Skip to comments.Calif. top justice slams state referendum process
Posted on 10/10/2009 11:50:10 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO, Calif. The chief justice of the California Supreme Court is criticizing the state's reliance on the referendum process, saying it has "rendered our state government dysfunctional."
.. the widespread use of referendums to change state laws and constitutions hampers legislators, burdens the judicial branch and gives special interests too much power.
George says the system places California's lawmakers in a "fiscal straitjacket" that prevents them from effectively solving the state's financial crisis.
The speech .. entitled "The Perils of Direct Democracy: The California Experience."
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
We has met the enemy and We is it.
Damn You, Hiram. Oh well.
He had good intentions. ;-)
“We the people” own the state, not legislators or courts.
The chief justice of the California Supreme Court is criticizing the state’s reliance on the referendum process, saying it has “rendered our state government dysfunctional.”
The only thing that has rendered our state DYSFUNCTIONAL is its GOVERNMENT and judges like this that sit on its courts. Thank God for the referendum process — of course, it is a liberal nightmare. Anything that holds politicians accountable is something really bad. Just look at how Washington is taking care of that nuisance factor — Obama is creating his OWN GOVERNMENT......
Aren’t judges supposed to stay away from political advocacy? A major violation of that principle is going on here.
unbelievable gibberish from this chief justice. We are not a tyranny..the people are supposed to be involved.
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
In deepest consequence.
(Banquo, act 1, scene 3, William Shakespeare's Macbeth)
The Marxist legislature will now attempt to pass "reform" legislation to "improve" the Initiative, Referendum and Recall processes.
The result will be an iron fisted legislative insider tyranny, and police state treatment of honest citizens.
Queers and illegals need have no concerns, they're SPECIAL!
Citizen group sponsored Propositions are the only avenue ordinary “normal” folks have to challenge the Dem Party Dictatorship of Kalifornia.
Always troubling when the people think they know better than the royalty......
Most of the Propositions appearing on the ballot in California are crap. But then, so is most of the legislation issuing forth from Sacramento.
A lot of the “crap” on the ballot emanates from the legislature.
Many "California conservatives" are actually Right-populists. Its going to be great when the masses of Cali voters are of a different shade, and will pass initiative after initiative that will cause the pseudocons who love ballot initiatives to long for the days of representative government over the Mobocracy.
The biggest problem with the ballot initiative process is that voters keep voting for expensive expenditures without supporting a way to fund them....
That's a very good thig for the state because every one of the little lunatics belongs in a very real straitjacket.
Think of it this way. The state is in a fiscal mess. Part of the reason why is that the voters have approved so many bond funds, that the state is partially buried paying them off. Every new bond measure sounds like a new shiny bobble to the voters. And all too often they can’t do without it.
I don’t necessarily see this as a partisan matter.
The initiative process is essentially mob rule legitimized. It’s not a representative process. It’s more like a hard and fast Democracy. That’s not what our founders wanted for us, and I believe upon some thought, you’d probably agree with them at least in part.
Which is why if I lived in Kookifornia I would be putting the state in my rear view mirror just as fast as I could pack up and hop in the car. The dumbed down sheeple that vote in the nutty little Marxist nit wits year in and year out are beyond redemption. The entire country is heading in a similar direction and it's probably to late for the Nation as well. Time to plan in advance how you're going to ride out the storm.
That clown needs to get off the stage.
California judge/politician ...”blah blah blah blah”
As usual full of crap and talking nonsense
criticizing the state’s reliance on the referendum process, saying it has “rendered our state government dysfunctional.”
I’m convinced that California would do better without a legislature, without commissions, without studies and without boards.
Why no, not in California. For instance, we have a judge - albeit Federal - who has a) agreed to review the Constitutionality of an amendment to the State Constitution (Prop 8) and b) ordered the winning side to turn over their notes to the losing side.
I'm not sure when a judge decided he had the right to nullify portions of a State Constitution he disagrees with, but it seems to be a foregone conclusion here. And as far as having to share your opinions and tactics with the losing side, that's simply beyond belief.
