Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th
in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly
Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State
and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican
Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport
Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna
Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly
and through the website
for his California Senate campaign. [go to Campbell index]
Propositions, initiatives coming to a ballot near you.
[John Campbell] 12/2/03
Ever since the populist reforms of early 20th century under Gov.
Hiram Johnson, California has been a place in which "direct
democracy" has flourished. The recall of Gray Davis obviously
is the most recent and visible example of the people of this
state taking control through direct vote.
But the more common
forms of direct democracy are the initiatives, bonds and referenda
that appear on virtually every statewide
ballot. Just to remind you of what you were taught in your high
school political science class, all amendments to the state constitution
must be approved by the voters, unless there is a constitutional
convention (the last one in California was in 1879). Initiatives
can include constitutional amendments or regular statutes which
become law if a majority of the voters approve. Any general obligation
borrowing by the state in excess of $300,000 also must be approved
by a majority vote of the people.
Referendums are attempts to
get the voters to overturn a law passed by the Legislature and
signed by the governor. Constitutional
amendments and bond measures can make it to the ballot either
through a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, or by collecting
enough signatures from registered voters. Initiatives and referendums
can only make it by collecting enough signatures from registered
As of a couple of weeks ago, there were 45 ballot measures
somewhere in the process to appear on either the March or November
There are probably another 15 or 20 being worked on or contemplated
that have not yet begun the formal state process. Only three
of these actually have qualified for a ballot at this point,
and many of the others won't make it. But if just half of those
currently on the radar screen find their way, you could have
30 ballot measures in 2004.
Why all the activity?
First of all, the resounding success of the recall leaves political
with the view that the voters
are in a "populist" mood and that they are ready to "take
charge" of things through the ballot. This view, however,
has a counterweight: The two propositions on the recall ballot
were resoundingly defeated. Secondly, Gov. Schwarzenegger has
made it clear that if the Legislature does not pass the agenda
that he outlined and that the people supported in October, he
will use the initiative process to go directly to the people.
Third, liberal constituencies that were unable to get their issues
done before the recall now face a Schwarzenegger veto and therefore
are going to the ballot to get around him. Fourth, the failures
of state government under Davis have prompted both liberals and
conservatives to propose major constitutional structural changes
that require voter approval.
Now, some people don't like the
initiative process and believe that it weakens accountability
for the Legislature and the governor.
Others point to the 25-year-and-counting record of such populist
voter revolts like Proposition 13 as proof that direct democracy
works and is a good thing. Regardless of your view, the right
of the people to vote on ballot measures is with us and no one
is proposing a ballot measure to take it away.
Here are some
of the ballot measures briefly explained and grouped in the categories
described above. After the letter "E",
I have included my personal editorial comment about each. I am,
after all, an assemblyman never shy to offer my opinion:
$12 billion school construction bond. This would be
on top of a bond of a similar amount passed in 2002. E: We can't
this right now on top of all of the debt and deficits created
in the last five years.
$6 billion high-speed passenger train
bond. E: We can't afford this either. And by the way, this
and the school bond contain
all kinds of restrictions on using non-union labor that drive
up the cost of all projects above what is reasonable.
Deficit Debt bond in the range of $15 billion. This is the bond
to refinance the leftover Davis deficits and debt
that he put on in the last few years. E: I don't like to do this,
but we have no alternative now. The money has already been spent.
This is an essential part of Gov. Schwarzenegger's workout plan
for the near-bankrupt state.
Repeal of SB 60, the law just passed in September
that allows undocumented non-citizens to get California driver's
which look just like yours and mine, with no background check.
E: Repealing this law is essential to our public safety.
of the recently enacted law that gives domestic partners nearly
all of the rights and privileges of marriage. E: I voted
against this law and strongly support the repeal.
Repeal of SB
2, the law just passed in September that will require all businesses
with 20 or more employees to provide a state-mandated
health insurance to employees and (in some cases) dependents
or pay into a state-run single payer pool. E: This is yet another
law that will cost companies billions and drive businesses out
of California. It too should be repealed.
Spending limit, balanced
budget and "rainy
day fund" amendment
that would limit the growth in government spending to increases
in population and inflation, require a balanced budget (that
is not actually required now) and sets up a reserve in good years
to sustain the state in period of recession. E: This is the most
important and best single thing we can do to reform the state's
fiscal structure. I have been advocating this concept for more
than two years now.
Proponents call it
the "budget accountability
opponents call it the "blank check" initiative. It
allows the Legislature to raise taxes and increase spending on
a 55 percent vote instead of the two-thirds vote now required.
It repeals Proposition 13. E: It is a blank check and an absolutely
terrible proposal that would have allowed Davis and his minions
to tax and spend even more than they already did. Look out for
this on your March ballot.
The opposite of the blank check initiative,
this proposal closes the loophole that now allows some taxes
and so-called fees to
be raised on a majority vote. This constitutional amendment would
make all taxes and fees subject to a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
E: Good idea.
income tax deductions, exemptions of credits as "corporate tax preferences" and
sunsets them and makes it easier to repeal them. E: Haven't
and business out of the state already without this?
to eliminate the car tax altogether. E: Lowering taxes is always
A plan to put the drawing of legislative and
congressional districts in the hands of court-appointed masters
rather than letting us
(the Legislature) draw our own districts. E: Another good idea.
There is a conflict of interest when legislators draw their own
The so-called "Home Rule" plan
to return property taxes (now mainly used by the state) to
and counties and
to give those local governments protection against the state
taking away their money again. E: Local governments should have
diverse, controllable and secure sources of revenue. This should
Rob Reiner's plan to raise property taxes by 50 percent
on all commercial property, apartments and other multi-family
property. He says the money will go to fund universal state-paid
preschool and other educational stuff. E: Let's increase another
tax on every business and apartment dweller in the state and
then create another voracious out-of-control over-spending bureaucracy.
Yeah, right. This is horrible.
Prohibits enclosing a pig for all or the
majority of a day in an enclosure. E: Yes, you read that correctly.
This is a proposition
proposal dealing with housing for pigs. (Heavy sigh).
the "shakedown lawsuit" 17200 statute to end
these frivolous claims by making the plaintiffs show they were
actually harmed by the defendant's actions. E: I still can't
believe the Legislature won't vote to do something so logical
Oh, yes I can. The trial lawyers don't want this. So
You can see that I did not list all 45. And it still
is a long list. And it does not include any of Gov. Schwarzenegger's
such as worker's compensation insurance reform. The new governor
has made it clear on many occasions that if the Legislature does
not pass any of the proposals that were cornerstones of his campaign
promises and his election, he will go directly to the people
to pass those proposals. So, there could be additional initiatives
from the governor.
We are all in for
quite an interesting year as citizens and voters in California.
And, literally, the eyes
of the world will be
on us. Many of these initiatives will not make it to the ballot,
but many will. Some will be good and some will be bad. We citizens
should not "check out" because there are too many proposals.
Instead, we should recognize that the recall was just the first
phase of a populist revolt against a misguided and monolithic
government in Sacramento. The March and November ballots are
the next phase. Our work is far from done. Let's stay engaged
and complete the job.