures to rein in California initiative process.  Without going on at length with a great many example of ballot measures passed by the California electorate, suffice it to say that while the Capitol is dominated by politicians with an ultra-liberal ideology, the results of various high profile initiative contests demonstrate that voters are pretty centrist – and center-right when it comes to fiscal issues.

The assault on the overall ballot measure process comes as no surprise, but the level to which the state’s public employee unions are willing to engage to stop the citizens of California from voting on the Stop Special Interest Money Now ballot measure has been unbelievable…  The good news is that the lion’s share of requisite signatures to put this measure on the ballot were already collected before it really got onto the radar screen of Sacramento special interests.
You may not be too familiar with this particular ballot initiative as it has not been widely written about in the main stream media (with a shout out to Capitol Weekly).  It is a measure that, in the words of one of its supporters, Michael Capaldi, in a column here on the FlashReport, would:

  • Stop both corporations and unions from directly contributing to a state or local politician’s campaign.
  • Ban all employers – corporations and government agencies alike – from taking money out of employees wages and handing it over for politics.
  • Bar government contractors from contributing money to officials who can award them contracts.

You may recall that one union put ads up on the radio that were intended to intimidate potential signers of ballot initiative petitions by saying that signing them could lead to identity theft.  These ads ran when the only statewide initiative that was seeking signatures was the Stop Special Interests Now effort.I have also heard stories about aggressive attempts out on the streets, where petitioners are gathering signatures, to hassle voters and trying to get them not to sign.  There’s even rumor that there is a concerted effort to have people sign petitions repeatedly in order to lower the validation rate for

But as signature gathering wraps up for the Stop Special Interests Now effort, I had caught wind of a new effort taking place (right now) behind closed doors in the State Capitol to try and thwart this important ballot measure.  When you read this, you may not choose to believe it.  Because this power-play is so audacious that it will make your head spin.

As you know, since the beginning of time, California has had two statewide elections every even numbered year – the “election year” as it is called.  Of course this is augmented periodically by special elections as well.  When an initiative is qualified for the ballot, it appears on the ballot in the next statewide election.  This means that if the Stop Special Interests Now campaign turns in their signatures relatively soon, and they turn in enough, the initiative would appear on the upcoming June statewide ballot.

Or would it?

The State Constitution specifically provides in Article II, Section 8(c) that, “The Secretary of State shall then submit the measure at the next general election held at least 131 days after it qualifies or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election.  The Governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.”

Apparently there are some who are advocating the tossing of over a hundred years of election tradition out the window, and to pass a law that would amend the elections code and state that the June primary is neither a “general election” nor a “special statewide election” – and thus in doing so hope to actually prevent (presumably henceforth) any ballot measure from being placed on the June ballot.  Pretty audacious, don’t you think?

The immediate short term effects are not entirely clear – certainly initiatives qualified for the ballot (such as a pending tobacco tax measure and a weakening of term limits) would be denied a vote until November.  This could also mean a delay in a vote on the referendum on the so-called Amazon tax (which might suit Amazon, since that tax is now on hold pending a vote of the people).

It’s a pretty outrageous play – one that is no-doubt being pushed by the state’s public employee union bosses who would much rather see the Stop Special Interest Money Now initiative on the November ballot (where President Obama is facing off against his Republican challenger) rather than on the June ballot (where Obama has no challenge to his party’s nomination but Republicans could see a big bump from a competitive primary).

Governor Brown already vetoed one piece of anti-initiative legislation, which would have prohibited paying professional signature gatherers by the signature, thus showing his interest in preserving and protecting the initiative process.  It could be that once again Brown may need to send a strong message to the legislature if, in fact, a bill advances that would severely limit voter access to voting on qualified ballot initiatives.

Then again, with a little “sunshine” on this latest “back room” plot by Sacramento’s special interests – maybe this one will simply evaporate.  One can only hope…