Jerry Brown’s career-making move was in 1974 when as Secretary of State he successfully sponsored Proposition 9, a statewide ballot measure that created the landmark Political Reform Act in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Fast forward: a bill awaiting his signature or veto would, if enacted, make such citizen initiatives far more expensive, if not impossible to undertake.

Backed by organized labor, the proposal creates major roadblocks to citizens wishing to use the initiative power. The measure bars most citizens from utilizing the initiative if more than 90 percent of required signatures are gathered by paid petition circulators. This constraint does not apply to “employees or members” of nonprofit organizations. In particular, labor unions are expressly exempted from the new signature gathering requirements.

The measure would create two classes of citizen participation in California. Those few Californians who are either affiliated with labor unions or highly motivated, single issue special interest membership organizations (of the right or the left) will have access to the initiative power. The rest of the polity who instead express themselves by donating money (rather than their time) to a cause will be disenfranchised from using the initiative power.

The effect of this bill would be to substantially insulate the Legislature from public accountability. To be sure, some members are answerable at their reelection. But on any particular policy matter, the Legislature can act – or more probably not act – with impunity. This bill will enable Legislative gridlock.

For example, had this bill been in effect from 2008, the major political reforms of fair legislative redistricting and top two primary would never have qualified for the ballot. Supported by a wide range of good government and civic organizations, these measures nonetheless depended on paid signature gatherers to reach the ballot. Other examples from the right (tax reform) and left (animal rights) demonstrate the broad effect that such disenfranchisement would have on citizen access to the initiative power.

Much has changed in the state’s political landscape since 1974. But while the financing and mechanics of qualifying a measure for the ballot have undergone great change, what has remained a constant is the need to provide a citizen option to enact public policy in the face of legislative intransigence. Governor Brown should veto this power grab by organized labor.