Soapbox

Proposition 54 is a special interest ploy

UCLA student Ria Jain, right, rallies with other students at the state Capitol in April. Proponents of Proposition 54 say it will increase transparency at the Legislature, but opponents say it will add to the power of special interests.
UCLA student Ria Jain, right, rallies with other students at the state Capitol in April. Proponents of Proposition 54 say it will increase transparency at the Legislature, but opponents say it will add to the power of special interests. Sacramento Bee file

It would be difficult to dream up headline that could drip with more irony than “Prop. 54 will lessen power of special interests” (Viewpoints, Aug. 9) for a column penned by two groups whose existence depends on lobbying the Legislature.

Proposition 54 gives special interests more power, not less. If you have any doubt, take a look at one of the measure’s top advocates: the California Chamber of Commerce. This group – and its members that include big tobacco, oil and drug companies – spent a record-shattering $100 million trying to influence legislators in 2015.

Can anyone seriously believe these special interests would be advocating for an initiative that would reduce their power?

Proposition 54 is on the November ballot for one simple reason: Billionaire Charles Munger Jr. is using his wealth to pursue his ideological agenda. Not a single other Californian has contributed to it.

Why do Munger and his special interest and dark money allies want to rewrite the California Constitution with Proposition 54? Because it would give them the power to blow up legislation they don’t like, hamstring legislative action and prevent progressive initiatives. It also would give them a potent new weapon – being able to use legislative proceedings in political attack ads.

Over the years California’s most significant compromises have been forged in a crucible of pressure and heat from all sides that creates resolve for action. Often in such circumstances, powerful special interests are not satisfied with the final agreement.

Had Proposition 54 been on the books – with its new powers that allowed for special interest attacks – laws such as the state’s Fair Housing Act that ended racial discrimination, the Global Warming Solutions Act and last year’s bipartisan water bond never would have happened. Nor would have the 2009 bipartisan budget deal that kept California from going bankrupt.

There is no argument that the Legislature needs to be more accountable and open with citizens. But let’s give more power to citizens, not to special interests.

Steven Maviglio is director of Californians for an Effective Legislature, a campaign committee formed to oppose Proposition 54. He can be contacted at steven.maviglio@gmail.com.

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