initiative, referendum, and recall

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“Deceptive” Charge “Misleading”

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Many politicians serve as powerful arguments for term limits. Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods rivals the best.

Sen. Woods (R-Springdale) and State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) authored a 22-page, 7,000-word constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot. They say Issue 3 is about ethics and transparency.

You decide.

Woods and Sabin threw together various ethics provisions and then stuck in a gutting of term limits. Their ballot title reads it is “establishing term limits” — without bothering to inform voters that it doubles how long legislators can stay in the Senate and more than doubles the House limit — to a whopping 16 years!

This week, Arkansas Term Limits debuted TV ads alerting the public to the scam, charging that legislators have “pursued a campaign of silence . . . letting the deceptive ballot title do their work,” so that “when Arkansas voters go to the polls there will be no mention of the doubling of term[s].”

The unrepentant Sen. Woods says that it is “misleading” to call his Issue 3 deceptive. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that, after asking if Woods’s ballot language wasn’t indeed deceptive: “Woods said he doesn’t know.”

The senator’s response to the Arkansas GOP Convention’s nearly unanimous resolution against Issue 3? “You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas.”

Perhaps Democratic politicians are smarter. Democratic co-author Sabin is nowhere to be found in news coverage of Issue 3, likely hiding under his bed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Grand Rapids’ Grand Alliance

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Two incredible activists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have achieved the impossible. Through their hard work in gathering over 10,000 voter signatures on a petition, Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have united big business and big labor in perfect harmony.

Union bosses and the bigs of biz are now funding a united campaign.

Their ubiquitous mailers speak against the “hijacking of our local democratic process” and sinister forces trying to “change our city charter, erode local control and silence your voice,” warning Grand Rapids residents: “Don’t let your vote be shredded.”

Shredded votes? What specific issue are they talking about?

Well, this well-funded business/labor campaign has purposely left out two words that, if uttered, would obliterate their entire effort.

Those two little words? Term limits.

The law that Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have petitioned onto the ballot, for a public vote? An eight-year limit for mayor and council members.

Nothing brings powerful special interests together like fear of term limits.

The president of the United States is limited to eight years, but Andy Johnston, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of government affairs, argues that, “Particularly at the local level, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of city government.”

“In politics you develop relationships with different people,” explains Kent-Ionia Labor Council President Sean Egan. “When you continually replace good politicians for the sake of having new people, you lose the wisdom and experience and you end up with policy created by other groups.”

You mean policy supported by folks “other” than big business and big labor?

Oh, my!

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Corrupt Craft

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Some political opponents win your respect, even if not your agreement. Others … well, not so much.

Earlier this week, a publication called Arkansas Business editorialized against Issue 3 on the Natural State’s November ballot, calling it “a freakish hybrid, a gambit to trick voters into expanding term limits for state legislators.”

This constitutional amendment was proposed with overwhelming support from state legislators, who designed it to hoodwink voters into gutting their term limits. The measure hides that consequential change — from six years in the House to 16 years and from eight years in the Senate to 16 years — inside a so-called “ethics” amendment.

The ballot wording only tells voters that the measure is “setting” term limits, which Arkansas Business correctly points out “conveys something close to the opposite of what the amendment would do,” adding “it’s certainly misleading.”

Now, Arkansas Business is no fan of term limits. The editorial concludes, “Arguments can be made for each of these proposals [in Issue 3], including longer term limits.… But we can’t endorse the current form, as much as we’d like to.”

Arkansas Business seems clearly offended by the deception. How endearingly unsophisticated!

Meanwhile, more elite opinion applauds the brilliance of the scheme, the amazing skill of these politicians applying their sneaky technique.

“Arkansas voters soundly rejected term-limit changes in 2004,” reports Governing magazine, paraphrasing University of Arkansas Professor Janine Parry, “but this time proponents craftily inserted their language into a broad package that, among other things, prohibits corporate contributions to candidates and lobbyist gifts to elected officials.”

“Craftily”?

What on earth is their craft? Fraud?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Getting to Ballot in Illinois

Monday, September 1st, 2014

My business is citizen initiatives. So I notice when courts — at the behest of corrupt politicians like hyper-incumbent Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — block a popular initiative to limit the power of corrupt politicians.

Politicians like, say, Mike Madigan.

The initiative would have forced state lawmakers to step down after eight years in the legislature. Although the petition to post the question earned way more than enough valid signatures, a judge kicked the question off the ballot. Then an appeals court refused to reverse; and, finally, the state supreme court let a ballot deadline pass without reviewing the case. All this obstructionism was rationalized by a derelict misreading of the state constitution and motivated by a desire to preserve and protect Illinois’s political class, which is as bankrupt morally as the state is fiscally.

Another attempt at ballot-blocking proved less successful. It seems that “private detectives” (or maybe just thugs) hired by somebody in Illinois’s GOP establishment tried to intimidate signatories of petitions to get the Libertarian candidate for governor on the ballot. These visibly-armed creeps pushed signers to disavow their signatures in hopes of keeping the LP candidate off the ballot. So far it hasn’t worked, and the Illinois Libertarian Party has filed criminal complaints in the matter.

From these cases I conclude that things are pretty rotten with respect to the state of representative government in the state of Illinois.

Thankfully, voters there want a change. They just have to keep pushing for it.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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.