California’s initiative filing fees are going up to $2,000, by far the highest in the country. And a huge disincentive for regular folks to use the process. As Joel Fox and I have both pointed out on this site, there are other consequences too – less room for filing alternative measures that might be part of negotiation. And perhaps less reason to file measures that correct previously filed measures – thus leading to a higher risk of mistakes.

Since it’s unlikely that the governor and the legislature are going to reduce the fee, the question becomes: what else can be done to deal with the problems of the higher fee? Here’s a suggestion: let’s establish an alternative filing process that would be free.

The catch: Filing your initiative in this alternative free process wouldn’t give you what the paid fee process gives you – legal and fiscal reviews that forms a title and summary. To put it plainly, filing free wouldn’t give you a title and summary. The logic would be that such reviews costs money (thousands of dollars according to state officials) and the filing fee is supposed to cover some of those costs.

But it would be a way to get your idea out there, and express yourself. And you might be able to get the attention of some person or interest that wanted to back your idea with real money. Then the initiative could be filed, with a fee, and with titles and summaries.

I’d love to see a bill filed in the legislature to set up a free process. If no one will pursue that legislation, perhaps a nonprofit or university could set up such a site to take in and publish such initiatives. The measures would have to follow the rules of formatting as other initiatives to be processed and posted online.

It’d be a simple way to deal with the objections to the new filing fee. And it’d be hard to oppose it – without revealing yourself to be hostile to the concept of letting citizens bring forth their own ideas.