Current Context for Initiative and Referendum

The initiative is the most popular part of California government today, according to researchers. Pity the legislature, the governor and the many state agencies! However, the dream of direct democracy as delineated in 1911 has shifted (some would say “twisted”) into the current costly, complex and tumultuous propositions we see on every statewide ballot.

The list of major influences for a modern California initiative may be summarized as follows:

Money matters – it now costs about $2 million to develop, collect signatures, pay fees, etc. and bring an initiative to the voters. Well-funded special interests can and do bring their issues directly to the voters and bypass the analysis inherent in the legislative process.

Campaign laws now permit unlimited contributions and campaign spending with minimum disclosure requirements.

Judicial Review. Since 1974, eighteen propositions have been either totally or partially annulled by the courts.

Legislative reform has been weak and rare at best.

For more depth on these and other issues, read the “Issues” chapter of The Initiative and Referendum in California: A Legacy Lost? Study Guide (link below).

Some of the ideas now being discussed around the state to “fix” the initiative process and return it to the original concept will be discussed in next week’s note from the Initiative and Referendum Study group.

Link to Study Guide here.

See the previous posts on the Initiative & Referendum Study:

An Initiative and Referendum Primer

LWVC Current Position on I&R

Historic Summary

LWVSF thanks LWV North County San Diego for this post.

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