Since 1911, California has allowed ordinary citizens to create statutory and constitutional law via initiatives, referenda, and recall elections. This cherished exercise in direct democracy was originally established as a way for citizens to work around legislatures that were heavily corrupted by wealthy special interests. Unfortunately, after more than 100 years without any upkeep or maintenance, Californians agreed that the initiative process system needed help.
As a result, California Common Cause brought together a broad group of organizations from across the political spectrum that use and are directly impacted by the initiative process to identify problems and make recommendations for improvement.
The resulting legislation was the Ballot Initiative Transparency Act (SB 1253 - Steinberg), which gives voters more accessible information about who is behind each initiative, ensures that Voter Guides are easily understood, and allows for legal flaws to be corrected before an initiative appears on the ballot. In September 2014, Governor Brown signed into law this landmark legislation that modernized California’s initiative process. Now, the state’s initiative process is more easily accessible and transparent to the average voter.
SB 1253 was a huge win for California voters! And in the future, we hope to continue the progress we've made to create a more transparent and clear initiative system. Stay tuned for upcoming campaigns and legislation.