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Special interests win as lawmakers cut last-minute deals to pull initiatives off your ballot

June 30, 2018

By Laurel Rosenhall : calmetters – excerpt (includes audio track)

In a frenzy of Capitol wheeling and dealing this week, California legislators worked to pass new laws that will shorten your November ballot—by placating moneyed interests.

An optimist might cheer the fact that lawmakers were doing their jobs instead of punting to the voters to decide complicated policy questions via a slew of initiatives. Others might label it legal extortion.

Whatever you call it, in one day on Thursday, proponents of three initiatives abruptly pulled their measures off the ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two hastily-written laws, and legislators promised to keep negotiating toward a deal to enact a third…

  • The soda industry won a new law that places a 13-year ban on new soda taxes—a concession it extracted after qualifying a ballot initiative that would have raised the threshold for passing all local taxes.
  • Tech companies breathed a sigh of relief with passage of a new law that expands some internet privacy safeguards but allows them to keep lobbying to change it—because they feared voters would approve a qualified ballot initiative that would have gone further, and been harder to undo in the future.
  • Lead paint companies, accepting a promise from legislative leaders to continue negotiations, withdrew their initiative designed to get them out of hundreds of millions of dollars in liability that courts have slapped on them for knowingly selling a toxic product.

It was an unusual burst of activity, not only because so much happened so quickly, but also because lawmakers resolved issues they had previously shown little inclination to tackle…

One initiative that interest groups tried but failed to rescue from your November ballot? The repeal of Costa Hawkins, the landmark 1995 law that restricts rent control up and down the state. On the latest episode of our housing podcast Gimme Shelter, data journalist Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon ask landlord and tenant leaders why a deal has proven so elusive… (more)

This is the legacy that Governor Brown is leaving in California. His final acts in office should be noted for the level of corporate control he is succumbing to as he walks out of the Capital. He leaves in his wake a collection of laws and decisions that have removed local power from local governments, and a system that is failing many residents of the state.


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