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Assembly Bill Hiking Ballot Initiative Filing Fee Too High, Says Consumer Watchdog

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Carmen Balber & Eddie Barrera

Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog said today that despite an amendment lowering the final amount, an Assembly bill to hike the ballot initiative filing fee still creates too high a hurdle for citizen access to the initiative process.

AB 1100, by Assemblymembers Evan Low and Richard Bloom, would raise the fee citizens must pay to submit a proposed ballot initiative from $200 to $2,500.

A review of the 26 states that have initiatives found only five states, including California, charge a filing fee. The filing fee for Mississippi is $500; California, $200; Alaska, $100; Ohio, $25; and Washington, $5. Most states charge nothing.

“Ballot initiatives are the public’s last resort when common sense reforms are stymied by special interests’ stranglehold in Sacramento. Raising the initiative filing fee to $2,500 – five times higher than any other state – creates one more obstacle to this direct democracy. While the bill was prompted by an unconscionable proposal that targeted gays and lesbians, it can’t guarantee such an initiative won’t be submitted again. It will guarantee that some legitimate citizen initiatives will be blocked,” said Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter of opposition of AB 1100 here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cwd_oppose_ab1100_ballot_fees_.pdf

Today, the California Senate's Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee approved the bill.

AB 1100 will help increase dominance of the initiative process by a handful of moneyed interests seeking to buy more power for themselves and their companies, said Consumer Watchdog, adding that the state should be encouraging direct democracy, not discouraging it.

View a chart reviewing state ballot initiative filing fees: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/state_ballot_initiative_filing_fee_review.pdf

In 2006, as a Santa Monica City Council Member, Assemblymember Bloom and fellow council members unsuccessfully sought to overturn a conflict of interest law enacted by citizen ballot initiative, by placing their own initiative on a city ballot. The citizen initiative was placed on the ballot with all-volunteer signatures and prevents kickbacks to city officials from companies they confer a public benefit.  The measure seeking to overturn the law was placed on the ballot by council members with no signatures from Santa Monica voters and cost the council members nothing.

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