Prop 23, climate change, and California’s broken proposition system

(From my latest article for CAIVN)

Proposition 23, which will be on the California ballot in November, seeks to effectively abolish the landmark AB32 bill. Also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32 passed in 2006 and was strongly supported by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

“Follow the money” is always good advice in politics. So far, and it’s still early in the campaign, millions of dollars have been raised by the pro- and anti-forces. Prop 23 was sponsored by two oil companies, Tesoro and Valero Energy. They ponied up $3.3 million to get it on the ballot. Much of the money went for paying for signatures.

If the proposition process is supposed to be about citizen democracy, then paying signature gatherers to get people to sign the petition is contrary to the stated goal of grassroots citizen participation. Sometimes they are paid several dollars per signature and have no particular interest in the issue. In my view, the system needs to be amended so that petition gatherers are unpaid.

Deep-pocketed environmental groups are also contributing heavily, with the Natural Resources Defense Council alone giving almost one million. PG&E also opposes it. “I expect this to be the most expensive initiative on the November ballot,” says an expert on initiatives, with many more millions expected to flow in.

Again, how is this about citizen democracy? Two corporations with a vested interest fund a proposition and other corporations, special interest groups, and PACs fund the opposition.

Our growing problem is that the citizen is nowhere to be seen in this process. Clearly, the California proposition process is so gamed and compromised that the original (and noble) goal of giving ordinary citizens a way to directly influence government is long gone and absent. Instead, we have well-funded special interests paying for the version of democracy they want to have implemented.

That’s hardly democracy at all. And the grassroots are nowhere to be seen.

Read the whole article.

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