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Column: California needs an anti-referendum process

There ought to be a law. Don’t hear that much any more. There are far too many laws now. No one wants more.

Many laws clutter our lives today did not come from governing bodies but from the initiative process — the roundabout way to create laws about issues elected officials often refuse to address or choose to ignore.

During the last election, I was on the Central Coast watching returns from a Bay area station. It was amazing the volume of local ballot initiatives, not to mention the confusing state ballot initiatives. I forget which Bay area city and county it was, but they almost ran out of alphabet letters for ballot initiatives. It was ridiculous. Ballot Measures A, B, C, D and on and on the letters went. There were no titles giving even a hint of what each issue was about, just capital letters.

Collect enough signatures and you have your very own initiative to create your very own laws. Spend enough money and the new law will be put on the books.

The initiative process has become a failed process. It’s high time the ballot referendum procedure is more democratic.

The law says now if you can collect signatures of a certain percentage of voters from the last election, public officials must call a ballot initiative. You must give notice to county, city or state election officials that you are passing petitions calling for a vote; however, it is almost an open-ended process. The time limit is so generous for collecting signatures and the percentage of valid signatures needed so low, it is almost impossible not to get a vote called. It is too easy.

It is time a process is created to make it more difficult. A law should be passed that says petitions can be passed to get signatures to nullify petitions being circulated to call a ballot initiative.

Let’s take the recent anti-GMO county ballot referendums for example. They were basically wastes of taxpayer money not to mention the amount of money it cost to conduct campaigns — money that could have been better spent improving schools, restocking libraries, conducting after school programs, feeding the hungry and the list goes on and on of critical needs in California. Needs far more critical than trying to ban scientifically accepted and government-approved transgenic crops. This anti-GMO county ballot measures are were costly non-issues.

I realize voters do not have to sign referendum-calling petitions. However many sign these petitions at the supermarket sliding glass doors just to protest government without knowing what they are really signing.

For example, if it takes 25,000 signatures to get a local issue referendum on a city or county ballot, a counter-referendum group could collect 25,001 signatures to keep it off the ballot.

Set up two card tables outside the local supermarket — one for pro-referendum signers and one for anti-referendum folks. I bet you’d be surprised at the number of people who would sign petitions to keep convoluted, confusing and costly referendums from cluttering ballots.

Battle it out in front of the supermarket or in front of Wal-Mart or Costco and not at the polls. If the issue is something the majority of the people want to vote on, there will be enough signatures on the pro-referendum petitions. If taxpayers do not want their money wasted like it has been on the anti-GMO initiatives, the anti-referendum card table would get the most visitors.

It would not only save a lot of money, it may actually force legislators to debate issues and pass meaningful laws or rescind needless ones — a novel concept.

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