A Breathtakingly Bad Argument Against Referenda
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 :::
At Raising Kaine, where they are trembling over the prospect of Jerry Kilgore's regional referendum concept, tapped a Californian to warn us all of the evils that such proposals bring upon the unwary masses.
The follies begin right in the title: "Virginia Doesn't Have Earthquakes..."
Hate to break it to the author...but yes, we do. I know, small point. But it does set the tone for what follows.
And what follows is a pageant of horrors...strangely, though, the author confuses referenda with initiative. Quick refresher: referenda appear on the ballot only after they have been approved by the legislature and governor. Initiatives are placed on the ballot directly by the people through petition drives. A huge difference that I would have believed a proud Californian would grasp.
Obviously not. Onward we go.
We are told that initiatives have been hijacked by special interests who spend untold millions on slick campaigns. Of course, the villain in the piece is Proposition 13, and initiative that cut property taxes.
The Gray Davis recall effort makes a special guest villain appearance (but the fact that recall is still another, entirely different ballot creature is not mentioned. No matter, we're on a role).
Well, the people of California, for all their failings, aren't blithering idiots. A short look at the win-loss record of ballot measures in the state shows...oh...since 1912, 275 have been proposed, but only 96 passed, 35%.
Yes, that initiative process is an unstoppable juggernaut.
Regrettably for the author of this piece, Kilgore is not proposing an initiative process. Kilgore is not proposing anything close to such a process. What he does propose is something of an extension of the referenda process already in effect in Virginia. Voters have the ability to vote on amendments to the state constitution (placed on the ballot by the legislature), as well as statewide bond issues (also placed on the ballot by the legislature). Locally, voters have the right to vote on tax and bond issues as well (placed on the ballots by local governments). Virginia voters are not exposed to the same volume, perhaps, as that found in other states. But it is hardly an unknown.
Ah well. I strongly suspect that if the 2002 regional sales tax referenda had won (and recall, Kaine backed them both), we would not be having this discussion. But they didn't, and we are.
Still, it's regrettable to see those who dislike the idea deliberately confusing initiatives with referenda. But it's understandable.
Oh, and for a less hysterical (but admittedly favorable) history of California's initiative process, click here.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/26/2005