Here are some excerpts from the December 27 Los Angeles Times story:
With heated contests looming for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide posts, 2010 stands to be a blockbuster year in California politics.
The state could also see a bumper crop of ballot measures.
In recent weeks, nearly 90 proposed initiatives have been in the pipeline, elbowing to become the latest entrants in the state's century-old tradition of direct democracy.
Gay-rights activists, abortion foes, marijuana proponents and government-reform advocates are getting into the act of citizen lawmaking. Insurance companies and consumer groups appear poised to rumble.
There is also the possibility of a high-stakes proposition fight between business and labor interests that some pundits liken to state politics going nuclear.
If historical trends hold, many of the proposals will fail to garner enough support and voter signatures to qualify. But the state remains on track to potentially see dozens of measures on the ballot.
The record of 48 initiatives set in November 1914 -- in the era of Gov. Hiram Johnson, progressive politics and the birth of the ballot measure -- almost certainly is safe. But in a state with a rich tradition of lengthy and complex ballots, "2010 is going to be extraordinary," predicted Kim Alexander, founder of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation. "Voters are going to be cramming like never before."
Here are some excerpts from the December 28 Sacramento Bee story:
Even if just a small percentage of proposed initiatives clear the signature hurdle, voters are likely to face another long ballot in November, with anywhere between 10 to 20 measures having a shot to qualify. A legislative measure asking voters to approve an $11.1 billion bond has already been placed on the November ballot by state lawmakers and proponents of a measure that would legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use say they have gathered more than enough signatures to qualify.
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said a crowded ballot can cause challenges for communicating to voters the implications of the various initiatives as well as which wealthy interests put up the cash to put the measure on the ballot.
"There's a lot of mystery already in voting in California, and then that problem is compounded with the initiatives process and the fact that we have so many state and local measures to vote on," she said.
The ballooning ballot and increased role of money in both the qualifying and campaigning process have prompted calls to update the initiative system, which was adopted in 1911 as a direct democracy fix for widespread corruption caused by the railroad industry's control over state politics.
"The history of the process is just the opposite of what has evolved over time," said Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, the co-chairman of a select legislative committee that is generating recommendations for improving state government, including the initiative system.
"I think there is certainly strong recognition by voters that it's really important to constrain special interests from capturing the initiative process," Feuer said.
Ideas for updating the system include offering proponents the option of lowering the signature threshold if they give the Legislature a role in a measure, requiring two-thirds voter approval for passing constitutional amendments and mandating that initiative proponents identify how new programs would be financed.
Others have suggested raising the fee for filing an initiative to lower processing costs for the state – an estimated $6,800 for the attorney general's office to prepare the title and summary describing each proposal – and discourage the submission of less serious initiatives that clog the system.
But despite voters feeling fatigued by the lengthy list of measures at the polls and concerns over the role of money in the process, getting them to change their cherished initiative system could be a difficult task in itself. Polls have consistently shown that while voters recognize the shortcomings of the process, huge majorities support it.
"California voters have a love-hate relationship with the initiative process," Alexander said. "People love to complain how difficult it is, but don't even think about taking it away. It is sacred in this state."