The Riggs Report: Proposition fever
Huge number of ballot measures cleared for signature-gathering
We’re 15 months away from the November 2016 election, but these are hardly the dog days of summer for the political class.
Business is booming for California activists and consultants who are working to qualify a remarkably long list of proposed ballot measures.
Two measures have already qualified for the ballot in 2016; a measure to repeal the state’s ban on plastic bags and a measure designed to capture the state’s fair share of federal funding for Medi-Cal services. In addition, there is a dizzying array of 34 other proposals that have been cleared for petition circulation by Attorney-General Kamala Harris.
Many are familiar topics. There are five separate measures dealing with the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. There are three measures that would require parental consent for a minor to have abortion services. There are a couple of proposals that would authorize a new tobacco tax.
There are proposals to repeal California’s new law requiring vaccinations for public schoolchildren, to ban out-of-state political donations, to increase property tax exemptions, to raise the state’s minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, and to replace investor-owned utilities like PG&E with a publicly-owned utility.
There are also some far-fetched ideas, like changing Governor Brown’s title to “President of California”, to increase the size of the Legislature by almost 100 times, and setting up a panel to examine California’s secession from the rest of the United States.
Beyond the usual interest in a presidential ballot, there are some practical reasons for the explosion of initiatives. The threshold for qualifying a measure is much lower this year; 365 thousand signatures, compared to 504 thousand in the previous election cycle.
That’s because the signature threshold is based on voter turnout in 2014. That turnout was only 42 percent. In other words, it’s much easier this year to qualify.
And there are guaranteed to be more measures submitted by early September, including a likely proposal to extend the Prop 30 income tax increase approved by voters in 2012 and a proposal to increase business property taxes.
Those that are cleared for circulation by then have a full six months to qualify for the ballot. A large number of these measures will simply wither on the vine, since it takes substantial money to collect enough valid voter signatures.
Even so, there are enough high profile issues with big money behind them to suggest that 2016 will be a bonanza year for campaign consultants and television stations. As for voters? They can look forward-or not-to a jam-packed ballot and a full-scale campaign assault that will fill the airwaves, and their mailboxes.