The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 30, 2013

States left wondering about future initiatives

(Continued)

Although Republican Gov. Pete Wilson appealed the decision, his successor, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, was able to void much of the measure by reaching a settlement with civil rights groups in 1999.

Good-government groups, state lawmakers and others have called for changes in initiative rules in recent years, saying the procedures lead to poorly drafted laws and empower the same special interests the system was supposed to circumvent.

Brown used an initiative last year to obtain temporary tax increases. The Legislature and governor can raise taxes on their own, but Brown promised when he ran for governor that he would let voters decide. Unable to persuade Republican lawmakers to help him put the question on the ballot, he and his supporters collected petitions to place it there.

Activists are already lining up support for initiatives for next year, including proposals for new taxes on oil extraction and tobacco and one to reduce public funds in political campaigns.

Justin Levitt, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Marymount University, said California’s penchant for initiatives can withstand the Proposition 8 decision, even as it might tweak the balance of power between voters and elected officials.

“It provides for one more check on the initiative process,” Levitt said, “and that is to have a state official … decide how vigorously to defend on appeal. That still leaves a pretty powerful initiative process.”

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