Paul Jacob

California State Senator Loni Hancock calls it “good government.”

You decide.

On the last day of California’s legislative session — a paradoxical event combining the horror of horse-trading with the sublime relief that the danger and destruction will all soon be over — a new bill suddenly appeared: Voilà!

Actually, like Dr. Frankenstein, the new bill revived the dead. Insiders call this particular maneuver “gut and stuff.” Senate Bill 202 was dead for the session . . . and then it came roaring back to life with its original language completely stripped out and new language, for a brand new subject, abruptly inserted. Indeed, it took less than 24 hours to resurrect, transform and pass the bill — without a single minority party vote. Public hearings were slapped together with just ten minutes notice, hardly including the public, but boasting a full contingent of the lobbyists who regularly loiter about capitol halls. The Senate hearing on the bill commenced an hour before midnight; it passed during the morning’s wee hours.

So, what did this last minute legislation actually accomplish? Create jobs, perchance?

SB 202 changes when initiatives will be voted on. It removes citizen-initiated measures from next year’s June ballot and places them on the November ballot.

Why? As the bill’s author explained, “Low turnout elections do not represent the needs, priorities and desires of the larger electorate.” Since more folks turn out to vote in November than at any other time, ballot measures should be voted on only in November.

As with most issues, honest people can disagree. Having more voters making the decision is, indeed, a plus. But having all initiative measures on one ballot means voters must decide more issues at one time. Some people believe that this would undercut the amount of attention and deliberation that takes place on each issue before a vote.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.