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California Legislative Leaders May Support the Indirect Initiative

Published on February 11, 2013, by in General.

According to this article, California State Senate leaders will probably introduce a constitutional amendment to permit indirect initiatives. Indirect initiatives are used successfully in Massachusetts. Proponents of an initiative who successfully gather part of the needed signatures can force the legislature to examine that proposed initiative. If the legislature approves the idea, but changes it somewhat, then the proponents can either consider themselves satisfied, or if they don’t like the legislature’s proposal, they can simply finish the petition and it still goes on the ballot.

The system works well because, frequently, initiative backers make mistakes in drafting their proposal, but the indirect initiative offers a method to alter the wording.

The article says the Senate Democrats are also thinking of new ways to hamper initiatives, such as requiring that all statewide initiative petitions be circulated partially by volunteers. This idea would probably be held unconstitutional, because in 1988 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Colorado ban on paying circulators. That case was Meyer v Grant, 486 U.S. 414.

13 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    I like the system used in King County, Washington. After a charter initiative is filed, the county council may propose an alternative version.

    Whether the initiative is placed on the general election ballot, and which version is decided at the primary.

    What evidence is there that the version used in Massachusetts “works well”? Does it work well for the legislature, or does it work well for the People?

  2. #1, it worked great in 1990, when a coalition of minor parties put a ballot access improvement initiative on the statewide ballot. The legislature refused to pay any attention, so the groups just finished the petition, and it passed. Question 4 cut the number of signatures for independent and unqualified party nominees from 2% of the last gubernatorial vote to one-half of 1%. It also eased the definition of “political party.” The great thing about Massachusetts’ initiative process is the relatively low number of signatures, 3% of the last gubernatorial vote, the easiest statewide initiative in the nation.

  3. Demo Rep

    Const Amdt -
    1. Equal ballot access tests for ALL candidates – i.e. equal nominating petitions.
    2. P.R. – legislative
    3. App.V. – executive/judicial

    Having P.R. will take care of the rest — i.e. PRESSURE to have Democracy to END the EVIL centuries of rule by monarchs/oligarchs — esp. the gerrymander MONSTERS in the CA legislature.

  4. Andy

    “What evidence is there that the version used in Massachusetts ‘works well’? Does it work well for the legislature, or does it work well for the People?”

    All state wide initiatives in Massachusetts go to the legislature if they make it through the first hurdle of signature gathering which is in the fall of the odd year.

    The legislature can either pass it or do nothing. Most of the time they do nothing.

    When they do nothing with a citizens initiative, the petition goes back “out on the streets” so to speak between May-June of the even year and the proponents have to gather a few more signatures on it, and if they make it through this hurdle then the initiative will be placed on the ballot in the general election.

  5. Casual Bystander

    “Top Two” is the answer. What was the question?

  6. Jim Riley

    #2 If the Massachusetts legislature ignored the initiative petition, how can it be said that the procedure worked well?

    The number of signatures needed for an initiative in California is specified in the constitution. It can be amended.

  7. Richard Winger

    #6, when the legislature ignores an issue, that gives the supporters breathing room to rest before they have to go out and get more signatures. They also have more time to raise money. People are more likely to give money when the first half of the petition drive is known to have succeeded.

    Since you are a Texan, do you think Texas ought to have the statewide initiative?

  8. Jim Riley

    #7 Yes.

    It used to be in the Republican platform until they started controlling the legislature and other offices.

    By the way, there are propositions voted on in Texas primaries, and it is possible to qualify them by the initiative process.

    Since you are an American, do you think the United States ought to have the nationwide initiative and initiated referendum?

  9. #8, yes, for federal statutes, but not to change the U.S. Constitution.

  10. Casual Bystander

    #8 and recall as well!

  11. Demo Rep

    ALL political POWER is in the People — i.e. the sovereign Electors — not the gerrymander MONSTERS for centuries.

    Thus – voter petitions for const amdts, laws (new and old) and recalls (removing MONSTERS from office).

    Difficult ONLY for DARK AGE fanatics — who love EVIL monarchs/ oligarchs.

  12. Andy

    “By the way, there are propositions voted on in Texas primaries, and it is possible to qualify them by the initiative process.”

    State wide initiatives can only be placed on the ballot by the legislature. Texas does not have a state wide citizens initiative & referendum process, but they do have the process in a lot of cities and counties in Texas.

  13. Jim Riley

    #12 Election Code 172.087 and 172.088.

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