California’s Initiative Ecosystem

Only one initiative in the history of California passed without requiring professional signature gatherers to qualify it; that was the legendary Proposition 13 enacted in 1978 to lower property tax rates. But the lack of funds to take an initiative from concept to ballot to voter-approved law doesn’t discourage initiative proponents from filing them. In California, for a few hundred dollars, anyone can file a state initiative with the Secretary of State, wherein they will have 150 days to gather the required signatures – allowing for an inevitable percentage of disallowed signatures, an initiative that will amend California’s constitution will require (allowing for the inevitable percentage of unverifiable submissions) about 1,000,000 signatures. You can view California’s latest and greatest initiative filings here: Initiatives and Referenda Cleared for Circulation. For more on how to file an initiative, read “Laws governing the initiative process in California,” and “California signature requirements.”

California’s initiative laws have created a political ecosystem, where simply reviewing the dozens, or even hundreds of initiatives that have been filed provides an insightful glimpse into what sentiments roil the body politic. Some of them are the product of fringe groups and fanatics, others are clearly the product of serious and measured analysis, still others are spawned by powerful special interests, often filed as warning shots.

There are currently only six initiatives cleared for circulation that haven’t expired, plus [...] Read More