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Debate Over Initiatives

May 20, 2000

* I read with disappointment your May 13 editorial, "Tyranny of the Initiative."

Contrary to The Times' opinion, the initiative process should be embraced as an essential part of California's legislative process. It should not only be vigorously defended in this state, it should be extended to the national level as well. With all of its warts, the initiative process cannot compare to the well-documented inadequacies of this state's traditional legislative process.




Congratulations on your editorial. It's about time that the media began to focus on the perversion of a process that was supposed to expand democracy. Might I suggest that instead of eliminating the initiative, we lobby the state Legislature to regulate the process of signature gathering by requiring that no petitions would be valid if payment is made to anyone soliciting signatures? If the courts rule against this provision, then all petitions and sites where petitions are taken would have to prominently advertise the fact that the person gathering signatures is being paid, the amount of the payment per signature and the person or organization(s) paying for the signatures.

This process would restore the initiative process to its original purpose of expanding people power in the legislative process.


San Diego


Prop. 13 saved hundreds of thousands of homeowners from financial ruin due to ever-increasing property tax assessments. The bilingual initiative is accomplishing its purpose. Affirmative action is clearly unconstitutional, but no legislature has the guts to address the issue. Prop. 187 was never about immigrants, it was about the tidal wave of immigrants in excess of limitations passed by Congress. The initiative process is not about rich people, it's about all of us.


Hancock Park


I am a professor and author (along with Todd Donovan) of two recent books on the initiative process. While you may be right to dislike the initiative process, the main arguments you advance concerning the role of money and special interests are not supported by the evidence.

Our findings make two broad points. First, that special interests simply do not have the vote base to pass whatever law they wish via the initiative process. It takes millions of votes to pass one and most "special interest" groups do not have that kind of support (pretty much by definition).

Second, spending huge amounts does not guarantee passage of a proposal. Proponents of laws have to persuade voters and, as our work repeatedly shows, voters are capable of voting sensibly regardless of money spent.


Dept. of Political Science

UC Riverside

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