Elections returns show that Democrats have strengthened their position in the California legislature while voters expressed disillusion with Democratic leadership by rejecting a number of statewide ballot measures put on the ballot by the legislature, or endorsed by many legislative majority members, or rejected laws passed by the legislature. So, what’s the new legislative majority to do? Be on the alert—expect legislative proposals to curb the voters’ power of initiative and referendum. The lawmakers under the dome just might want to curtail the competition in lawmaking.

I wrote of the voters rebuke of the legislature on affirmative action (Proposition 16), young voters (Proposition 18), rules for the gig economy (Proposition 22) and cancelling the legislative bill to end cash bail (Proposition 25.) You can add Proposition 15, the commercial property tax increase, that was endorsed by a number of majority Democrats including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The initiative and referendum are rival lawmaking powers, to the irritation of many under the capitol dome. In the recent past, the legislative has engineered changes to the initiative process that benefit legislation and the majority party.

The legislature ended initiatives on the primary ballot when voter turnout is smaller than at general elections. The primary election often produced greater success for a more conservative perspective on certain issues. The legislature also arranged ballot procedures so measures put on the ballot by the legislature would appear higher up in a list of propositions where they may fair better than the end-of-the-ballot measures that are sometimes ignored by voters.

But making it tougher for initiatives and referendums to pass would take additional hurdles.

The fee to file an initiative or referendum has been raised not long ago from $200 to $2000. Raising it higher is a possibility, but that would only assist well-off interests. Although the number of days to qualify an initiative was increased from 150 days to 180 days, there could be an effort to reduce the time frame.

But watch for even stronger measures adopted from other locales that use direct democracy. 

What might they be? Raising the passing mark for initiatives and referendums to a supermajority 60%; requiring, as some state do, to pass the same initiative in two successive elections; require a vote “quorum,” as some countries do, so that a certain percentage of registered voters must participate in an initiative election.

One safeguard against any of these changes is they would require amendments to the state constitution. That means the voters will have the final say. Proponents of change may argue that the changes are not radical since they occur elsewhere. But the incentive to make the changes will be clear: to eliminate or cripple the competition in legislating.

There is a possible ironic twist to a strategy attempting to limit the initiative and referendum powers. That is that two of the state’s major opposing forces—business and labor—which often confront each other in both the legislature and on the ballot, just might team up to scuttle any initiative reform because both business and labor have become comfortable using the processes for their own interests.