Monday, December 29, 2014

Change in Initiative Process Might Aid UC Regarding Future Pension Proposals

What would Hiram think?
The San Francisco Chronicle runs an article about some new changes in the initiative process taking effect next year.  California adopted its system of "direct democracy" in 1911 under reformist Governor Hiram Johnson (shown in photo) and it has been seldom modified since. Johnson was easily the most influential governor California has ever had, because of that electoral change - which also included women's suffrage in the state.

The new procedures basically allow a legislative intervention - essentially public hearings and negotiations with an initiative's sponsors, before the initiative goes on the ballot.  Although the changes make it marginally easier to get something on the ballot by extending the time deadline, in reality it is still likely to cost a sponsor a million dollars or more to hire signature gathering firms.

If you look ahead to topics that might be put on the ballot, it is at least possible that proponents of further public pension changes could gather enough funds to make another effort.  The main UC interest in such an event would be to prevent its pension from being swept into some all-encompassing proposition that would cover other state plans such as CalPERS and CalSTRS in local plans.  Having a public hearing might allow an opportunity to work out a deal.

The SF Chronicle article:

The measure opens the way for increased collaboration between lawmakers and backers of initiatives by requiring the Legislature to hold a joint public hearing on a proposed initiative as soon as 25 percent of the required signatures are collected. It also calls for the attorney general to open a 30-day public review before approving an initiative for circulation and lets supporters amend the initiative during that time... The review period also would give citizens a chance to weigh in on a proposed initiative, suggesting ways to improve the wording, pointing out potential legal problems, and proposing changes the initiative’s backers could accept or reject... The new law also ensures that those legislative hearings can actually mean something, since it allows backers to withdraw an initiative up to 131 days before the election. If a compromise can be worked out with the backers of the initiative, right up to that ballot qualification deadline, the measure can be pulled from the ballot...

Full story at

And for history buffs, here is the only video of Hiram Johnson I could find (in which he opposes a third term in 1940 for FDR):

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