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Initiative Sponsors: Perfection Required

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As new initiatives have been filed in recent weeks with the state attorney general, the sponsors of these measures have come under criticism -- not as much for what the initiatives propose but for the people making the proposals.

One frequent criticism: the initiative sponsors are rich.

They are wealthy unions or cororations. Or they are billionaires in some cases. And why should rich people come down and impose their policy preferences?

The criticism is unsurprising, but it misses the point.

The problem with initiative sponsors in California isn't that they're rich.

The problem with initiative sponsors in California is that they aren't perfect.

Because in California, an initiative sponsor must be perfect.

How's that? Unlike in every other state and country with an initiative process, California doesn't permit the legislative body to make fixes or changes to a ballot initiative.

Only the people can make a change. So what the initiative sponsor drafts is what will stand, no matter how poorly drafted.

Of course, initiative sponsors can deal with this problem by including language that permits legislative amendment of their measures. But many of the initiatives recently filed don't include such language. One tax initiative -- an income tax increase to fund education -- makes doubly sure that no problems will be fixed by expressly prohibiting amendment.

If you bother to read initiatives, you should look at the end of the measures to see whether amendment is permitted. And if it isn't, you should understand that the people who wrote this initiative think they are perfect.

Then you might ask yourself if you should trust a measure from people who are so sure of themselves.

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