California Governor Jerry Brown just vetoed Senate Bill 168, writing, “It doesn’t seem very practical to me to create a system that makes productivity goals a crime.”
Senate Bill 168 makes it illegal to pay someone circulating an issue petition based either directly or indirectly on the number of signatures gathered. In fact, had Brown signed SB 168 into law, you’d get thrown in jail for awarding a prize, say a campaign t-shirt, to the volunteer who gathers the most signatures.
Petition campaigns like productivity. They don’t want folks locked up for it.
Could undercutting productivity and doubling the cost of petitioning be the real goal of SB 168?
Perhaps outlawing incentives isn’t intended to slow the pace and super-size the cost of a petition drive. But it does. Californians have only 150 days to gather hundreds of thousands of voter signatures, so a slowdown and added cost means issues blocked from reaching the voters.
In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, Sen. Ellen Corbett, SB 168’s author, addressed concerns about diminished democracy, writing, “[I]n states that have enacted a similar law there has been no change in the number of initiatives qualifying for the ballot.”
But a review of those states shows a change — for the worse. Oregon saw a roughly 50 percent reduction in initiatives. In Montana and North and South Dakota the number of citizen measures dropped. After passage of productivity bans in Nebraska and Wyoming, neither state’s voters have seen another initiative on their ballot.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.