California Democrats are pushing several bills that would make the initiative process more difficult. Among them are proposals that would raise the filing fees for initiatives, require signature gatherers to wear badges showing whether or not they’re paid, and one that would list the largest donors to any initiative in the voter information guide. Democrats say these new rules will make the initiative process more transparent. According to them big-money interests have hijacked the process in recent years and passed laws that have put untenable restraints on lawmakers. According to state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, one of the major backers of the bills, legislators are hamstrung by initiatives that earmark state funds for expensive projects and programs while making it difficult to raise taxes. Detractors aren’t having it. They say the democrat’s reform bills are nothing more than an attempt to destroy direct democracy in the state. Both parties have benefited from the initiative process over the years, but initiative experts say the new proposals would have a greater impact on republicans. It’s unclear whether or not the bills can pass. Some of them may need republican support to do so and that’s unlikely. It’s also unclear whether or not Governor Jerry Brown will sign any of these bills into law. He’s long been a supporter of initiatives and recently vetoed a bill that would have outlawed paying signature gatherers. Is the initiative process out of control? Or just working for the wrong side according to the majority democrats in the legislature? Do any of these bills stand a chance? Will they reform the initiative process and make it more transparent or destroy it and dismantle the most direct route voters have to democracy?
Mike Gatto, California Assemblymember, Democrat - 43rd District (Burbank, Glendale and Silverlake)
Don Wagner, Republican Assemblyman representing California’s 70th district (Irvine); member of the California State Assembly Committee on Budget