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Proposal Details

Proposal ID123
ProposalPlatform Amendment: Initiative, Referendum and Recall
PresenterPlatform Committee
Floor ManagerTim Laidman
Discussion11/04/2016 - 11/13/2016
Voting11/14/2016 - 11/20/2016
Presens Quorum13 0.5
Consens Quorum36 0.6 of Yes and No Votes


This proposal is a continuation of proposal #122, which was originally posted on October 3, 2016, but then went to a vote prematurely because the voting date was entered incorrectly in the data base. Therefore this proposal #123 has been re-entered to finish the normal discussion period through November 13, and then go to a vote on November 14-20.

This would amend the existing Initiative, Referendum and Recall plank in the GPCA Platform http://www.cagreens.org/platform/initiatives-referenda-recall . The existing plank is out of date, and does not reflect many changes in state law since it was last updated. It also recommends policies that are simply not permitted by state law.

Aware of the need to update this plank, the Platform Committee has placed this proposal before the Standing General Assembly, drawing from these and other sources.

League of Women Voters

Center for Governmental Studies


California Crackup


Steven Hill


Additionally both Platform Committee members - Peggy Koteen and Shane Que Hee - are SGA delegates and can participate in SGA debate.


That the SGA amend the Initiative, Referendum and Recall based upon this draft proposal from the Platform Committee and amendments suggested by SGA members and accepted by the Platform Committee.

Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

The Green Party supports initiative, referendum and recall as essential tools of direct democracy; and the Green Party seeks to retain and enhance these important institutions.

The strength of the initiative process is that it gives citizens the ability to by-pass the legislature and act directly as legislators. Through the initiative process, citizens can propose statutes and amendments to the California Constitution -- a critical option, especially when elected officials are deemed un-responsive by their constituents.

The weakness of the initiative process is the degree to which its components can be determined by big money -- from qualifying for the ballot, to waging statewide election campaigns. Too often the initiative process has become a large-scale commercial and fundraising enterprise. It can cost millions of dollars and require a great deal of organization just to gather the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. Then there is the private, for-profit role that signature-gathering companies play in determining the cost of access to our democracy.

In response, Greens support making it easier for volunteer-based efforts to qualify initiatives, referendum and recall, and propose different ways this could occur. During the election season, Greens support ensuring television and radio time for informational programming; pro/con debates for each statewide ballot measure; and contribution and spending limits for pro/con campaigns. At the same time, Greens support increasing financial disclosure for all ballot measures.

The Green Party proposes:

Signature Gathering

- Make it easier to qualify an initiative or referendum proposal using volunteers, by extending the number of days to qualify for the ballot for signature-gathering efforts that utilize large percentages of volunteers and stay within spending limits, and/or weigh more highly the signatures obtained utilizing volunteers

- Where is is possible to truly safeguard security, identity and privacy, allow signature gathering for initiative and referendum via the Internet and/or other electronic technology.

Drafting, 'Title and Summary

- Initiative proposals should be limited to a single subject. The definition of “single subject” should ensure clear interpretation and strict enforcement.

- Initiatives with provisions that would require funding should specify the sources or method(s) of providing the funding.

- The title and summary should be written by an impartial and non-partisan official authority, such as the Legislative Analyst's Office (for statewide measures).

Voting and Approval Thresholds

- An initiative statute, or a legislative statute appearing on the ballot as a referendum, should be approved by a simple majority of those voting on the measure.

- An initiative statute or constitutional amendment that imposes a new requirement for passage of future initiatives should meet the same requirement.

- An initiative statute or constitutional amendment that requires a super-majority vote for passage of future related issues should be required to receive the same super-majority vote approval for its passage.

- An initiative should not be allowed to provide for different outcomes depending upon the percentage of votes cast in its favor.

- The approval threshold to approve an initiative constitutional amendment should be higher than a simple majority vote, but only after a cleaning up of the state constitution to separate what belongs in a constitution and what is an initiative statute


- Provide free time for informational television and radio information about the initiative and referendum proposals on the ballot, and broadcast any public hearings the Legislature holds on the initiative proposals.

- Impose contribution and expenditure limits by individuals and groups in initiative and referendum campaigns - mandatory limits where possible by law, and voluntary when not.

- Conduct a series of televised debates featuring the yes and no sides of initiative and referendum proposals, similar to the pro/con arguments in the voter information guide - but only for campaigns accepting and operating within voluntary spending limits.


- Require that disclosure requirements that already apply to mailings and advertisements in support or opposition to an initiative or referendum, also apply to disclosure in the ballot pamphlet and voter information guide for those ballot measures

- Require that that at least the top three sponsors of an initiative or referendum and organizations that form a committee to support or oppose a measure be listed by name in the ballot pamphlet, in mailings, and in advertisements.

- Require that at least the top three principal contributors to an initiative or referendum campaign be listed by name in the ballot pamphlet, in mailings, and in advertisements.

- Where an initiative or referendum campaign has substantially qualified for the ballot through signature-gathering by volunteers, include this with other disclosure information.

- Require that initiative and referendum committees use names that reflect their true economic or special interest.




The existing text of the Budget platform plank:

The Green Party believes that the initiative/referendum/recall process is an essential part of California politics and, on balance, a useful way of furthering grassroots democracy.

Past elections have seen an abundance of initiatives that have been variously received by the voters.
Perhaps the most damaging elements of the California initiative process from a Green perspective are the cost and time constraints involved in ballot qualification. In order to qualify, supporters must gather the signatures of five percent of the registered voters within 150 days. In practice, considerable organizational talent and large sums of money are needed to qualify (at least 50 cents per signature). The professionals who gather such signatures are not interested in educating the voters about the issues. They have found that many Californians, when properly approached, will put an initiative on the ballot without knowing more about it than its title.
Currently, changes in the law are being planned that would make the process even less accessible to voters.
The Green Party advocates reforming the initiative process:
Extend the period of time for gathering signatures to 180 days.
Require that at least 15% of all signatures be gathered by unpaid volunteers.
Require both proponents and opponents of an initiative to inform the voters about the issues, using government-sponsored means.
Require that organizational proponents of initiatives be prominently listed at the beginning of every initiative.
The Green Party supports the use of petitionary referenda as a viable recourse in keeping elected officials sensitive to significant issues and public opinion. The petitionary referenda gives citizens the chance to repeal bills recently passed by the legislature and approved by the governor.
In contrast to the initiative, the use of petitionary referenda is in decline - only six petitionary referenda have qualified for the ballot since 1940. This is due, in part, to the referendum process: proponents of a referendum must gather a number of signatures equal to five percent of the votes cast for the governor in the last election, and must do so within 90 days of the bill's passage. The referendum process excludes certain types of bills such as tax levies, appropriation measures, calls for special elections, etc.
The Green Party recommends that we reactivate the referendum process:
Require companies doing business in the California initiative industry to set aside a portion of their revenues and facilities for use by groups unable to pay full fare for such services.
Reduce the number of signatures required to qualify a referendum for the ballot to three percent of the votes cast for the governor in the last election.
As in the case of the initiative and referendum, the recall process gives citizens a chance to practice grassroots democracy by removing elected officials who are disapproved of by a majority of voters.
Rarely has a recall effort against a state-level officeholder ever qualified for the ballot. It has sometimes been abused by groups seeking political ends other than removing an officeholder who they feel has performed poorly. Also, some citizens simply don't understand the meaning of the term "recall."
The Green Party proposes simplifying the recall process:
Substitute the term "removal" for "recall."
Require all signatures for a removal effort be obtained through voluntary solicitation.

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