A quick word on California ballot initiative reform

150 150 Christopher Nelson

Earlier this year, California Forward (CA Fwd) championed the passage of the Ballot Initiative Transparency Act, also known as BITA.

“The bill is not only a victory for the many Californians who worked to pass it, but for California voters who deserve an improved initiative process,” said Lenny Mendonca, CA Fwd Leadership Council co-chair, who was present when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. Mendonca said that the law “starts us down the road of bringing greater simplicity, transparency and accountability to the initiative process.”

Wednesday evening, that process continued in Sacramento with an event sponsored by CA Fwd and hosted by California Common Cause, California Calls, the California Business Roundtable and CA Fwd that asked “What’s changed, and what’s next?” with regard to the ballot initiative process in California. The idea is that a group of stakeholders from across the political spectrum were able to identify a set of common, bi-partisan reforms to modernize a process that is almost 100 years old.

Considering how much has happened in California since 1914, it’s high time to make some changes to a direct democracy process that often serves as the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.  Language needs to be simplified and in more languages. Large financial backers of initiatives and advertising need to be more clearly identified for voters.

And yet, this latest round of ballot initiatives, though unsexy to the casual voter, proved that when the right measure make it on the ballot for the right reasons (a bipartisan effort by the State Legislature), good things can happen.

“Simply put, voter adopted reforms and strong leadership are removing California from the ‘failed state’ commentary to a thriving state that is the envy of DC. We’ve seen bipartisanship on the state’s most stubborn issues and long term thinking that will prepare us for future challenges,” said Phil Ung, Director of Public Affairs for CA Fwd.

Voters passed Proposition 2, taking a huge step toward securing California’s fiscal solvency in the face of another economic downturn. They approved a vital water bond measure and even expressed a desire for change in who we lock up in the state’s already overcrowded prisons.

And so, with a renewed era of reform blossoming in California, the initiative process proving that California can work in ways that Washington DC has yet to figure out and a new Legislative session upon in Sacramento, we asked people on our Facebook page what they wanted the focus to be. Click throught to the comment section to see their responses, which ranged from heavy support for education funding, more responsive government and the need for a more friendly business climate.


Christopher Nelson

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