Corbett aims to ban per-signature petition pay

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is taking another stab at legislation to bar companies that gather petition signatures for ballot measures from paying workers on a per-signature basis.

Corbett said SB 168, introduced Thursday, would remove the incentive for signature gatherers to harass or bully voters into signing petitions, or to fabricate signatures; if they’re paid an hourly wage or salary, it won’t matter how many signatures they gather.

“Our initiative process was established at the turn of the century to give Californians more direct say in our democratic process. It was certainly not set up to create a scam to line the pockets of signature gatherers,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. “Senate Bill 168 will help eliminate fraud and uphold the integrity of the initiative process.”

Some states have received reports of petition circulators forging signatures of names taken from a phonebook, she said; others inserted carbon paper and a second petition beneath the original one, without voters’ knowledge, to get signatures on two petitions at a time. And here in California, she noted, Sacramento County election officials in 2006 discovered that nearly 33 percent of signatures in a petition filed were fraudulent.

Corbett, along with senators Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Dean Florez, D-Shafter, had put forth a similar bill in 2009 that was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009; the governor said it would limit the initiative process by making it “difficult for grassroots organizations to gather the necessary signatures and qualify measures for the ballot.”

A few states, including Colorado, Montana and Nebraska, passed similar laws in recent years, but a federal judge last June issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Colorado’s in a still-pending lawsuit that claims the ban is unconstitutional.


Maldo’s Lt. Gov. campaign has little in the bank

State Sen. Abel Maldonado’s drive toward confirmation, which got hung up by Assembly Democrats on Thursday and reset for another 90 days by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday, hasn’t helped him land a lot of contributions to his campaign for that office.

After Schwarzenegger nominated him in late November to fill the rest of former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi’s term, Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, announced his intent to seek election to a full term of his own in June’s GOP primary and November’s general election. Of course, now that the governor has withdrawn and re-submitted his nomination, it seems he’ll have to simultaneously convince the Assembly to support him and convince the public to vote for him in the primary.

“Abel Maldonado for Lt. Governor 2010” qualified as a committee Jan. 19, according to records filed with the Secretary of State’s office, even as Maldonado and Schwarzenegger were starting to ramp up public awareness and pressure on the Legislature in advance of this week’s votes. Yet the committee has received only three major contributions totaling $23,400 so far: $6,500 from Michael Fox of M.E. Fox & Co. Inc. in San Jose on Jan. 19; $11,900 from the California Professional Firefighters PAC on Feb. 1; and $5,000 from former Assemblyman and former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Brooks Firestone of Solvang on Feb. 1.

Maldonado’s state Senate campaign account showed $9,106 cash on hand at the end of 2009, and no major contributions since then.

Not that his GOP primary rival, state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, has been making bank, either. Aanestad’s campaign committee reported $97,499 cash on hand as of the end of 2009, but he’d put in $50,000 from his own pocket in December and the only major contribution since then has been $5,000 from The Dentists Insurance Co. this Thursday.

The money is bigger on the other side of the aisle. Democratic primary candidate state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, reported $957,381 cash on hand at the end of 2009, while Democratic primary candidate Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles City Council member, reported $341,341 cash on hand; neither has raised many big contributions since.