Voters will have more than enough to decide this November without having to vote on whether terminally ill people should have the right to die on their own terms, or whether schoolchildren should be required to get vaccinated.
They definitely shouldn’t have to decide whether or not public schools should make accommodations for transgender children. The Legislature approved all three measures after serious debate, numerous hearings, negotiation and amendments.
In the end, the referendum and initiative proposals to repeal legislation died because advocates failed to convince the rest of the electorate and funders that their positions had merit. We’re glad that’s how it turned out.
We’re particularly pleased that the threat to recall Sen. Richard Pan failed. The Sacramento Democrat had run afoul of a narrow group of advocates when he took a principled stand on the side of modern health care, and carried the important legislation in 2015 that requires childhood vaccinations.
In all four instances, signature requirements proved to be high enough so that ill-conceived ballot measures died before they were inflicted on the electorate. Not every bad idea conjured up by advocates and consultants makes it onto the ballot. In each instance, funding fell short and direct democracy worked.
You can tell which measures will likely make it to the ballot by looking at the money behind them. One to require actors in pornographic films to use condoms probably will make it onto the ballot. Although the measure is of narrow interest, its one big backer has put more than $1 million into the signature drive.
Another would limit the state’s ability to finance public works projects with the use of revenue bonds, thanks to funding from a Stockton-area farmer opposed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnel project. Although schools are in everyone’s interest, home builders, supported by local educators, put the bulk of the money into a proposed school construction bond, knowing that they cannot develop new housing without adequate schools.
One referendum that will be on the ballot would repeal a ban on plastic grocery bags. An initiative involving plastic bags probably will qualify, too. There’s one reason: Big bag manufacturers have anted up the money needed to hire enough petition circulators to gather sufficient signatures to qualify the measures.
Many more could qualify in the coming weeks and months, including initiatives to legalize marijuana, restrict ammunition sales, raise the minimum wage, increase taxes on cigarettes and property and extend an income tax levied on high earners approved by voters in 2012. They all have political support. But more importantly, they will have money behind them.
In the referendum, recall and initiative game, money matters, as does the lack of it. That has been good for voters in several instances this year. In many others, voters will be left to sort the good ideas from the turkeys.