This November, California voters will be asked to decide on a whopping 17 initiatives — and that doesn’t even include local ballot measures. The deluge comes despite recent reforms aimed at streamlining the state’s initiative process. We’ll talk with experts about this year’s bloated ballot and whether direct democracy is working for California.

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Is California’s Initiative Process Out of Control? 30 August,2016Jeremy Siegel

Kim Alexander, president and founder, California Voter Foundation
Mark Baldassare, CEO, Public Policy Institute of California
Peter Schrag, journalist; author, "California: America's High-Stakes Experiment"
Steve Greenhut, western region director, R Street Institute; columnist for the American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register

  • Pontifikate

    One example of how direct democracy makes our representatives unaccountable: I attended a meeting with Phil Ting where I asked the question: “Now that Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the CA legislature, what is being done about creating a severance tax on gas and oil companies, a tax conservative states like Alaska and Texas both have? I was basically told that I should start a petition. This is one reason why I do not like the initiative process. The only petition I will sign is one that will eliminate the process and make our legislators do their jobs.

  • Ben Rawner

    Isn’t this what democracy is all about? Maybe If we had a day off on Election Day we could spend more time learning up in the issues. This kind of participation limits the power of lobbyists.

    • Bill_Woods

      If you’re waiting till Election Day to learn about the issues … you’re doing it wrong.

      • Ben Rawner

        True. However there are many working people who work 60+ hrs, have to take care of dependants, or are very busy otherwise. A whole day for voting would allow all to learn the necessary facts to make clear and informed decisions.

  • Sar Wash

    It is wonderful that we have direct democracy and that important issues are brought before the voters. Where is the best place to find a complete list of all state and local measures coming up in November?

  • Another Mike

    The initiative, the referendum, and the recall were enacted because the legislature was in thrall to the special interests, and they were means of circumventing the legislature.
    Nowadays, the legislature can put items on the ballot. Why?

  • geraldfnord

    When was the number of voters requisite to an initiative’s being put on the ballot set? If it were awhile back when there were many fewer people in the state, perhaps that static number ought to be changed to a fraction of the population (say, as of 01 January of the year), and a larger one than currently so.

    • Sar Wash

      It is not a static number but is based on a fraction of the number of voters in the most recent election.

  • Another Mike

    The top-two candidate system has radically changed the significance of the June primary. We need more people voting then, so why not move initiatives back to June?

  • Another Mike

    The current Democratic-majority legislature is just a rubber stamp for any fool idea any Democrat has. The only adult in Sacramento is Jerry Brown, who keeps the most idiotic ideas from becoming law. Lord help us when he steps down.

    • Bill_Woods

      Some idiotic ideas, but not all. E.g. the minimum wage increase.

  • Sar Wash

    One of the speakers just lied and stated that California legislators control redistricting. California has a fair and neutral redistricting citizens commission (thanks to the initiative process 🙂 ) . California overall has one of the best legislatures in the country, but they still fail quite often and we really do need direct input from voters. The situation is so much better here than in some eastern states where there are no initiatives and the voters are powerless against a corrupt and usually conservative-controlled legislature.

  • BDN

    Isn’t this all about the cure to long prolix-bound wordy, hopelessly-confusing initiatives, propositions, referendums, and recalls on election ballots, and how to know who is for what and why during an election, which simply means being able to FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  • Skip Conrad

    How is it that Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland) have had recent referendums, and the results of these referendums have become laws? Here, whenever a public referendum is passed, it is later overturned by the courts – at least that happened to Propositions 8 and 187. Why aren’t the People the Supreme Authority, and their decisions stand?
    Plus, I bet the European referendums were (probably) much less costly than ours.

    • ldemelis

      Unlike the UK, we have a written Constitution, which is the ultimate authority. The people can amend the Constitution, but neither legislatures nor the people can pass laws that conflict with it.

    • Sar Wash

      No initiative can take away the fundamental human rights of individuals or minorities on the basis of the bigotry, ignorance, and whims of the majority. A law like Prop 8, undermining the fundamental nature of American democracy (which protects the rights of the individual and minorities against the whims of the majority), is blatantly unconstitutional. It is appropriate for voters or legislators to expand civil rights and to create laws, but not to take away fundamental constitutional rights. A key message from basic elementary school civics class.

  • ffuser9

    As a tax payer, I expect and want my government officials to do their jobs and represent their constituency accordingly, act on issues in a timely manner and be functional. The ballot initiatives are an example of that not happening and voters are tired of it. One of the guests just stated that a lot of times that our legislatures don’t vote on or bring up measures is because of there own self interests and preservation of their political career. As well as those of special interests groups. So what that tells me, is that our legislatures don’t have the best interests of the constituency in mind, but that of themselves and special interests group. We need to get money out of politics and hold our politicians feet to the fire to do their job and stand by a decision instead of worrying about it coming back later to hurt them.

  • kmueda

    Has there ever been a study of how well Californians actually understand all the initiatives on the ballot, and how many take the time to research the initiatives at all? I think the initiative process presumes a very engaged and informed voter and I’m not convinced there are many of those (mostly based on the fact that I am rarely very well-informed myself), but I’d love to see evidence to the contrary. It might guilt trip me into doing more research!

    • Another Mike

      You can always judge an initiative by the company it keeps. What Feinstein likes is a mixed bag, however.

  • Jon Latimer

    Seriously, are we really debating whether the people of CA should have more or less power to put initiatives on the ballot? Why not spend this time educating people on the initiatives that ARE on the ballot??? We should focus on getting citizens MORE involved in democracy, not less. At a time when less than 10% of American’s participated in the national primary, the question SHOULD be, “How do we engage MORE voters to be involved in democracy?” (Meanwhile, I leave this conversation having learned virtually nothing about all of these important upcoming ballot initiatives.)

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    If our elected California State folks would do their job, we probably wouldn’t have so many initiatives on the ballot. Thankfully California allows for voters to vote by permanent absentee ballot. And you have a good few weeks even before election day to mail in your ballot so there is no excuse for not voting.

  • Robert Thomas

    I listened to this on the second broadcast.

    I thought there were several interesting new points and observations made, along with agreement on a number of others that have been long discussed.

    What was starkly obvious, though, was the lucky state of affairs that Californians enjoy, that marginalizes the silly, smarmy, childish, irresponsible and sophomoric attitude of Libertarian dolts who spend their time sneering at every institution, while simultaneously enjoying a society presided over by adults.

    As long as the initiative process – however clumsy or easily manipulated it from time to time may be – continues to push the escape valve button that deflates brainless libertarian hoo-haw, I’m all for it.

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