But then this is also the state where the vote of 6 million people was rendered meaningless by one woman, Mariana Pfaelzer, when she struck down most of Prop 187. That was the day Democracy in California died.
The Judiciary in California produced arrogant freaks like Earl Warren, the Grandaddy of Judicial Activism. Over the last couple of decades they have had moments of hesitation, but in general they still seem to think that they make not just the laws but the Constitution itself, which is merely usurpation and treason. But since a large number of people who live here now have no idea that such a thing is considered wrong by the Americans, who will stop them?
The Judicial Dictatorship is alive and well in California.
Come on. There are two major reasons for the bankruptcy: Public Employee Unions agitating and voting to give themselves more and more and more and more, and millions of Mexican illegal aliens and their Anchor Baby children.
School bonds may be part of that but one thing leads to another: the Federal Judiciary mandating that people have to pay for the "education" of the children of people who don't belong here, and the consequent MASSIVE overcrowding.
Take a look at the new schools in the LAUSD, now what? 89% "Hispanic" (er, Mexican)?
Those schools cost hundreds of millions and they are confiscating land to build more every day (Five in 2008, they crow!).
Mexico has discovered a new way to steal: invade, and vote to take the dirt of the hapless citizens. If they fight back by the ordinary channels, get a judge to just nullify it all. Rinse, repeat again...until billions are spent babysitting and nurturing a new generation of Reconquistadores at the expense of those they plan to conquer.
Where am I wrong?
PS - my 14th generation American kid goes to a school quite a bit less opulent than any of these little palaces for the peasants of Mexico. Amazingly, he and his classmates seem to still do well. Why is that? Ask Mariana. I'm sure she'll know.
I happen to partially agree with the judge, and I believe ideas need to be examined on their own merits, and almost as if we do not know the identity of the messenger.
We are a republic and not a democracy, and for many good reasons.
Those who favor the referendum miss the fact that if enough people are not satisfied with the actions of their legislators, they have the ability to organize, in the same manner as they do for “referendums” to promote the election of specific legislative candidates, incumbents or new ones, who will support some desired view.
The referendum process is a form of “pure democracy”, for a moment in time - for the duration of the “referendum” campaign.
I believe that the majority of the time the referendum issues produce a very temporary constituency on a single issue theme - a constituency that on many other issues would not vote together, and where after that vote their interests, their long-term interests again divide. In that sense I believe that most of the time they do not represent a natural constituency that lasts beyond the referendum.
Since they are predominately single-issue focused they are often not focused at all on the unintended consequence of the success of the issue that may accrue to other policy areas, not directly in their line of fire.
Californian’s who promoted Prop-13 can glorify all they want about the mandated limits on local governments’ ability to raise property tax rates, that Prop-13 achieved. But, it is hard to deny that the convolutions in what followed in setting local property tax rates were part of a process in which the state government obtained a larger role in financing and policy for K-12 education. I knew a few of those who actively promoted Prop-13 at the time. None of them hoped for greater K-12 financing or policy dictates from Sacramento. It is not enough to argue that that did not have to follow from Prop-13. It did, because of what Prop=13 did not change or insure would change.
They expected to improve local government, but they were not in fact organized, state wide, to elect better local government, but simply to put something over on it, instead. Which they did.
But, the limits they achieved simply moved the focus of how local government units would raise property taxes, to the point where in fact local property taxes did not quit growing and, while local government was learning to navigate what Prop-13 imposed, and what it permitted, the education industrial complex obtained increases in state funding and state policy mandates in support of their enterprise. This was definitely not in the focus or intentions of the quick-fix Prop-13 advocates.
Another California referendum just a few years ago gave a coterie of public and private research outfits a $300 billion blank check (funded by state bonds - over ten years) to spend as they see fit on “stem cell research”; and with legal language that prevents executive or legislative questioning of their actions - all in the name of the “public interest” and “democracy”.
As much as some ideas may be great (or not), and in spite of how I might even agree with the intentions of some ideas put forward in the form of a “referendum”, I do not think the process helps us preserve our republic.
I think it tends to support all that is currently evolving, where the virtual mob-of-the-moment, often facilitated by the worst elements of the “news and entertainment” media, is said to represent the sentiments of some “majority”.
