Results tagged “Ballot Initiatives”

January 23, 2014

Jessica Levinson Summary Judgments Blog.jpgBy Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

This op-ed originally appeared on Politix and was re-posted by The Huffington Post.

Here a ballot initiative, there a ballot initiative, everywhere in California a ballot initiative.

How did we get here? About a hundred years ago the processes of direct democracy spread across the country. States gave their citizens the ability to directly enact laws (via the ballot initiative), to directly repeal laws (via the referendum), and to oust elected officials (via the recall). The purpose of direct democracy is to empower average citizens and decrease the power than moneyed interests may have over elected officials. Sounds quaint, doesn't it?

Welcome to 2014, when the very special interests direct democracy was meant to guard against now direct and control those processes. And specifically, welcome to California, where we have not only ousted a governor (Gray Davis) via the recall, but where we frequently use the ballot initiative process. Want to change how many lawmakers it takes to pass the state's budget? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to change the definition of marriage? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to cut or increase taxes? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to change the penalties for criminal offenses? Once again, pass a ballot initiative.

Read the complete piece.

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September 20, 2012

Jessica Levinson Summary Judgments Blog.jpgBy Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

On November 6, California voters will be faced with 11 ballot measures. Ten are initiatives, one is a referendum (what's the difference?), and none of these were legislatively initiated. One of these initiatives is Proposition 32, which is deceptively being peddled as a good government reform. It is not.

Prop 32 would prohibit unions from using funds deducted from payroll for political purposes. The prohibition also applies to corporations and government contractors. Among other things, it would also prohibit unions and corporations from giving campaign contributions directly to candidates or the committees that candidates control.

While it may seem even-handed, it will have a much, much greater impact on unions, dramatically reducing their power, than corporations. Corporations have many other avenues to raise political funds. Money is, after all, power, particularly in political campaigns in California.

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August 7, 2012

Jessica Levinson Summary Judgments Blog.jpgBy Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

[This post originally appeared on KCET's SoCal Focus Blog.]

One of my least favorite things about the ballot initiatives process is the huge sums that those in favor and against these measures typically shell out during the election cycle. This is particularly true for the initiatives which, like bad pennies, just keep coming back every few election cycles. Proposition 32, the so-called "Paycheck Protection" initiative is no exception.

The measure, if approved, would prohibit union and corporate contributions to state and local officials (which may be only a minor problem for these groups because they can just make independent expenditures), prohibit contributions from government contractors to politicians who have a say over their contracts, and prohibit corporations and unions from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes without their members' permission. That last prohibition will likely cut the legs out from under unions when it comes to their ability to raise and spend political funds. Under our current campaign finance system such a decrease in fundraising and spending ability correlates to a marked drop in political power.

If Prop 32 sounds familiar, it should. We've seen it before in 2005 and in 1998. In less than 15 years we've seen the same idea on the ballot three times. And yet, here we are again -- fundraising, spending, and fighting.

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July 18, 2012

Jessica Levinson Summary Judgments Blog.jpgBy Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

[This post originally appeared on KCET's SoCal Focus Blog.]

Ready, set, go. Ballot initiative season is officially upon us. The 11 (yes, 11) ballot initiatives that we will be voting on in November now have numbers, which means the fundraising race will kick into high gear. Expect many advertisements via your television, radio, mailbox and likely your computer screen as well.

We will be voting on tax increases (courtesy of Governor Jerry Brown, attorney Molly Munger and billionaire Tom Steyer), changes to the budget process, how labor unions and corporations can spend money in elections, auto insurance rates, the death penalty, human trafficking, the three-strikes law and the labeling of genetically modified food.

We are simply weighing in on too many decisions via a flawed process.

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March 12, 2012

Jessica Levinson Summary Judgments Blog.jpg By Visiting Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

Suit up. It is almost time for another election in California. We all know what that means: more ballot initiatives. (Insert sighs, grumbles and other sounds of disappointment here).

In June we will be asked to vote on a proposed cigarette tax. Opponents of the measure -- big tobacco companies, including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco -- have raised almost $15 million to defeat the measure. But if you're looking for ads from them, it will be much easier for you to look for the committee they have funded, Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending. (Note to California legislators, time to improve disclosure and transparency for ballot measure spending).

Proponents of the measure have raised almost $3.2 million. The committee receiving those funds is called Californians for a Cure.

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