Sunday, October 23, 2016

17 Referendums in California

California has 38 million people, more than the whole of Canada, and is considered to be the 5th biggest economy in the world. Its median family income is some $61,000, above average within the States. It is also very complex with more Latin Americans than whites living there, according to the Economist Magazine of Oct. 15
And it will be having some 17 referendums to be voted upon by the citizens at the upcoming federal election on Nov. 9. That is apparently about average there for even-numbered years since 1996. All this is readily researched via Google in a setting called “ballotpedia”.
One referendum proposal for a $!5.00 minimum wage was withdrawn by the advocates after the Calif. state legislature passed a law raising such wage to such level by 2022. Support and opposition for all of the ones on the ballot varies considerably, of course, but monies expended for and against are kept track of, as one can see in the following paragraph.
The issues that the California electors will vote on are very varied. They include marijuana permission (of which some $18 million has thus far been raised in support and $2 million contra); gun control; healthcare and drug prices; plastic bags (of which $4million has been raised in support and $6 million contra); repealing or altering the death penalty ($9 million in support against $13 million opposed); increase of tobacco taxes, (for $30 million, against $66 million); new expenditures that cost over $2 billion, (monies in favour - $6 million , opposed $12 million); bilingual education in public schools (of which $4 million has been raised in favour ). This latter question is also fully referred to in the said Economist magazine – and fully supported by it.
Fifteen have been inserted after citizen initiative and acquisition of the required number of supporters, and two were by legislative request.
In California, before being allowed upon the ballot, one needs to obtain 585,000 signatures within 180 days after approval of the ballot wording by the AG's dept. , and that must also be prior to a deadline, which this year is July 8. The 180 days start from when the AG completes a review of the wording – and provides a title, and allows for 30 days of the proposing citizens to review.
The number of supporters required this year (585,000) for insertion upon the ballot is 5% of those who last voted for governor.
Over 100 initiatives were filed altogether, in time to potentially qualify (but only15 “made it”) .
And just how many such democratically driven, citizen approved, or otherwise, referendums will be voted upon during the next few years in any province or indeed the country of Canada – likely, nil. Although some of you may argue that surely if our federal government wants to alter the way we have voted in its general elections for the past 100 years – surely that will be approved or otherwise, only if it submits the question to a citizen referendum process?
Anyhow, it is clear that many difficult issues are being decided in some states of the US by the people – not only by the elected representatives; - a better form of democracy, surely; and it certainly seems to be working in the very successful, complicated state of California. And they do appear more frequently in the news these days, all over the world, don't they?

 However, in Australia recently, a bill which would have referred a decision on gay marriage, to a national referendum was blocked by opposition MP's because they thought it would be costly and incite homophobia. So, - it is not an appealing idea everywhere yet, not just in Canada, is it?

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