Partisan dissatisfaction with the initiative process seems to be a little skewered from reality in the new Public Policy Institute of California poll given that the power in today’s state politics is nearly exclusively in the hands of Democrats. With such a situation, Republicans should embrace the initiative process as a way to leaven Democratic power. Instead, according to the poll, by a 36% to 23% margin Republicans are more likely to be dissatisfied with the process than Democrats.
Perhaps, this result is understandable because Republicans by a 69% to 54% margin believe special interests are in control of initiatives “by a lot.” In a time when heralds of public doom declare that corporate control and big money command legislative action, Republicans must see the dominance of the public employee unions and progressive groups driving the agenda on ballot measures. Certainly, with high profile ballot measures such as a tobacco tax increase, income tax extension, gun controls, marijuana legalization and the elimination of the death penalty, they have a right to think that way.
However, over the years the initiative process has been used effectively for conservative causes as well and if Republicans cede control of the initiative process to Democrats and their allies, they will have little chance to appeal to voters with their ideas for improving life in the Golden State.
With Democrats in total control of the constitutional offices and closing in on the magic two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, Republican hope for advancing any causes they believe in rests with the initiative process.
Democrats realize this and they have made moves to limit the initiative’s effectiveness for Republicans. Through legislative action, initiatives were banned from June primaries. All initiatives now must appear on November ballots where Democratic voters turn out in greater numbers.
As described by Fox and Hounds colleague Joe Mathews on this page yesterday, unions are all in on SB 1094 which, by requiring a number of volunteers to help gather signatures on initiative petitions, would advantage the unions and their Democratic allies over other interests.
If the power of the initiative is tilted toward the Democrats they will have no obstacle in running the state—and they know it. Except more efforts to control the initiative process from Democrats and their allies. Republicans should not turn a blind eye to these efforts or they will be left out in the cold.