Capitol Alert

Proposed fee hike reduced in California ballot initiative bill

Heather Ditty, elections manager for the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters, inspects signatures last July for a ballot initiative to split California into six separate states.
Heather Ditty, elections manager for the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters, inspects signatures last July for a ballot initiative to split California into six separate states. The Associated Press

Proponents of a bill to raise the cost of filing a California ballot initiative have lowered their proposed fee from $8,000 to $2,500, but opponents say that’s still too much.

Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, introduced the $8,000 fee in a bill this spring after the uproar surrounding a proposed initiative to execute homosexuals, which prompted debate over whether the state should discourage “frivolous” filings.

The latest changes reflect an analysis which determined that the state’s $200 filing fee, originally introduced in 1943 and never raised, would be equivalent to “somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000” in today’s dollars.

Supporters argue the fee hike is also necessary to help cover the cost of producing titles and summaries for the circulating petitions, less than 10 percent of which have ultimately made the ballot in recent years.

The bill is opposed by several groups that frequently sponsor ballot initiatives, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Consumer Watchdog, which argue that the proposed fee levels are still too high.

“Ballot initiatives are the public’s last resort when common sense reforms are stymied by special interests’ stranglehold in Sacramento,” Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber said in a statement. “Raising the initiative filing fee ... will guarantee that some legitimate citizen initiatives will be blocked.”

Alexei Koseff

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