“As usual, money prevailed over populism when it came to California initiatives. The cause celebres of the election from the left (Prop. 10, to expand rent control) and the right (Prop. 6, to repeal the gas tax) went down to defeat, with heavy spending against each.
Meanwhile, money also prevailed in two narrow-interest fights that simply did not belong on the ballot. Ambulance companies spent big to push through Prop. 11, which effectively shields themselves against worker lawsuits; and dialysis providers saturated the airways to beat back Prop. 8, a union effort to curtail profits.
On the bright side, voters saw through a sleazy scheme in which the promoter of an $8.9 billion water bond collected campaign contributions from various entities that stood to receive a cut of the proceeds — including projects that are supposed to be self-funded by beneficiaries. Prop. 3 was rejected.
There were serious flaws with each of those initiatives, and our editorial board had recommended defeat of each. Still, Propositions 6 and 10 were perhaps the most straightforward and in the spirit of California’s direct democracy established in 1911 to give the citizenry the ability to step in where the Legislature failed to act.
Propositions 3, 8 and 11 represented an exploitation of that process.
It’s no wonder many Californians who opened their ballots were asking themselves: Why do I need to decide this?
Opinion polls consistently show that a solid majority of voters want to keep the initiative process, even if they are sometimes frustrated by the length and complexity of ballots. So wholesale reform is unlikely. But remember to read the fine print before signing that petition.”