Against the background of a likely long November ballot full of initiatives, a new power controlled by initiative proponents may come into play for the first time — perhaps shortening the ballot by a measure or two. Two years ago, then Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, shepherded a bill through the legislature that made changes to the one hundred year old initiative law.
Among the provisions of that law, initiative proponents were given the power to pull an initiative before the Secretary of State had certified it, even though enough qualified voters had signed petitions to get the measure on the ballot.
The intent of the reform was to pressure initiative proponents and legislators to come up with compromise legislation and solve the problem addressed by the initiative preventing the need for a ballot campaign.
Proponents could also pull an initiative even if no negotiations produced a legislative solution.
The election cycle that will culminate in November is the first that this new power might be used.
There is a handful of the active initiatives experts believe have a good shot to make the ballot but could conceivably be jettisoned at the last moment before certification.
A likely candidate is one of the two minimum wage measures both seeking a place on the November ballot. The measures are similar and at last check both were still viable.
One, backed by SEIU, the United Health Workers, and the mayors of Oakland and San Francisco raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, increasing it annually thereafter at the rate of inflation. The second measure will also achieve a $15 an hour wage in a nearly similar time frame, includes a cost-of-living increase thereafter, and has the additional provision of increasing annual sick leave employees can earn from three to six days.
There are enough similarities between the two measures that agreement among the proponents seems reasonable. If both measures qualify, it makes sense that one is pulled before the certification process takes place. Two similar measures would confuse voters.
The school bond initiative could also be considered a candidate to use the new power to pull. The $9-billion bond has already gathered enough signatures to move forward. However, the governor opposes this measure. Legislators are talking about a substitute bond measure. If they come up with a plan to put on the ballot that the initiative proponents can support – and avoid the opposition of the governor – might the school bond proponents be the first to use the power to pull?
A less likely scenario, but certainly one to be considered, is the cigarette tax measure. Proponents have the necessary funds to qualify the initiative that would increase taxes $2 a pack. There are also vehicles in the legislature that can be used to increase cigarette taxes. Some experts believe this measure could be the most costly contested ballot measure this year. Could a compromise between the tobacco companies and the legislature come together convincing the initiative proponents to take a pass?
Not likely, but possible. This scenario, should it come to pass, much like the school bond situation described above, is what the initiative reformers were hoping to achieve when they pushed the provision allowing initiative proponents to pull back their proposals after negotiations with the legislature.
Now that the power of the pull is on the books, will anyone give it a strong tug?