SB 1253, which became law last year, continues to be sold as initiative reform, even though it was, at best, initiative tweaking. It made a series of changes – on signature time, on disclosure, on the legislature – that are too small to make any difference. And unfortunately, because the state’s Goo Goo Dolls have sold it as initiative reform, it’s taken real changes to the process off the table.

True initiative reform requires integrating the initiative process with the rest of the governing system. Initiatives need to live under the rules of the budget. They shouldn’t blatantly violate the constitution. They shouldn’t grant unchecked powers to their sponsors. They need to be considered and scheduled in a way that is integrated with the legislative process. And they need to be able to reach the ballot based on the merit of their ideas and drafting, not on the money that’s behind them.

The Sodomite Suppression Act, as awful as it is, has performed one service: it exposed SB 1253’s failure to meet this basic test of reform. The act is blatantly unconstitutional, but it probably can’t be stopped from being titled and circulated. Because the initiative process remains, even after SB 1253, a totally separate process that is immune to checks and balances.

One of the fundamental problems of California is our upside down thinking about democracy, a condition that SB 1253 exemplifies. In the normal universe, having more people and institutions be part of fashioning a proposed law or constitutional amendment would be considered more democratic. But in California, having more people or institutions touch an initiative is considered, somehow, less democratic. SB 1253 didn’t do a thing to reverse this thinking, and its effect on an initiative process that exists as a scary separate power, beyond the reach of democratic norms.

All of which is why challenges to the Sodomite Suppression Act shouldn’t be limited to the attorney general’s appeal to a court, asking whether she really has to title this thing. Fighting the act requires real initiative reform. So why not start by scrapping SB 1253 and offering a constitutional amendment that truly reforms the process by making it more democratic, by integrating it with the rest of California’s governing system?