Happy 100th, California
On this day a century ago — October 10, 1911 — California voters stormed to the polls and overwhelmingly enacted a measure establishing a statewide system of initiative and referendum. Through the years, Californians have used the initiative to enact for themselves many reforms their legislators refused to touch — from ending the poll tax in 1914 to term-limiting their legislature in 1990.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with any specific measure passed via initiative in the last century, the enormous impact of California’s initiative process can hardly be disputed. Perhaps the best known and most consequential initiative has been Proposition 13.
This measure cut and capped the state’s property taxes in 1978, saving the homes of many citizens on fixed incomes. At Cato.org, Steve Moore argues that “the anti-big-government tide in America began . . . with the passage of taxpayer advocate Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13.” In the two years following Prop 13’s passage, 42 other states passed some form of tax relief.
At an event today in Sacramento — the “100th Anniversary Celebration of California’s Initiative & Referendum” — a politically diverse group of initiative practitioners, journalists, academics and political leaders will discuss the impact of the past century of citizen-lawmaking and ways to improve the process.
Despite a century of change, two things remain the same:
- The politically powerful don’t like to be checked by citizens.
- Polls show that Californians today support initiative and referendum by the same three-to-one margin they passed it 100 years ago.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.