DeSaulnier Initiative Reform Measures Approved by Committee

Today, by a partisan 3-2 vote, the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments approved three Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) measures that help address serious abuses of the initiative process and give the public critical information they need when casting their ballot.

“California’s initiative process is broken,” said DeSaulnier. “The measures approved today attempt to restore the initiative process to what Governor Hiram Johnson intended in 1911. “Governor Johnson never envisioned that his initiative process would be dominated as it is today by special interests that often mislead voters.

“Simply stated, voters need to be better informed when they cast their votes. Voters need to know who is behind the initiatives and who is opposed to them. Petition circulators need to disclose whether they are being paid to gather signatures or are volunteers. It also only makes sense to require that initiatives be fiscally responsible and include funding when they create public costs.”

Below are summaries of the three legislative measures:

Senate Constitutional Amendment 4 prohibits initiative measures that increase state and local government costs from taking effect, unless the measure provides for the funding required to cover its costs.

Senate Bill 334 requires the Secretary of State’s ballot pamphlet to include a list of the five highest contributors of $50,000 or more in support of or opposed to each ballot measure.

Senate Bill 448 requires individual who circulate an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to wear a badge identifying him or her as a “paid signature gatherer” or “volunteer signature gatherer” and identifies if and where he or she is registered to vote.

James Madison wrote, “A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California State PTA, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, and California State Association of Counties support one or more of these measures. SB 448 will next be heard by the full Senate and the remaining two bills will be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee within the next few weeks.

DeSaulnier represents the Seventh Senate District, which includes Antioch and most of Contra Costa County.

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