Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

A referendum to overturn Senate Bill 202, one of the most controversial measures to emerge from the 2011 legislative session, was given the green light this week to collect signatures.

Opponents of the measure have until Jan. 5 to collect 504,760 signatures of registered voters to place the issue on the ballot.

We don’t know whether they’ll spend several million dollars to qualify the referendum, but assuming that they do, it sets up what could be a complex game of political chess.

SB 202, written and passed in the session’s final hours, declares that initiative ballot measures can appear only on a November general election ballot, or in a special election, thus overturning 40 years of having them appear in both primary and general elections.

Democrats and labor unions fashioned the bill, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who as secretary of state in 1971 allowed initiatives to appear on primary ballots even though the state constitution limits them to general and special elections.

Whether purposefully or coincidentally, Brown took advantage of his legally dubious decision by sponsoring a political reform measure on the 1974 primary ballot to aid his campaign for governor that year.

The unions and their Democratic allies sought SB 202 because of a pending initiative measure that would make it more difficult to extract union campaign funds from members’ paychecks.

They believe that so-called “paycheck protection” would have a stronger chance of approval at the June 2012 presidential primary since Republican voter turnout is likely to be relatively high and that of Democrats relatively low.

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