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California is getting even crazier


Want to impose a three-fifths majority for passing a budget in California? How about include "fertilized eggs" in the state constitution's definition of a human being? Want to force schools to offer Christmas music? How about drug test legislators? Or maybe you'd like to "eliminate the ability of married couples to get divorced in California." Whatever your insane preference, California's got an app -- or at least a ballot initiative -- for that.

Looking at the lot of them, the best might be the initiative to write a new Constitution which would, well, limit the initiative process. Though I do like the proposal to force all legislators to take drug tests.

Related: My recent column on California's political dysfunctions can be found here.

Photo credit: By Ken James/Bloomberg

By Ezra Klein  |  January 11, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  California  
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Personally, I love the idea of ballot initiatives.

I'd bet money "fertilized eggs" are not going to be added to the definition of "human being" in California. Call me crazy.

Though if they force a 3/5ths majority requirement on the budget process, will California ever get a budget?

Of course, I might like ballot initiatives so much because I don't live in California.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 11, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"california is getting even crazier."

well, perhaps.
but this morning, as the temperature is approaching 72 degrees, i just saw a white egret come in overhead for a landing, to the crystalclear, natural stream that is flowing here from the mountains. the sky is blue and mountains in the distance are covered with snow.
there is a little anna's hummingbird in the native vegetation outside of my window.

you can cut down all of the trees, but the springtime will still come.
and so it is.
we are only visitors. though we like to imagine that we are so much more.

Posted by: jkaren | January 11, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Did you scroll down to 1399, which might be called the "blogging is a crime initiative"?

"Amends constitution to hold candidates for public office, government officials and employees, and members of the media criminally liable for intentionally making a false statement of "material fact" about legislative acts, elections for public office, or the employment or dismissal of government employees. Imposes on violators a 2 to 10 year prison term, a $10,000 to $500,000 fine, or both, and a lifetime ban on serving as a government official or employee, or member of the media."

Posted by: JamesWimberley | January 11, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The "idea" of ballot initiatives is great. The "reality" of ballot initiatives, often not so great.

My father-in-law is a retired judge in Colorado, which has the initiative process. We've discussed this issue at length over the years. The main problem from his perspective, is that ballot issues make for bad law. Whether or not we like our legislatures, when they debate a law it ends up pretty thoroughly vetted. While the law of unintended consequences usually gets passed anyway, it isn't nearly as bad as we often get with ballot initiatives.

Too often, ballot initiatives appeal to our worst instincts, and they too often are there because the proponents can't get the policy passed in any other way. This can be good, but is usually not-so-good in my experience. I would love to force the NC legislature to reform our tax code (note I'm not saying raise or lower taxes, just make the code somewhat useful and at least marginally efficient). But I also know what tax initiatives usually look like.

In terms of economic initiatives, usually these involve the public demanding everything, for free. So we get dueling constitutional amendments. One states that we must pay so much for K-12 education. Another (maybe even passed the same election) restricts the ability to pay for it with taxes. Heck, when TABOR passed while I lived in Colorado, by the letter it forced local sewer districts to hold elections any time they needed to raise fees. They've been trying to unwind portions of that initiative ever since.

I suppose it is little wonder that so many of the states that are struggling the most (California being the worst example) are the ones that have used initiatives to destroy their ability to adapt.

Posted by: J-NC | January 11, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I love California, and regardless of how much of a failed state it is, I'm never leaving. Its really the best place in this country to live, bar none.

I think ballot initiatives are great, its not really the source of our problems. Having an active citizenry engaged in public policy through these initiatives makes it fun to follow local politics here.

As far as the needed changes in Sacramento, I'd associate myself with our dear blogger's recent column as having touch on all the important points, and I agree with him completely.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | January 11, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, California currently requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass a budget, so changing it to three-fifths would actually make it easier to pass a budget.

Unfortunately, given the current budget situation, unless we also change the vote requirement to raise taxes (raising taxes also currently requires a two-thirds vote), changing the vote required to pass a budget isn't likely to do much good.

Posted by: realityczech2 | January 11, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The grouping of one of the sanest ballot initiative (George Lakoff's 1386) with the crazy ones, is a little bit of unneeded cynicism on your part. Here is an effort to get us out of this mess and the tone of your post is: look at the California crazies.

Why not take a hold of the rope that we have to get us part-way out of this mess?

Posted by: michaelterra | January 11, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I believe the initiative process in CA originally began as a way for average-every-day folks to actually have a say in their governance. Sounds great and probably was great for a while.

But over the years, it has been captured by big money ... special interest groups and big corporations. Prop-8 is a good example of this.

Posted by: onewing1 | January 11, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

1419. (09-0069)

Prohibits Legislators from Voting on Legislation that Financially Affects Contributors.

Anyone taking bets on whether this one flies or dies?

Posted by: onewing1 | January 11, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

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