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Jon Fleischman

Labor Bosses Prepare For “Drive By Shooting” Of June Initiatives

Early last week, along with our friends the Boyz at CalBuzz and Joel Fox at F&HDaily, we broke the story that there was a lot of “back room chatter” about an idea that the unions have been floating – to have their tools in the state legislature push through a new law that would expressly prohibit ballot initiatives from appearing on the statewide June ballot each election year.  The primary reason for this is situational, of course.  The unions think that they are at a political disadvantage if an initiative  measure appears on the June ballot to ban direct contributions to candidates by unions (or corporations) and that prohibits government (or corporations) from taking funds from employee payments for political purposes.

Well, we’ve heard from one of our reliable sources in the State Capitol that this “buzz” item is moving closer to reality in the final week of the legislative session.  It looks like the legislative vehicle for the “drive by shooting of direct democracy” – SB 202.  The original language of this bill, if enacted, would have raised the filing fee for ballot initiatives to $2,000.  But the union-controlled Democrats made a minor amendment to the bill (to delete some finding – non substantive) and referred the bill back to the Elections Committee.  This was done on the last day to amend a bill on the floor.  Now this bill is sitting in committee where presumably it will get a “gut and amend” and transform into a bill to no longer allow initiatives to appear on the June ballot.

Veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote on this effort last week, declaring that, “The California Democratic Party’s 2011 drive to reshape the 1911-vintage initiative process to its political advantage appears to be picking up steam as the legislative session nears adjournment.”

Walters held out hope that even if the Democrats in the legislature were to put this ill-advised bill on Governor Brown’s desk, that it does not ensure he will sign it: “Whether Brown would sign it, however, is problematic, since he’s already indicated an aversion to partisan changes in election laws by vetoing the measure that restricted how signature-gatherers are paid. And it would overturn a legal interpretation 40 years ago by Jerry Brown when he was secretary of state…  For 60 years that meant the November election held every two years, but after the Legislature voted in 1971 to place its own bond measures before primary voters, the secretary of state’s office decided that qualified initiatives should also go on primary ballots. And Brown himself took political advantage of that interpretation by sponsoring a political reform initiative on the June 1974 primary election ballot as he was running for governor.”

Of course it is unclear – do the Democrats find a way to craft the legislation so that only the Stop Special Interest Money initiative moves to November?  What about the Amazon Tax Referendum?  If that goes to November, that is five more months where that tax does not get collected should it be approved by voters (revenue that is in the budget that legislators adopted).  What about the measures weakening term limits and hiking the cigarette tax for cancer research?  Do those get kicked, too?  What about the revenue smoothing measure (some call it a cap, but it isn’t) placed on the June 2012 ballot measure in the 2010 budget deal?  Is the goal for there to be so many items on an every-other-year November ballot that voters become overwhelmed?  Don’t forget, the November ballot already has the massive 14 billion water bond package on it already.  Also, don’t forget there are efforts underway to refer two of the Redistricting Commissions sets of lines, Congress and State Senate – do these get bumped?

Democrat legislators should resist the direction of the unions to engage in this ultimate game-playing with the election process in California.  Instead of trying to monkey around with election dates, unions should be focusing their efforts on explaining to voters why their dominant funding of state elections, along with big corporations, is a good thing for Californians.

One Response to “Labor Bosses Prepare For “Drive By Shooting” Of June Initiatives”

  1. Robert Bosich Says:

    I guess giving all that money to social issue advocates, Chamber of Commerce, eminent think tanks got us little while the unions are about to bring us 1984 California-style!