Santa Monica, CA – Gov. Jerry Brown has signed misguided legislation hiking the ballot initiative filing fee to $2,000 from $200 that will do nothing to stop frivolous initiatives but will undermine the public’s right to direct democracy, Consumer Watchdog said today.
Prompted by an unconscionable initiative, which was later halted by the courts, Assembly members Evan Low and Richard Bloom introduced AB 1100, which makes the initiative filing fee four times greater than the next highest state – Mississippi. A review of 26 states that have initiatives found just five states, including California, have a filing fee. The fee for Mississippi is $500; California, $200; Alaska, $100; Ohio, $25; and Washington, $5. Every other state charges nothing.
“After a year in which FBI corruption scandals removed three state senators from office, and voters came out in smaller numbers than ever before for a California election, what’s the response from Sacramento? Make it harder for citizens to use the process of direct democracy,” Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, wrote in a Capitol Watchdog post titled "Let Them Pay 2 Grand".
Groups that are serious about initiatives typically submit multiple versions of the same measure before moving forward with the one with the best chance for success. This means that legitimate initiatives are likely to pay not $2,000 but double or triple that in practice.
“Hiram Johnson, the great California governor who gave us the initiative process to battle the railroad baron’s control over Sacramento, would be ashamed at the signing of AB 1100,” Court wrote. “The golden state lost a little of its shine with this signature. California's direct democracy became less direct.”
In an earlier letter to the Assembly members, Consumer Watchdog wrote that there were myriad backstops to curtail reviled initiatives without financially burdening the public’s ability to access the initiative process. The bill would continue the ever-growing dominance of a handful of moneyed interests seeking to buy more power for themselves and their companies, the letter added.
Capitol Watchdog was created to highlight these types of actions by lawmakers. Visit at www.capitolwatchdog.org
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