Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC
“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority … whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or new-model the powers of government.” — James Madison, fourth U.S. president, The Federalist No. 49
During the 19th and 20th centuries, initiatives and referendums in California became increasingly popular. This idea of “direct democracy” in the United States was established so that, in essence, voters of each state could keep their politicians in check. Levels of government discontent pushed citizens to assume a more active role in democracy to assure that, as Abraham Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg address, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Currently, 24 states have initiatives as part of their policy-making system. These measures cover topics ranging from taxes and education to public safety and dividing California into three states (yes, it’s true, and it almost ended up on your ballot in November). Any individual registered to vote has the ability to run a statewide initiative, although it’s no secret that for a successful ballot proposal, a hefty amount of funding is necessary (to reach the people, you might have to spend millions). State and local governments may differ in their initiative process; however, the basic system consists of the following steps:
- Preliminary filing with government official
- Review of the petition for conformance with statutory requirements
- Preparation of ballot title and summary
- Petition circulation to obtain the required number of signatures of registered voters
- Submission of the petitions and verification of signatures
(For more details on running a California ballot initiative, go to sos.ca.gov.)
A total of 12 statewide initiatives gained enough signatures to get on California’s November 6 ballot. Here is a quick breakdown of each.
Proposition 1, Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018: Authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for housing-related programs, loans, grants, and projects and housing loans for veterans.
Proposition 2, Use Millionaire’s Tax Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Housing Bonds Measure: Allows counties to use money from Proposition 63’s “millionaire’s tax” on permanent housing for the homeless that includes a direct connection to social services.
Proposition 3, California Water Infrastructure and Watershed Conservation Bond Initiative: Authorizes $8.877 billion in bonds to fund projects for water supply and quality, watershed, fish, wildlife, water conveyance, and groundwater sustainability and storage.
Proposition 4, Children’s Hospital Bonds Initiative: Provides qualifying children’s hospitals $1.5 billion in bonds to fund grants for construction, expansion, renovation and equipping of hospitals.
Proposition 5, Property Tax Transfer Initiative: Allows homebuyers who are age 55 or older or severely disabled to transfer their tax assessments, with a possible adjustment, from their prior home to their new home, no matter (a) the new home’s market value; (b) the new home’s location in the state; or (c) the buyer’s number of moves.
Proposition 6, Voter Approval for Future Gas and Vehicle Taxes and 2017 Tax Repeal Initiative: Repeals a fuel tax increase and vehicle fees that were enacted in 2017, including the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (RRAA), and requires majority voter approval (via ballot propositions) for the California State Legislature to impose, increase, or extend fuel taxes or vehicle fees in the future.
Proposition 7, Permanent Daylight Saving Time Measure: Overturns a 1949 voter-approved initiative called the Daylight Saving Time Act, which established Standard Pacific Time in California. If voters approve the ballot measure, the Legislature would then decide how the state’s time should be set.
Proposition 8, Limits on Dialysis Clinics’ Revenue and Required Refunds Initiative: Would require dialysis clinics to issue refunds to patients or patients’ payers for revenue above 115% of the costs of direct patient care and health-care improvements.
Proposition 9, Three States Initiative or Cal 3 Initiative: Tasks the governor with asking Congress to divide the state of California into three states: California, Northern California and Southern California. These states would make their own decisions about state and local taxes and spending. On July 18, the state Supreme Court decided unanimously to remove this measure from the November ballot, “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity.”
Proposition 10, Local Rent Control Initiative: Repeals the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, thus allowing local governments to adopt laws and regulations to govern how much landlords can charge tenants for renting apartments and houses.
Proposition 11, Ambulance Employees Paid On-Call Breaks, Training, and Mental Health Services Initiative: Allows ambulance providers to require workers to remain on call during breaks paid at their regular rate, requires employers to provide additional training for EMTs and paramedics, and requires employers to provide EMTs and paramedics with some paid mental health services.
Proposition 12, Farm Animal Confinement Initiative: Establishes new standards for confinement of certain farm animals; bans sale of certain non-complying products. This initiative bans the sale of meat and eggs from calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens confined in areas below a specific number of square feet.