Schwarzenegger Moves to Protect Grassroots Petition Efforts

Tue, Oct 13 2009 by Anonymous

At a time when Californians’ ballot initiative & referendum rights have been under sustained attack, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed three bills that he believes would harm grassroots petitioning efforts. The restrictions created by all three bills, Senate Bills 34 and Assembly Bills 436 and 6, would have significantly increased the cost for citizens to petitioning their government.

Several groups, including Citizens in Charge, opposed Senate Bill 34 because it would have banned paying ballot initiative, referendum and recall paying petition circulators per signature. Similar bans have been struck down in five different states: Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Washington and Idaho.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto message:

The California Constitution provides an important system of checks
and balance by giving the people direct control over their government
through initiative, referendum and recall.

As I have stated when vetoing similar legislation, prohibitions on
per-signature payments will make it more difficult for grassroots
organizations to gather the necessary signatures and qualify measures
for the ballot.  Therefore, I am unable to sign this bill.

 

Assembly Bill 436 would have raised the filing fee for a petition from $200 to $500 in 2010 and to $2,000 in 2016. The fee is refunded if a measure qualifies for the ballot.

As the governor says:

The original fee was established to deter frivolous filings; this
bill would fundamentally alter the purpose of the fees to instead be
used to pay the administrative costs borne by the AG.  Using the fees
to reimburse the AG for actual costs sets a precedent of allowing
the fees to increase to the point that it would significantly deter
grassroots and volunteer efforts to qualify a measure.  Whether or
not the fee should be increased to reflect an amount that would deter
frivolous filings today is a separate question than how the fees
should be defined and distributed.

Grassroots petition proponents would have been subject to an expensive registration and training process under Assembly Bill 6.

Schwarzenegger explains:

Under the provisions of this bill a
“professional firm” would include grassroots organizations that pay
signature gatherers in an effort to meet the deadline to qualify a
measure.

The people of California often exercise their important role in
government oversight through the initiative, referendum and recall
process.  I cannot support a measure that places an undue burden on
reform-minded Californians.