Contempt for Voters in Senate Move on Amazon Tax

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The maneuver in the Senate Appropriations Committee
yesterday to undercut the referendum on the Amazon tax legislation is a glaring
example of the contempt with which legislators hold the people’s right of initiative
and referendum. The process is an integral part of the checks and balances
system giving the people control over their government. Clearly, some
legislators don’t want the voters making decisions at the ballot box on actions
taken by the legislature.

Amazon.com challenged a new law that requires online
retailers to collect sales tax. A referendum was filed to put the issue before
the voters. According to the Los
Angeles Times
, signature gatherers "already are off the streets, having met
their goal well before the Sept. 27 deadline for turning in completed
petitions."

To foil this process, Senator Loni Hancock pulled what
amounts to a parliamentary parlor trick by gutting a bill and substituting
language similar to the wording in the original tax law calling the revised
bill an "urgency" measure. The constitution declares that an urgency measure,
which requires a two-thirds vote to pass, is immune to a referendum effort.

In essence, this maneuver, if successfully concluded with
the governor’s signature on the revamped bill, would have the lawmakers
declare: "We have spoken and you, the people, have nothing to say about it."

Regardless of the merits of the arguments on either side of
this tax issue, the legislature should not prevent the people from exercising
their rights under the referendum powers. This maneuver is not simply about one
company or type of business but the hundreds of thousands of Californians who
signed petitions requesting a vote.

This effort only highlights an argument
I made a month ago
that the people must protect themselves from abusive
legislative actions by passing an initiative to erase from the constitution the
prohibitions against referendums that deal with taxes and urgency measures.

If predictions are true and one party soon controls the
two-thirds vote in the legislature and the governor’s pen, then the precious
right of the people having the final word on legislation would be more
important than ever.

While the people may choose to put one party in power, as
voters they frequently take positions not in line with their elected
representatives when they have the opportunity to express themselves on ballot
measures.

Given the shenanigans demonstrated in Sacramento yesterday,
the people must put up a shield to protect their referendum power as soon as
possible.

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