From the contemptible (“Sodomite Suppression Act”) to the retaliatory to make a point (“Intolerant Jackass Act”) to the corny (“The President of California Act”), California’s initiative process seemed to have gone off the deep end recently prompting some legislators to propose initiative reform measures. Let’s not react in haste.

Most initiatives don’t qualify for the ballot, many don’t even bother getting one petition signature. Many times the filings are all about gaining attention for the proponent. But a swift reaction to highly publicized measures that are going nowhere can result in damage to the important role the initiative process has to play in this state.

There are times that the legislature doesn’t act when it should. With the initiative process, the people can take action. The initiative process came about because special interests (read: the railroads) at the beginning of the twentieth century controlled the legislature. Reforms to the legislative process itself would not come from the legislature, which would lose power because of certain reforms. A recent example is creating a redistricting commission to take the re-drawing of legislative districts out of the hands of the self-interested elected officials.

Rushing changes to the initiative process as a reaction to a single person’s irresponsible action comes with unintended consequences. Raising the fee 40-fold to file an initiative, as two Assembly members have proposed, would limit citizens with legitimate concerns from having their voices heard.

Another suggested proposal would allow signatures on initiative petitions to become public, especially if an abridgement of a constitutional right is contained in the proposed measure. How do we define constitutional right? Are the inalienable rights that are off-limits to be listed in the bill? If all petition signatures are made public, even those not involving a constitutional right, making signatures public could prompt harassment of signers who choose to simply help put on the ballot a policy change that is hotly opposed by one side or the other of the ideological divide.

I think the Los Angeles Times editorial page had it right when it headlined its editorial, “’Sodomite Suppression Act’ is no reason for radical initiative reform.”

Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked a court if she can ignore her duty of preparing the Sodomite Suppression Act for the ballot. If the court finds grounds for dumping the outlandish initiative before the process begins, that would be in line with the precedent established by California courts of removing unconstitutional initiative measures before a vote. It has never happened at this stage of the process but because of past court actions it is possible that the court could take such action. Harris is right to look to the courts in this situation. The Attorney General, as an individual, should not declare what is or is not constitutional.

Shame, chastise and rebuke authors like Matt McLaughlin who submitted the Sodomite Suppression Act, as he so much deserves for his heinous proposal. And, don’t give bizarre initiatives the attention they crave. Most will disappear without a trace.

But the legislature should not use the righteous outrage people feel over the filing of one particular initiative proposal to undercut the people’s initiative power.