Bill to ban initiatives that cost government $5 million or more

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, July 8, 2011 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

A change to California’s constitution regarding initiatives is being proposed by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) in the form of ACA 6. It would prohibit an initiative from being submitted to the electorate if either the Legislative Analyst's Office or the Director of Finance determines that it would result in a net increase in state or local government costs by more than $5 million. CMTA opposes this measure.

ACA 6's "pay-as-you-go" provisions are biased against constitutional amendments that are not proposed by the Legislature: Initiatives proposed by the public must identify new revenue to support new expenditures, while ballot measures proposed by the Legislature are not held to the same standard. A problem with the "pay-as-you-go" approach is that proponents of an initiative would not have an official fiscal analysis of their initiative until after it enters circulation. If the initiative failed to meet the "pay-as-you-go" requirements, it would likely be too late to submit another version for a title and summary to the attorney general, collect signatures, and then submit signatures to election officials for certification – a lengthy process that requires months of planning.

Although requiring a mechanism to pay for new programs is appealing, giving power to either a legislative appointee (the legislative analyst) or gubernatorial appointee (the director of finance) to eliminate an initiative from the ballot sets a dangerous precedent. It has the potential to disregard important policy measures for political purposes.

Removing an initiative from the ballot would have supporters challenging government officials through a court of law – an expensive and time-consuming process – where supporters would have to bear the burden of proof. The initiative process is intended to be a resource for the people – a means of checks and balances when the legislative process falls short – but, by requiring supporters to bear the burden of proof, the public would be charged with the nearly impossible task of refuting empirical evidence and statistical modeling.

ACA 6 is set to be heard on the Assembly floor soon.

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