The General Election ballot in 2016 is likely to have more statewide ballot measures on it than California voters have seen in a long time. The main reason for this is that the number of signatures needed in order to qualify a statutory measure or even a constitutional amendment have plummeted with the pathetically low turnout in last month’s election (the signature requirement is 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election).
To be specific, it previously took 504,760 valid signatures to place a statutory initiative on the ballot. It will now take less than 370,000. For a constitutional amendment, the number has dropped from 807,615 to less than 590,000. A couple of years ago, a law was signed that requires that all measures placed on the ballot by signature petitions must appear on the November-not the June-ballot.
Below are the top ten measures most likely to appear on the November, 2016 ballot:
PLASTIC GROCERY BAG BAN — In a naked profit grab supported by the California Grocers Association, the legislature passed and Governor Brown signed into law a bill that would ban single-use plastic grocery bags and would mandate that stores charge at least ten cents for every paper bag given to a customer. This paper bag fee puts hundreds of millions of dollars of profits straight into the pockets of grocery store owners. A coalition representing plastic bag manufacturers is currently gathering signatures to refer this bill to the voters.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA — In 1996, California voters passed a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana. Now the push is on to put another measure before Golden State voters that would decriminalize recreational marijuana use and regulate it, much the same way that alcohol use is currently regulated. Similar measures have recently passed in a handful of other states, and advocates are already targeting California.
PROP. 30 EXTENSION — In 2012, at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, California voters approved a significant increase in sales and income taxes in California. It was sold to voters as needed to fund California schools, although money from these tax increases has been spent much more broadly. It is virtually certain that a “renewal” of this tax hike package will be placed on the ballot by Governor Brown.
OIL SEVERANCE TAX — Billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has, on many occasions, talked about his desire to see California impose an oil extraction tax — taxing oil companies on each barrel of oil extracted from the ground. Steyer calls the absence of such a tax in California a “loophole” that he thinks should be closed. Of course someone of Steyer’s means could easily hire the paid signature gatherers to put this on the November ballot.
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY TAX — California’s landmark property tax reform measure, Proposition 13, passed in 1978, limits reassessment of property values to when properties change ownership. Those seeking to increase state revenues are advocating placing what is called a “split roll tax” before the voters, which in essence would keep the tight restrictions on residential property taxation but really make it a lot easier to increase taxes on commercial properties.
BATHROOM BILL — In 2013 a law was signed, referred to as the transgendered bathroom bill, that would have allowed students to play on gender-segregated school sporting teams, or use bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their biological gender. An attempt to refer this bill to voters fell short – barely. But the signatures gathered were well above what would be needed to place a measure on the ballot in 2016.
PENSION REFORM — Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed led a coalition of folks who were looking at putting potential significant public sector pension reforms on the ballot this year, but they ended up holding off for 2016. Both the lower signature threshold and the growing magnitude of the combined unfunded public employee pension liabilities at both the state and local level make it extremely likely that Reed puts this reform up in 2016.
GAY MARRIAGE — In 2008, by a 53%-47% margin, voters passed Proposition 8, which stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Public opinion has shifted away from this definition in the last eight years and, while Prop. 8 was invalidated by the courts, look for gay rights activists to place something on the ballot next go-around to make sure that the people have a chance to state their collective opinion on same-sex marriage.
Yes, the 2016 ballot will keep voters busy and be a full-employment act for political consultants.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.