Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011 – 6:47 am

The California Democratic Party’s 2011 drive to reshape the 1911-vintage initiative process to its political advantage appears to be picking up steam as the legislative session nears adjournment.

Gov. Jerry Brown has already vetoed one bill that would have banned initiative petition signature-gatherers from being paid by the name. But the state Democratic Party has called for change, several other restrictive measures are pending and Democrats are noodling around with requiring all initiatives to go on the November ballot, rather than having some decided in the June primary.

“We’re considering it,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Monday.

Democrats fear that pending measures opposed by their public employee union allies might pass in June, when Democratic voter turnout would be low, but would be much less likely to win in November, a presidential election with a big Democratic turnout.

The so-called “paycheck protection” initiative, which would bar unions from deducting political funds directly from members’ paychecks, worries union leaders the most. It would severely reduce their political clout – which is, of course, why conservative groups want it.

Nothing has appeared in print yet, but to affect the 2012 elections, the election shift would have to pass before the legislative session ends on Sept. 9.

Whether Brown would sign it, however, is problematic, since he’s already indicated an aversion to partisan changes in election laws by vetoing the measure that restricted how signature-gatherers are paid. And it would overturn a legal interpretation 40 years ago by Jerry Brown when he was secretary of state.

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