Taking the Initiative

If you live in California long enough, you soon come to realize that the initiative process – adopted in 1911 – is a central and inescapable fact of life in the Golden State. On November 2, for example, California voters will be asked to give thumbs up or down to nine ballot measures, five of which would amend a state Constitution that is already more than 160 pages long. We here at the CBP are certainly no strangers to the initiative process. We spend a good deal of time analyzing proposed ballot measures and trying to explain the impact of those that voters already have approved, generally starting with the granddaddy of them all: Proposition 13 of 1978.

However, in our effort to understand the potential impact of one of the most complex measures on the November ballot – Proposition 22 – we were somewhat astonished to discover that we needed to read, cite, and otherwise contend with 13 other ballot measures that voters have passed since 1978, including both constitutional amendments and bond acts:

This list may give pause to even the most ardent supporters of direct democracy in California. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the initiative process, it’s worth reflecting on the continuing impact of what has been called the “initiative industrial complex” and the “fourth branch of government.” In the meantime, check the CBP’s website in the coming days for our analyses of several of the measures on the November 2 ballot, including Proposition 22.

— Scott Graves