Re: "Ways to Reform the Initiative Process" by Michael Hiltzik (Golden State) Los Angeles Times C-1 July 28, 2005
A Regular Voter's Way to Reform the Initiative Process
I agree with some of Michael Hiltzik's thoughtful analysis supporting proposals to reform the initiative process. Particularly his examples of the lack of conflict-of-interest disclosures in Robert Klein's Proposition 71 stem cell initiative, and Rob Reiner's Proposition 10, which created an autonomous bureaucracy of unelected administrators, who squandered much of the $3 billion in funds (collected from smokers with punishing taxes) on travel and vanity projects, while children waited for their preschool programs to appear.
And I agree that signature gathering is so costly that the field is nearly limited to those who can write big checks, such as celebrities, industry lobbies, the California Chamber of Commerce and, I might add, partisan political groups.
However, I vehemently disagree with Hiltzik's support of proposals allowing the legislature to tamper with initiatives qualified for the ballot, to allow the legislature to amend initiatives after they are passed by a vote of the people, and to restrict ballot measures to general elections every four years. The ideas are the antithesis of the intent of voter initiatives, if for no other reason, simply because of the destructive partisanship power struggles within the two-party system, which party controls the legislature and the governor's office, which is usually ends up being to the detriment of most Californians and taxpayers.
If the initiative process is to be reformed, the powerful and the voters should be reminded of the intent of California Constitution Article II, which deals with voting, initiative and referendum, and recall. Section 1 declares that All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require.
As an independent voter, I suggest that reforms should favor voters and improve their collective ability to place initiatives on the ballot. Not moneyed special interests or selfish interests. Regular voters, who spontaneously gather their forces to alter or reform government by correcting wrongs or creating rights when the public good requires it. Qualifying measures for the ballot in plain, truthful language, along with public-funded secure procedures to gather signatures over the Internet, would be a good start.