Capitol Alert

California Senate approves increase to initiative filing fee

Assembly Bill 1100 would raise the filing fee for ballot initiatives to $2,000.
Assembly Bill 1100 would raise the filing fee for ballot initiatives to $2,000. The Sacramento Bee file

After passionate debate over the initiative process, the California State Senate on Monday approved a controversial proposal to raise the filing fee for ballot measures to $2,000 from $200.

Proponents contend that Assembly Bill 1100, which was inspired by a proposed initiative to kill homosexuals, is necessary to discourage nonsensical or patently unconstitutional ideas that nevertheless cost the state thousands of dollars to prepare for signature-gathering.

“There are some lunatics out there, and for $200, we encourage them,” Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said.

But a vocal minority of lawmakers argued that democracy has a price, and the fee increase would only shut ordinary citizens out of the process.

“This sends a message to the public,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, said, “that we want to put barriers up against their right to participate in the system.”

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, compared the fee to an attack on “low-income people and their voice.”

AB 1100 passed by a vote of 23-14, with the support of Democrats who scoffed at the notion that another $1,800 would matter much to the special interests that now dominate the system.

“There seems to be this very romantic, antiquated notion of our initiative process that makes us feel warm and fuzzy,” Leno said. “It takes a million dollars plus to get enough signatures for the ballot.”

AB 1100 heads next to the Assembly for a concurrence vote.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff