initiative, referendum, and recall

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Legislators, Tramps and Thieves

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In the closing days of Arkansas’s 2013 legislative session, solons of the Natural State surreptitiously voted to put a measure on the state ballot, without fanfare or ballyhoo.

Five months later, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette finally noticed what happened, and published an editorial, “Outrage of the Year.’ It has just been reprinted. The outrage hasn’t changed. The measure would extend time in office “for state representatives from 6 to 16 years and for state senators from 8 to 16 years.”

But what an Arkansan will read on the ballot seems a tad different: “An Amendment Regulating Contributions to Candidates for State or Local Office, Barring Gifts From Lobbyists to Certain State Officials, Providing for Setting Salaries of Certain State Officials, and Setting Term Limits for Members of the General Assembly.”

“Setting” term limits? No sir. Term limits, already set by voters, would be drastically weakened.

But the good people of Arkansas are beginning to hear the good news, the truth, thanks to the campaign being waged by Arkansas Term Limits against what will be “Issue 3” on the ballot.

The group is led by Bob Porto and my brother, Tim Jacob, who are traveling the state speaking to audiences. Not surprisingly, the people are shocked and angered upon hearing the manifest fraud their representatives are perpetrating.

At a recent talk, Jacob called it “an attempt to deceive the voters,” noting “they have done it on purpose.”

Yet another argument for strict term limits . . . and fully informed voters.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Six Flags Over California

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Though the Democrats who run the failed state of California insist that Governor Jerry Brown is leading them to a new era of prosperity, the results are mixed at best. The state is riddled with public employee pension problems, environmental over-regulation, and high taxes, to list just a few.

The problem? The whole system of representative democracy is skewed to insiders. The ratio of voters to representatives is way too high — twice as high as the next nearest state.

The best thing California has going for it is the right of citizen initiative. Typically, it (and the voters) get blamed for the unwillingness of their “representatives” to stay within their means.

Enter Timothy Draper, Founder and Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a billionaire Silicon Valley professional. He has been promoting an initiative to split California into six smaller states: provisionally dubbed Jefferson (northern counties that have a long history of separatist unrest), Silicon Valley (which could become the richest per capita state in the union), North California (a coastal region from San Francisco south to Monterey County), Central California (a big expanse of many interior counties), West California (four west coast counties including Los Angeles), and South California (five counties including San Diego). Draper insists that his idea is the “something structural, something fresh” that the state needs to prevent further decline.

The initiative has received enough petition signatures to qualify for a 2016 ballot.

But is it a waste of time? Even if Californians vote for it in great numbers, the U.S. Constitution requires a formal request from the state legislature. And the California Assembly is not likely to cede so much power.

Which would provide another valuable lesson about how anti-Californian California’s leaders are.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Empowering Abuse of Power

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Have a yen to cling indefinitely to political power? You probably oppose term limits . . . as well as the citizen initiative rights enabling voters to term-limit you.

And when voters possess both initiative rights and a willingness to exercise them, it wouldn’t surprise me if you pray that any judge assessing a duly petitioned-for term limits question deems it unconstitutional. Even if it’s garnered 596,140 signatures, 300,000 more than the minimum valid signatures required.

You guessed it: Not a hypothetical scenario. And not, of course, about you.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is leading to impose eight-year term limits on all legislative service in Illinois. The petition has more than enough valid signatures to reach the ballot. But incumbents sued, citing an early 1990s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that declared a different term limits question unconstitutional.

Cook County Judge Mary Mikva agrees; “precedent dictates a very narrow provision for allowing the voters to directly enact term amendments to the Illinois Constitution.” Her June 27 ruling is being appealed.

The state’s notoriously corrupt political class may wish upon a constellation, but wishing won’t make the cited precedent relevant.

As Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, argued in a recent op-ed, “term limits are exactly the type of provision the Constitution’s framers thought citizens should be allowed to propose and vote on.” He added, “This isn’t just a common-sense reading of what the Illinois Constitution says; it’s also what its framers said explicitly when they included this provision.”

The stated aim of republican constitutions in America has never been to protect incumbents from effective citizen oversight and control.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

A Clever Change

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Time, gentleman, please!

North Dakota legislators had introduced HCR 3034 and passed it at the pleadings of Secretary of State Al Jaeger. The old-timer had argued his office needed more time: time to review petitions, time to accommodate legal challenges to ballot measures.

Democracy can be such a fast-moving target, er, process, you know.

HCR 3034 became Measure 1, a constitutional amendment to change one thing: the length of time citizens had to circulate petitions. It moved the deadline for signature turn-in from 90 days prior to an election to 120 days prior, thereby cutting 30 days from the citizens and giving it to the Secretary of State, who assured everybody that his extra time would “safeguard the credibility of the petition process.”

