Note: the following post is about California, but could apply to other states.
It’s bad enough that in each regular election voters in California are asked to decide on a whole host of ballot initiatives and referendums (initiatives come from petitions from the voters – actually by special interests since the cost of putting them on the ballot would be prohibitive to individual voters – and referendums are when the legislature passes the buck), but in between we have these costly special elections. Once again we are asked to do what we pay the legislators and the governor to do.
And the measures are usually not straight forward, but instead so convoluted that even the lawmakers and the governor probably don’t fully understand them (sometimes a no vote means yes and a yes vote means no, yes really). And they almost all have hidden agendas.
There are a half dozen measures on my California May 19th ballot and all have to do with fiscal issues. Apparently the job was too tough for our elected officials so they’ve passed the buck (so to speak) to us (actually they take the buck from us).
My folks told me when in doubt vote no. And I always have. I sometimes vote yes when the issue is money for veterans and stuff like that, but otherwise I just vote no. I figure if I cast a vote for legislators and governor I have done my job.
The initiative process in California was put into effect as a reform measure in the early part of the 20th Century by a Republican governor (would you believe it?) when the Southern Pacific Railroad ran the state (that governor, Hiram Johnson, was the son of the railroad’s top lobbyist – ironic). The idea was that it would be a counter for the citizenry to the lobbying power of the big railroad that had a stranglehold on commerce and other issues in the state. Over the years the state’s population increased so dramatically that in order to get the required signatures on the ballot for an initiative only special interests groups trying to push legislation to line their pockets could pay for the cost of getting something on the ballot. And doesn’t it seem silly that we have a legislature but we have to make laws and amend the constitution by elections? We might as well just have an electronic town meeting statewide (such an idea I think was proposed by Ross Perot). Who needs government?
Actually I don’t think that would be a good idea. I do think eliminating initiatives and referendums would be a good idea.
And in fiscal matters California has the same problem as the federal government. It consistently votes to spend more money than it takes in. The governor does, though, have the power of the line item veto. He could balance any budget in any given year. I really don’t know what the problem is.
I am not a Republican. But probably only because that party seems to fall all over itself to give tax breaks and special favors to big business (note: big business) and leave the common person out in the cold. Republicans also kowtow to the fundamentalist religious groups who want to strictly codify social behavior into law.
I wandered here. The whole point is that I have my California May special election ballot and as of now I plan to vote no on everything except the measure that prohibits lawmakers and constitutional officers from raising their pay when the budget is in deficit (which is interesting since supposedly deficit spending is by law not allowed in California). Maybe even that is silly. Maybe lawmakers should be able to raise their pay by their own vote anytime they have the guts to do so. We can always vote them out the next time. (And, by the way, the pay raise measure is somewhat useless in that we have already created some type of pay raise commission previously and the current bill is somewhat ambiguous — so what else is new?)
Lawmakers: if you can’t handle your job or you cannot vote your convictions you should find other work.
I acutually think the legislature should be a part-time job with relatively low salary that people who have time for such things perform out of a sense of public service rather than a career or means to line their pockets or set themsevles up for a future lobbying position. It had been thought that paying full-time salaries would cut down on the bribery and so on. It didn’t. Dishonest people are dishonest people. Some have morals and some not.