Initiative & Referendum Discussions & Decisions in February

lwvc state capital logoA New Year.  A chance to fix what’s broken. February 23, 25 and 27 our League will try to shape what some say is a dysfunctional piece of Californias government:  the initiative and referendum process.   

League members will decide on changes to the California League’s policy position on the Initiative and Referendum Processes at discussion and decision meetings–often called “consensus” meetings.  The joint study committee of the Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville and Oakland Leagues, chaired by Helen Hutchison, who also chairs the state study, will report their findings on Saturday, Februrary 23, in a morning session, 10-12, on Part 1 and an afternoon session, 1-3:30, on Part 2 of the study questions at the Oakland Library Dimond Branch. Members may  come instead to  Part 1 on Monday, Feb. 25, at 1 pm and Part 2 on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 1 pm at the LWVBAE office.  BAE and Oakland members can mix and match among the meetings so that they can participate in both Part 1 and Part 2.

Take a look at the Primer on  I & R below to get you started thinking about the issues.

What is a proposition?
A term used for any ballot measure to be voted on by the people. It can be an initiative or a referendum.
What is an initiative?
A brand new law or constitutional amendment proposed and voted on by the people. It is a law initiated by the people. In California, we use the direct initiative process, which means a petition with the required number of signatures automatically qualifies for the ballot. Some states allow only indirect initiatives, which means a measure that receives the necessary signatures moves to the Legislature for further action.
What is a referendum?
A vote by the people to approve or reject an existing law.  It is law referred to the people, triggered in two ways:  1) Legislature sends a proposed bill directly to the people instead of deciding it themselves (legislative referendum) or,   2)  the people can attempt to repeal a law even after it has been passed by the Legislature (popular referendum). California is one of 24 states to allow this.
Two ways of making laws?
The Legislative process is at least 13 steps long, verbal, filled with compromise and subject to endless, seemingly random, amendment.  (See link to Legislative Guide.)
The peoples  initiative process can seem streamlined;  a limited group of people propose their version of public policy and attempt to sell it to voters.   The 4 main steps are:   Drafting the Petition, Qualifying it for the ballot (collecting & validating signatures),  Campaigning, and Voting.  (See timeline for typical initiative.)
Is California unique?
Between 1912 and 2010, California qualified more popular initiatives for the ballot than any other state except Oregon.  During that period, 1,657 California initiatives and referendums were circulated for signature; only 348 (20 percent) qualified for the ballot and only 116 (7 percent) were approved.

And mine at the rich store of information on I & R and the I & R Study on the LWVC webpage.

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