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California's Initiative Process

October 01, 1994

With nearly every election, the call for reforming the initiative process is heard (Sept. 19). Its use by well-funded special interests has been a particular target of reformers, and the sponsorship of Proposition 188 by Phillip Morris Inc. has once again focused attention on the power of money to dominate the process.

Much of the abuse could be eliminated by the adoption of "truth in sponsorship" and "truth in advertising" laws. Petitions should be required to include a prominent notice disclosing the sponsors of circulation efforts with reference to industries or groups involved. Similarly, advertising should be required to include the names of industries or groups paying for the ads as was required by Proposition 105 in 1990.

Armed with this knowledge, prospective petition signers and voters would probably take a much harder look at initiatives. Many would not survive such scrutiny.


Acting Secretary of State



Sherry Bebitch Jeffe's article (Opinion, Sept. 18) on initiatives further added to my own frustration with the way the process is used in the state.

Most initiatives are extreme solutions to legitimate problems. They are often written by extremists who often don't know what they are doing. Many are well-intentioned, but ill-conceived responses to the Legislature's inability or unwillingness to act. As a voter, I often feel frustrated because I have to choose between a poor solution to a problem or no solution at all. I have to take all or nothing of an initiative.

Proposition 103 is a shining example of the process gone awry. The insurance situation in this state really was scandalous and something had to be done. A middle-aged driver with a good record in an urban area, I was supposed to benefit from Proposition 103. Instead, my liability premium went up $200 a year.

The best public policy comes when competent, well-intentioned representatives of all sides come together and hash out a solution. The initiative process usually subverts that process by presenting one take-it-or-leave-it solution.



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