The measure passed two weeks ago, in part because it was conducted in a low-turnout primary election.

Most times politicians avoid citizen input altogether, in their fight against initiative. But in this case, politicians nudged citizens into sacrificing their own advantages to make it easier for the insider class.

It’s admittedly not catastrophic. Worse anti-initiative measures have passed elsewhere.

But could there have been a telltale sign of the malign intent here, not seen by the voters? Nixing those 30 days did at least one crucial thing: it disallowed signature gathering at the biggest and most popular event in the state: the state fair.

Could it be that it was not “time” at issue, but timing?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

 

P.S. You can follow initiative and ballot access news at Citizens in Charge.

Nashville’s Trojan Horse

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Beware of politicians bearing gifts.

The titans on the Metro Nashville Charter Revision Commission voted, last week, to recommend that a charter amendment be placed on the ballot, weakening term limits for the Metro Council and reducing representation on it.

“Taken together,” reports The Tennessean, “the proposed changes could throw the 2015 council elections into upheaval by eliminating one of every three seats while offering new political life to more than half of the current council.”Nashville Metro Council

The amendment now goes to the council, needing 27 of 40 members to vote yes. Almost that many are term-limited next year, so the measure may go on the ballot as early as August.

A former Metro law director on the Charter Revision Commission argued there shouldn’t be any term limits at all, but Councilwoman Emily Evans, the amendment’s sponsor, admitted to reporters that reducing the size of the council was likely the only way to get voters to agree to a weakening of term limits. She noted, “You have to give the public something.”

While voters tend to favor reducing legislative bodies, perhaps to save on costs and unnecessary drama, the other direction makes more sense: smaller districts, where each citizen is more important to his or her representative and that representative can accumulate less power.

A 2005 attempt to cut the size of the council was blocked by strong public opposition, so that may not be the sweetener the politicians think.

As for term limits, voters passed them in 1994 and have three times blocked council attempts to weaken or kill the limits.

Nashville voters know a Trojan Horse when they see it.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The 22 Franc Minimum Wage

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agree with America’s progressives: raising the minimum wage is common sense.

The Swiss had a chance to prove their solidarity with that notion yesterday, when they voted on whether to establish a minimum wage in the country, a rather high one of 4000 francs per month (something close to 22 francs per hour). They voted the proposal down.

Overwhelmingly. By over 76 percent.Frederic Bastiat's classic essay, What Is Seen and What Is Unseen

Unlike in America, this minimum wage would have affected a huge hunk of the population. One out of ten Swiss workers earns less than the proposed minimum. In America, only about a single percentage of workers earns close to the national minimum.

This matters, as Frédéric Bastiat clearly explained, because price regulations can have two effects: a loss of production, or none at all — “either hurtful or superfluous.” No effect, when the price floor (as in a minimum wage) is set lower than the level most prices are already at (or, for which workers already work). But when the price floor gets set higher, goods go off the market — with too-high wage minimums, workers with low productivity cease to get hired.

Swiss voters could scarcely afford to risk the jobs of ten percent of the workforce.

In America, raising the minimum wage is usually a matter of sacrificing a few people (whom voters mostly don’t know — Bastiat’s “unseen”) while rejoicing in the higher wages of those workers retained (the “seen”).

In Switzerland, the government declared the down vote a victory for common sense.

Which it was.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Term Limits Now

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Government of, by and for the people.

Yeah, right.

If government were “of, by and for” us . . . well, for starters, we’d have term limits.

Especially in Illinois. The Land of Lincoln has become the nation’s capital of corruption — four of the last seven governors went on to serve time in prison.

The state’s most powerful politician is House Speaker Michael Madigan, the longest-serving speaker in state history. Madigan is powerful, yes, but not at all popular — rated negatively by a substantial 65 percent of the public.

So much for popular government.

But yesterday, the negativity of Illinois politics was met quite positively — and head-on. The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits delivered to the state Board of Elections a 36-foot long box, weighing nearly two tons, filled with 68,000 pages of petitions containing nearly 600,000 voter signatures.

That’s more than enough signatures to place the constitutional amendment onto the ballot. The measure will limit state legislators to eight years in office. It will also reduce the size of the state senate and increase the size of the state house, while upping the legislative vote needed to override a governor’s veto to the same two thirds threshold found in 37 other states.

Yet, hours before all those voter signatures were presented to officials, an attorney connected to Speaker Madigan filed a lawsuit hoping to block the vote. The news report on the lawsuit quoted “sources who asked not to be identified for fear of risking their ability to secure state grant dollars.”

Term limits. Now.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.