Reformists urge ballot initiative upgrades

The Center for Government Studies has released a new report calling for significant reforms to California’s nearly 100-year-old ballot initiative system.

Adopted by voters in 1911, the ballot initiative process allowed citizens to bypass the influence of special interest money on state legislators and place new laws on the ballot for voter consideration. But in the past decade, more money has been spent to promote or oppose ballot measures than on lobbying, say Center for Governmental Studies public policy experts Tracy Westen and Bob Stern.

Recommendations include provisions that would allow initiative proponents to bring proposed laws first to the Legislature and establish a more flexible system for amendments both before and after passage. The center also calls for any initiative that establishes a two-thirds vote requirement for passage of future policies to also pass by a two-thirds margin rather than a majority.

“We believe these reforms would result in a 15 to 20 percent drop in the number of initiatives and result in better drafted initiatives for voters,” Stern said in a meeting this afternoon with the Contra Times Times editorial board.

Stern and Westen say they will seek more input and eventually boil down the roughly 40 recommendations into … what else? … a ballot initiative for 2010.

Click here to read the report and the full set of recommendations.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen