OUR OPINION: Initiative reform, the California way
When the North Dakota Legislature debated HCR 3011 -- the proposal to reform North Dakota's "initiated measure" process, now on the ballot as Measure 4 -- the sponsors often pointed to California as a reason for the change.
When the North Dakota Legislature debated HCR 3011 - the proposal to reform North Dakota’s “initiated measure” process, now on the ballot as Measure 4 - the sponsors often pointed to California as a reason for the change.
After all, “California’s revenues went up just like North Dakota,” and the increase has generated ballot measures by the dozen, State Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, said at the time.
“When you have that, you have all these interest groups that have ideas about how to spend money.”
So, it’s interesting that as recently as last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a major initiative-reform proposal into law. But the two states’ efforts differ significantly, as the California law tries to improve the process while the North Dakota proposal would set strict financial limits on it.
Here’s a quick look at the California approach.
The new law “provides greater transparency by requiring the Secretary of State’s office to post and regularly update the top 10 donors of the committees in support and opposition of an initiative,” the League of Women Voters’ California website reports.
“The measure introduces a 30-day public review period at the beginning of the initiative process. Proponents can amend the initiative in response to public input during that review period.”
The new law also requires both houses of the California Legislature to hold hearings on the initiative once proponents have gathered a certain number of petition signatures.
And if the Legislature goes on to craft a law of its own, then “initiative proponents would have the choice to withdraw the initiative unilaterally if they’re satisfied with a legislative solution,” the website reports.
“Currently, once proponents turn in signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot, that measure cannot be removed even if the wording is in error or the issue has been resolved through legislation.”
Last but not least, the law makes it easier for voters to get information about initiatives and their potential effects.
Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the California Business Roundtable were among the groups that supported the reform, which passed in both houses with bipartisan support.
If Measure 4 fails in November, then supporters might want to take another look at California - but this time, as a role model for reform rather than an example of what not to do.