Californians of means, and their interest group, have a problem. They are addicted to initiatives.
They think ballot initiatives will solve the state’s problems. They have thought this for more than 100 years. Most of the time, their initiatives lose and cost people time and money. Their initiatives that win typically only make solving those problems more complicated. All the initiatives – and ballot measures, and court decisions, and gubernatorial and legislative decisions – have served to constrain our policymakers in ways that makes it nearly impossible to tackle big problems.
But still Californians of means persist. Initiatives are being threatened on all sorts of subjects for 2014. And there is talk of reform initiatives – fundraising bans and even initiative reform itself – for next year.
Alcoholics and initiative sponsors share the same faith: the solution is always at the bottom of the initiative bottle.
So let’s stage an intervention, starting right now. If you’re thinking of qualifying an initiative for next year’s ballot, you have a problem. You need to stop right now. Before you hurt yourself, or make things worse.
Let’s agree that, at the very least, you’ll delay. No initiatives in 2014. Go cold turkey. See what it feels like.
Take the time and the money you would have spent on initiatives and apply it elsewhere. Work with the legislature. Revise your policy plans, and maybe share them with opponents. Or build local institutions and relationships and conversations about how to fix the state.
Yes, there are already two legislative measures – the water bond and a rainy day fund thing – on the ballot. And yes, on health insurance rates, has qualified before this intervention. But just because the consumer attorneys are throwing up their three-martini lunch on the street doesn’t mean you have to.
The legislature and governor are deeply constrained, but they are making some progress. Why not keep the attention – and pressure – on lawmakers? Initiatives often give elected officials reason not to tackle systemic problems – those things will be handled with an initiative, they’ll say. If we make 2014 an initiative-free year, with none on the ballot, then lawmakers won’t have that out. They might be able to tackle big reform themselves.
And 2014 would be a good year for that. One party has supermajorities, or near supermajorities, in both houses. And amending the constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature. So does asking for a constitutional convention. So why not focus there, at least for this cycle, and see what happens?
Maybe you’ll find you’re happier without any initiatives.
You can always fall off the wagon again in 2016.