Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, Jul. 26, 2014 – 10:28 pm

The passage of Proposition 13 – California’s landmark property tax limit – in 1978 marked a major, even radical, change in how the state makes public policy.

Ballot measures, some from the political right and some from the left, proliferated during the ensuing decades as the Capitol’s policymaking role diminished.

The governor and the Legislature became subsidiary and reactive to what was happening in the initiative arena, even to the point that politicians themselves began using the ballot.

That syndrome hit a high – or low – point in 2005 when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, declaring it to be a “year of reform,” tried, but failed, to win voter approval for four far-reaching ballot measures.

Ever since then, the number and scope of ballot measures have declined. Only occasionally, most notably with the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in 2008, have ballot measures represented major policy issues. More often, they have been relatively narrow efforts by specific interest groups.

If ballot measures filled the vacuum created by legislative dysfunction in the decades since 1978, what now is filling the void that their fading presence leaves?

The courts.

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