It may surprise you to know that ballot initiatives in California are supposed to be governed by a single-subject rule. Put simply, they only deal with one subject.
But that rule is effectively dead. Many of the 17 statewide initiatives dance on its grave. And California’s judges, who are as deeply infected by the California disease of inflexible direct democracy as any of us, have surrendered on the subject.
The best example of the single-subject rule’s death involves the measures on the ballot that aren’t just a statute or a constitutional amendment. They’re both. How on earth can a measure that changes a law and changes the constitution be said to cover only one subject?
But November measures do. Prop 52, which tries to lock in a hospital fee to pay for MediCal, is both fish and fowl. And irony of ironies, the good government mafia behind Prop 54—which ties the legislature’s hands in the name of transparency – made their measure both statute and constitutional amendment.
Prop 56 should be a simple tobacco tax that sends its proceeds to the general fund. Instead, it’s a complicated, multi-part bit of ballot box budgeting and political logrolling that alters both law and the constitution.
There’s a stronger justification for Prop 57 sentencing reform to change both constitution and amendment. The problem with that initiative is that it was hastily changed, and appears to contain significant errors, as district attorneys pointed out (and Gov. Brown was late to acknowledge).
One hope: maybe the California Supreme Court can find the courage to stop this nonsense. And the rest of us can move to do what this state so desperately and obvious needs: scrap our hopelessly complicated and compromised constitution, and create a new one.