Do only people without money have hateful or silly ideas?

That appears to be the logic of Assembly Democrats. They recently passed a bill to increase the filing fee for ballot initiatives from $200 to $8,000.

The logic, as laid out by Assemblyman Evan Low, was that a higher cost “will deter frivolous proposals from being submitted.” Specifically, Democrats want to deter proposals like the unconstitutional and murderous “Kill the gays” initiative.

Stopping such initiatives is imperative. But the way to stop unconstitutional initiatives – or those that violate human rights – is to stop such initiatives. Create a process that allows judges, the attorney general or some other body (a citizen’s body) to disqualify such measures. (Legislation to allow the a.g. to issue a warning on a measure – but not block it – is all but meaningless). As I’ve suggested in the space before, there should be a “human rights test” for initiatives.

But instead of tackling the problem of rights-violating initiative, this legislation does something unrelated – raising the price of filing. And it does this based on the assumption that only people with very little money will file awful initiatives, so raising the price will stop them.

That assumption, of course, is nonsense. Just look at our state’s long history of unconstitutional, malicious and rights-violating ideas filed by interest groups and individuals with plenty of money.

All raising the fee will do is limit the number of people who can participate and offer ideas through the process. Those who say the legal costs surpass the $200 fee are disingenuous—legal reviews of such measures are not a big cost for the state.

Given the mismatch between the problem and these legislative “solutions,” it’s fair to question whether the Democrats behind this legislation merely want to make it harder for people to advance their ideas, and participate in a process they don’t much like.

This isn’t “reform,” as Democrats suggested. Reform when it comes to filing measures and encouraging good ideas would involve creating a citizens process – perhaps a jury – to consider and vet the ideas of citizens, discarding the bad and then advancing the best to the ballot, without having to go through the multimillion dollar process of qualifying.

I don’t like the California initiative process either. But let’s fix the process. Not increase taxes on participation in it.