A republic, and one with various checks and balances, is intended to intentionally frustrate a temporary mob-of-the-moment and preserve the processes that require the consensus from compromises of various interests over a longer lasting time frame. Those compromises, as much as they are frustrating to hot-button issues of the moment are the glue that holds a republic together over time. If a hot-button issue of the moment actually has sustainable multi-constituency support that will endure, then that constituency usually does prevail, legislatively, in time, without resort to a referendum.
On the opposite side, along with an increase in the use of the referendum in my life time, there has been an increase in the number of referendums mounted to simply reverse a prior referendum, in only a short time. Short cited actions produce short-term reactions.
But, the preference for pure democracy descends into structural dysfunction and eventual mob rule, as the French rediscovered in their revolution, and as the Greeks before them learned.
As much as I personally felt people should support Prop 8 in the last California elections, I would have much preferred the same Prop-8 coalition to have understood that in order to succeed in the broader issue they must elect governors and legislators who will defend their written Constitutions against judicial fiat. They temporarily resolved one symptom of that broader issue, but left in place an executive and legislature that will not defend their Constitution against activist judges.
So, the judges will continue to alter the Constitutional landscape, and unless it is on an issue opposed by the “Prop-8” constituency, they will not be deterred and the alteration of our republic to a judicial oligarchy will continue; until maybe some final new mob-of-the-moment is required to tear the whole thing down.
If it’s a democracy we want, we’ll get it, and the republic will die; and that democracy will eventually descend into mob rule that only a dictator will tame.
My one problem with the California judge is his willful omission of the equally negative role that his own branch of government has had in helping to create problems that some found need of the referendum to correct.
That may in fact be his real complaint, that some referendums have sought to constrain him and his peers, just as other referendums sought to constrain the legislature. In terms of California Prop-8, I believe that is exactly the case.
One the one hand, the legislature, as well as the courts, have brought the referendum problems on themselves. On the other hand, for the long term, I think the problem will only get worse, unless the people who simply move from one single issue campaign to another, actually build a constituency to replace allot of the current political class.
As much as each referendum temporarily succeeds in making some change, the one area where the judge is correct is that some of the referendums do in fact establish conflicting legal, policy and financial mandates. And in spite of how he himself complains about that fact, my problem with that fact is that those conflicts do become HIS courts responsibility to resolve;
because a referendum’s resulting change is much harder to be altered, in spite of any conflicts, by executive and legislative action alone. So, again, it’s another way that the pure democracy process can lead to some very undemocratic process being required to pick up the pieces that fall out from any unintended consequences.
As is all direct democracy. The initiative process, however, does have some due process. First lets get some terms straight:
A referendum, the vehicle George complained about, originates in the legislature. Referendums were intended to resolve legislative impasse. Today the process is abused by the legislature to circumvent the super majority approval requirement for new taxes.
An initiative, which George didn't complain about, originates from the people and was designed to redress legislative or executive tyranny. Within the last 30 years, the initiative process has been abused, principally by the executive, in an attempt to raise taxes through a simple majority. The initiative process does have one limitation on abuse. Money. It costs several million dollars to secure the necessary signatures for ballot approval.
Several changes would help the process:
1) A referendum couldn't appear on the ballot without the approval of the executive.
2) The State of California should be required to pay all elections costs when a referendum appears on the ballot.
3) Any measure, referendum or initiative, whose cost is estimated to exceed 0.5% of current, General Fund expenditure should require super-majority approval.
I'd suggest some homework before entering the fray.
Federalizing the expense of public education in California occurred several years before Prop 13. Prop 13 was the result of a process in which the state government obtained a larger role in financing and policy for K-12 education, not its direct or indirect cause
That the state referendum process has contributed substantially to the cluster-misunderstanding that is the California budget seems hard to dismiss.
The only project in the U.S. bigger than the L.A. school building project is the Big Dig in Boston.
Look, I agree with much of what you said. There’s still billions of dollars in bonds being approved just about every election. One, two, three, five, billion, it all adds up. Then we spend decades paying them off and voting for more.
Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the clarification on terms and agree with your suggested improvements.