No one should be fooled — the Assembly bill passed to raise the filing fee for an initiative proposal to $8000 is an attempt to squash the initiative process. The argument that the fee has not been raised in over seventy years rings hollow when any on-line inflation calculator will tell you that inflation over that time has risen no more than one-fourth the amount that the bill, AB 1100, co-authored by Democratic assembly members Richard Bloom and Evan Low demands.

Legislators generally do not like the initiative process. They don’t like the “masses” playing in their backyard of lawmaking. An opportunity to cripple the process was presented when an Orange County lawyer filed a despicable measure that on its face authorized the killing of gays. As I noted previously on this page, “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.”

Let’s be clear – raising the filing fee to $8000 won’t eliminate the initiative process. Well-to-do corporations, labor unions and rich individuals with an agenda will be able to continue to play the initiative game.

What such a high filing fee would do is undercut the average citizens in this state. For all the talk of concern by the legislative majority about equality, assembly members who passed this bill simply turned their back on the average citizen and empowered those individuals and groups with deep pockets.

Another thing to consider –major changes in the governing process, putting restrictions on legislative power and influence, often occur via citizens’ initiatives. Yet, those reform measures are usually not offered up by the business and labor groups that are working day to day hoping to win favor from legislators. They can’t afford to offend elected officials. Grass roots groups habitually cook up such legislative reform initiatives. Another reason legislators want to make it harder to qualify initiatives.

AB 1100 passed the Assembly but is not law, yet. Maybe it never will be.

My sense is that jacking up an initiative filing fee 40-times in one fell swoop would offend the populist instincts of Governor Jerry Brown. He could well veto the measure if it reaches his desk. If the bill does become law, don’t be surprised if grassroots groups of all political stripes band together to offer a referendum to undo this attack on direct democracy.