FROM: Kim Alexander
DATE: June 10, 1999
RE: Will multiple reform measures appear on March 2000 ballot?
Will the March 2000 Primary be a repeat of California's 1996 and 1988 elections, when two competing campaign finance reform initiatives were put before voters? That's how things are shaping up, as multiple efforts are developing to address a variety of complex governance issues, covering campaign finance, the redistricting process, and legislative salaries. Here's a run-down on what's happening:
UNZ/MILLER INITIATIVE. Ron Unz, author of Prop. 227, an initiative voters passed last year to end bilingual education in California's public schools, and Tony Miller, former Acting California Secretary of State and Prop. 208 proponent, have teamed up to put together a set of initiatives aiming to reduce the influence of money in California politics.
In an attempt to forge strategic political alliances, and with drafting assistance from the staff at the Center for Governmental Studies, Unz and Miller have created a package of four initiatives and took an "a la carte" approach to the process, in the words of veteran Capitol reporter Steve Scott. In an April news story for Statenet, Scott wrote:
"Employing a strategy that experienced initiative hands concede is unconventional, Unz's campaign finance reform measure...is actually four different measures. 'Plan A' is the full version, including matching funds, contribution limits, disclosure modifications, abolition of the salary commission for elected officials and establishment of a commission of retired judges to conduct redistricting of legislative and congressional boundaries. Plans B, C and D are variations on the theme, with each omitting a different element of the plan."
I have been told that at this time, Unz/Miller are only circulating Plan D, which includes just the core campaign finance measures (dubbed the "California Voters Bill of Rights Act"), leaving out redistricting and the salary commission. Unz has been trying to attract Republican support for campaign finance reform by including the redistricting provisions, since Republicans in California and Washington D.C. are fearful that the Democrats, who control both houses of the California Legislature as well as the Governor's seat, will create and adopt new districts that give a strong advantage to Democrats over Republicans.
TED COSTA'S INITIATIVE. But so far, despite Unz's efforts, the Republicans aren't biting, and California's 24 Republican congressmen voted in early June to instead support a competing reform/redistricting initiative, authored by Edward J. "Ted" Costa of the People's Advocate, a Sacramento-based nonprofit originally founded by Paul Gann, co-author of Prop. 13. Dubbed "Let the Voters Decide Act of 2000" by proponents, Costa's measure, in addition to taking redistricting out of the Legislature's hands and placing it under the jurisdiction of the California Supreme Court, would also reduce legislative salaries and "per diem" travel expenses, and requires forfeiture of legislators' compensation if the state budget isn't passed by the June 15th constitutional deadline.
Those of you tracking initiatives on the Secretary of State's web site may have noticed that Costa has also taken the "a la carte" approach to the initiative process, and, like Unz, drafted four different measures, each with different components. Costa told me that the Republicans chose to support the one measure that does not feature campaign finance restrictions. Costa is expecting to receive financial backing from the Republicans for his initiative, and is aiming to submit petition signatures by August 20th so that it qualifies in time for the March 2000 ballot.
SPERAW INITIATIVE. But wait, there's more: Yet another redistricting initiative, proposed by former Republican State Senator Ollie Speraw, who represented a southern California district, is also in circulation. What distinguishes Speraw's initiative from either Costa's or Unz/Miller is that it deals solely with redistricting, leaving out any "sweeteners" designed to attract extra support, such as campaign finance restrictions or legislative salary reductions.
DEBRA BOWEN'S BILL. Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, State Senator Debra Bowen introduced SB 1169, dubbed the "Campaign Financing Reform Act of 2000". This bill, if passed by the legislature AND the voters, would impose contribution limits, spending limits, and establish a public financing fund supported by voluntary contributions from California taxpayers. Bowen's bill had stalled in Senate Appropriations, but this week the committee waived its rules and allowed Bowen's bill to proceed to the Senate Floor for a vote. SB 1169 is nearly identical to another bill Bowen authored in 1994, which was vetoed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson. Capitol observers are wondering whether Bowen's bill now has a better chance of getting Democratic Governor Gray Davis' signature, especially with the Unz/Miller initiative in circulation and standing a good chance of qualifying for the March 2000 ballot, since Unz is reportedly prepared to spend at least $750,000 of his own money on the effort.
HISTORY REPEATS? The situation today is similar to 1988, when California Common Cause was advancing Prop. 68, a campaign finance reform initiative that included public financing. In response, several lawmakers authored Prop. 73, a competing initiative that prohibited public financing. (Though both measures passed, Prop. 73 got more votes and was enacted, only later to be mostly invalidated following a court challenge.) However, there is one major difference: both the Unz/Miller initiative and Bowen's SB 1169 contain public financing provisions, so no matter which measure voters pass, assuming either gets on the ballot, it is quite possible that California voters will enact public financing next March.
California voters again faced competing campaign reform initiatives in 1996, when Common Cause and others sponsored Prop. 208, while CalPIRG and others put forward Prop. 212. In that election, Prop. 208 passed and was briefly in effect, but the measure's contribution limits were later invalidated following a court challenge, on the grounds that they were too low.
And speaking of California Common Cause...the campaign finance reform organization is neutral on the Bowen bill, but Executive Director Jim Knox tells me they are generally supportive of the Legislature's efforts to put this issue before the voters. Knox also says his group made a commitment some time ago to pursue a public financing measure in November 2000, and at this time are still committed to this plan, but that could change, depending on whether they decide to take a position on the Unz/Miller initiative.
INTERNET DISCLOSURE. One final point I'd like to clarify about the Unz/Miller initiative: while the measure does include some Internet disclosure provisions, it does not mandate electronic filing. That reform was accomplished in 1997, when the California Legislature enacted the Online Disclosure Act. What the Unz/Miller initiative would do is modify disclosure deadlines so that contributions of $1,000 must be disclosed immediately on the Internet. While this is already essentially the law for late contributions, it would result in more timely online disclosure of all major donations, and not just those made in the final two weeks of the election. The Unz/Miller initiative also features other new disclosure provisions, such as requiring all political campaigns to make copies of their print and broadcast advertisements available on the Internet, and requiring the word and symbols "$PAID$" to accompany the names of any candidates who are paying a fee to appear on a slate mailer, which are those voter guides and post cards that flood our mailboxes at election time. Both of these provisions are new and untested, and, if recent history is any indication, would likely be susceptible to First Amendment challenges.
MORE INFO ON THE WEB. At this point, it looks like the March 2000 ballot is likely to feature several, potentially competing governance reform ballot measures. The California Voter Foundation will continue to monitor these efforts, and keep CVF-NEWS subscribers posted on the latest developments. Meanwhile, check out these web sites for further details:
* Unz/Miller Initiative: http://www.fairvote2000.org
* Costa Initiative: http://www.peoplesadvocate.org
* Secretary of State's Ballot Measure Status page:
* Bowen's bill info:
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