Ballot measures are not elections. They are lawmaking.

That’s a hard fact. But it’s not how California treats ballot measures. Or how Californians think about them.

Instead of treating ballot measures as proposed laws, we treat them as campaigns and govern them by election laws. As a result, ballot measures are not well integrated with our existing laws and budgets. And we limit the ability of the people who know a subject best, who work for us in the state government, to shape the legislation that ends up on the ballot.

This state of affairs isn’t in the public interest. Indeed, the distinction in California law and practice between ballot measure and legislation is absurd–and false.

Prop 6 has demonstrated our folly again. The measure has occasioned controversy about how Caltrans is behaving. The agency got bad press for coordinating social media posts and events with a No on 6 campaign consultant. Two friends of mine, Bob Stern and Jessica Levinson, both experts in government experts, were quoted publicly as saying such coordination crossed the line.

My question is: Should the line they’re talking about even exist?

It says here that there is no line that should stand between legislation and a ballot measure campaign. They are exactly the same thing and should be treated as such. And there should be no line between a state agency in charge of transportation and transportation legislation. That state agency should weigh in in any way it sees fit.

State agencies have positions and advocate on legislation that affects them. That’s part of their job. And Prop 6 is legislation that affects the agency, profoundly. And it goes beyond the gas tax; the proposition includes a constitutional amendment that would subject all kinds of transportation policies to statewide votes.

Voters certainly don’t need any less information when they act as lawmakers or constitution makers. Caltrans should and must be heard on Prop 6 or any other proposed legislation on transportation. Whether it’s on the ballot, or not.