Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Editorial

Altering the initiative process

We need reforms to prevent special interests from misusing the initiative process, but what exactly should be done is still unclear.

August 07, 2011

An organization funded in part by a labor group, the California Building and Construction Trades Council, recently aired radio spots warning voters that they could become victims of identity theft if they signed initiative petitions. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is staffing a call center to document sightings of anti-union petitioners.

It's the next big thing for the initiative industry. The campaign begins now, in front of the supermarket, mall or post office, to frighten voters into ignoring petitions they might otherwise sign. The most successful "no" campaign is the one that keeps the initiative from getting on the ballot in the first place.

On the 100th anniversary of California adopting the initiative, recall and referendum, the reforms that once were meant to allow voters to cut through political power-brokering by special interests have become tools that those very interests too often use to beguile or deceive the public. Some reform of the reforms is in order. But believing change is needed is not the same as knowing what changes to make.

Of the several initiative reform measures that have been making their way through the Legislature, one of the most appealing would have blocked proponents from paying their signature-gatherers a bounty on each valid signature. After all, it's that bounty that makes the folks milling around store entrances, clipboards in hand, so aggressive, and so prone to say pretty much anything to get voters to sign.

Still, Gov. Jerry Brown was right to veto the proposal, because it likely would have advantaged wealthy, established initiative sponsors — those with enough money to pay signature-gatherers by the day or the hour. As more sweeping reform legislation moves forward, lawmakers and voters should focus on the real choice before them: Are they about to improve a flawed system or make a bad situation worse?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|