August 19, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Why the Ballot Lacks Props That Could Have Been

Folks with little faith in California voters have won at least a partial victory this year. For decades, since the great Progressive (a tag worn a century ago mostly by moderate Republicans) Gov. Hiram Johnson created the ballot initiative, critics have railed against direct democracy, claiming an uninformed public often makes major mistakes.

After decades of griping about “budgeting by initiative,” those skeptics managed to get a law passed in 2014 allowing legislators to change or eliminate initiatives even after they’ve qualified for the ballot, so long as initiative sponsors agree to it.

Voters will see the first results of that law this fall: A significantly shorter ballot than they would otherwise have encountered, even though 11 measures remain up for public decisions.

Yes, voters will make thumbs up or down choices on issues from $17 billion in proposed bonds to rent control and repeal of last year’s gasoline tax increase. They will still get to determine whether veal calves, pigs and chickens get more rights than they now enjoy and whether folks over 55 will be able to carry their Proposition 13 property tax limits across all county lines when they sell their homes, instead of just some.

But voters will not get to make decisions about consumer privacy or soda taxes or even who will pay to clean up leaded paint in homes built since 1951.

Instead, sponsors who gathered enough voter signatures to put initiatives on those issues before the voters made deals with state legislators and their ballot measures vanished.

So a ballot that could have been much more interesting disappeared in the face of compromises that satisfied big-money interests but might not have pleased the mass of voters.

The farthest-reaching of these compromises involved Internet consumer privacy. Under new rules signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown just two hours after they passed the Legislature, Californians now have a right to know what information Internet giants like Google and Yahoo and eBay and Amazon have about them. They can also prohibit companies from selling that information and can ask companies to delete their information after they learn what’s been gathered.

That’s a far cry from the ballot initiative which this new law replaces, which would have forced companies to get consumer permission to gather, maintain and sell information on what Internet searches individuals make, what they buy on the ‘Net, what products they look at but don’t buy and much more.

Consumers can only sue in the case of a large leak of information, not over individual exposures.

This was an example of compromise of the sort intended by lawmakers who created the new system for removing initiatives after they qualify. It probably headed off a campaign that would have cost companies and consumer groups $50 million or more. Too bad for the television, radio, newspaper and direct mail companies that would likely have gleaned most of that money.

Another compromise removed an initiative run by major paint makers aiming to force the state to loan the companies up to $2 billion for removal of paint that contains lead in 10 cities and counties that won a lawsuit against Sherwin-Williams, du Pont and others. The initiative was withdrawn in exchange for legislators pulling three bills that would have penalized the companies even more.

And there were soda taxes. Makers of carbonated drinks had qualified an initiative that would have raised the vote-percentage threshold for passing any new local tax, but agreed to pull it off the ballot in exchange for a new law placing a 13-year moratorium on any new soda taxes.

The result is a ballot that’s far from the longest ever seen by California voters, but still lets them make important decisions on issues like spreading rent control more widely and lowering gas taxes a bit. But it also isn’t quite the ballot it could have been, as three key choices were gone even before campaigns on them could get started.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

in Opinion
Related Posts

Column: Time to Crack Down on Vacant Homes’ Owners

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist ​​There is no doubt California has a housing shortage. That’s fact even in the wake of...

OpED: Santa Monica Police Officers Association on Downtown Presence

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By The Santa Monica Police Officers Association Recently, there has been increased public dialogue around the topic of crime and...

Review: A Santa Monica Restaurant’s New Happy Hour is Top-Notch

August 10, 2022

August 10, 2022

By Dolores Quintana Birdie G’s in Santa Monica has a new Happy Hour and it is something special. For one...

SMa.r.t. Column: Ode to the Future of My City

August 8, 2022

August 8, 2022

How sad it is to journey to Santa Monica and I can’t find it.The open blue sky hides behind canyon...

SMa.r.t. Column: Why Native Gardens?

July 22, 2022

July 22, 2022

Voltaire said it best at the end of his 1759 novel  Candide: “We must cultivate our own garden”. This simple...

SMa.r.t. Column: We’re All Wet – Not!

July 15, 2022

July 15, 2022

Don’t you think that if you heard, or read, statements from controlling government agencies that said you were threatened by...

Affordability Answer: A New Tax on Housing Speculators?

July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist The TV commercials and online ads are fast becoming ubiquitous: “We’ll buy your house as is,”...

SMar.t. Column: Has the Promenade Turned a Corner?

July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022

In large complex systems with dynamically balanced forces, it’s paradoxically often hard to tell when something has actually happened, For...

Column: Groundwater Law Has Not Stopped Subsidence

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

By Tom Elias Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Time to Look at the Facts of Santa Monica’s Housing History

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

The Narrative: Santa Monica’s decades-long housing construction “shortage”  The Narrative endlessly repeats the refrain that for decades Santa Monica has...

SMa.r.t. Column: The Mansionization of Santa Monica

June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in print in 2016.  In the 1980s, Santa Monica’s single family zoning code was...

OP-Ed Response to DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell and Plea to City Council Regarding Safety Ambassadors and Ambassador Program

June 14, 2022

June 14, 2022

I am responding to the OP-ED (dated June 7, 2022, Santa Monica Mirror) by City-appointed DTSM Board Member and now...

SMa.r.t. Column: Wheeling Electrically

June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

A recent weekend visit to Dana Point, on the Orange County coastline, revealed a curious scene: dozens, if not hundreds...

Population Loss: New Era or Pandemic Glitch?

June 3, 2022

June 3, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist The numbers suggest a major change is underway in California. It would take a Nostradamus to...