Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014 – 7:32 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014 – 10:41 pm

By word and deed, the state’s politically dominant Democrats have demonstrated that they want to substantially alter California’s century-old initiative system that allows voters to legislate directly through the ballot box.

They say they want to improve the system. A few years ago, the Democratic Party’s executive board declared that it’s “being abused … to create laws and programs that benefit a very few people at the expense of the many.”

But the Democrats’ many bills have mostly tried to make it more difficult for their conservative political rivals to place measures on the ballot, while preserving the system for their allies, such as labor unions.

One measure, which would have made it a crime for initiative petition signature-gatherers to be paid by the name, was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who called it “a dramatic change” and added, “I am not persuaded that the unintended consequences won’t be worse than the abuses the bill aims to prevent.”

This year, Democrats took a different path with bills to erase from the law books measures that had been passed by voters but voided by the courts, such as Proposition 187, the 1994 measure to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants.

It’s questionable whether the erasure bill, signed by Brown, is legal, since the state constitution doesn’t provide for legislative repeal of voter-passed measures.

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