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A New Push to Reform California Referendum Rules


Good morning and welcome to Essential California Newsletter. Is Tuesday March 21.

There is a new effort underway to change California’s referendum system.

Assemblyman Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is set to introduce legislation this week designed to make it harder for campaigns to mislead voters when circulating petitions to qualify a state referendum.

My colleague Taryn Luna reports:

“The bill marks the latest showdown in a proxy war between workers and business at the state Capitol and could become one of the highest-profile political fights in California this year.”

Bryan said the original intent of the “very old” process has been “subverted by a set of small, disgruntled, well-funded and powerful interests that often undermine the collective will of the people of California.”

That echoes how unions, government watchdogs and environmental activists have spoken out on the election law, which was adopted in 1911. They accused corporations of misleading California voters during the petition-gathering process. and of undermining democracy by using the state’s current referendum rules to delay and sometimes reverse progressive policies.

Bryan’s bill would create greater government oversight of interest groups and paid signature collectors. One provision would require at least 10% of the signatures needed for a referendum to qualify for ballot collection by unpaid volunteers.

Under the bill, paid signature collectors would have to register with the California secretary of state and disclose the ballot measure petitions they intend to present to voters, proponents told Taryn.

As the law is now written, groups seeking a referendum must obtain enough signatures to represent 5% of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election.

Once those signatures are certified by the state, the petition becomes a ballot measure in a subsequent state election, asking voters to strike down a previously passed law with a “yes” vote or uphold it by checking ” No”.

Advocates of state referendums and ballot measures often hire outside companies to collect petition signatures. Often, the workers hired to collect these signatures are paid per signature.

And while it is a crime to intentionally mislead people or make false statements, there isn’t much liability for signature collectors. Union officials have accused the signature collectors of deliberately misleading residents in an effort to get ballot referendums to pass.

The Times spoke to more than a dozen people last year who said that “circulators of ballot measure requests to strike down AB 257 lied to them about what they were signing.”

That state law, which was intended to raise wages and improve conditions for California fast food workers, was opposed by a coalition of fast food corporations and industry trade groups, who used the state’s referendum system to a counterattack.

The new rules were supposed to go into effect on January 1, but the referendum to void it qualified for the 2024 ballot, delaying implementation until California voters decide on the law.

Oil companies used a similar strategy this year, successfully stalling a state ban on some oil drilling until a referendum they backed reaches voters, also in 2024.

Earlier this month, a California judge upheld most of Proposition 22, a ballot measure backed by Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing and delivery companies that struck down part of a 2019 labor law.

“This is a truly disgusting abuse of power, and is an example of one of the ways that corporations currently act as if they are above the law just because of the nature of having enough money to do whatever they want,” Melissa Romero of California Environmental Voters told Taryn. “And the voters are sick of it.”

The reform effort has met with some pushback from the California Chamber of Commerce, Taryn reported this week, with the organization arguing that companies rarely launch campaigns to overturn state laws.

State data from 1912 until this month of March Entertainment groups have tried 96 times in total to get a referendum on the ballot. Of those attempts, 52 qualified for the ballot and were voted on (two are scheduled for the 2024 election). And of those referendums, voters approved 22, roughly 42%.

And now, This is what is happening in California:

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Last-minute negotiations between LAUSD officials and the union representing thousands of non-teaching workers broke down Monday. setting the stage for a three-day strike, starting today — which will close the second largest school district in the US. You can follow our strike coverage here: Los Angeles Times

United Recording studios hold a vital place in music history, home to various artists as they crafted iconic albums, from Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra to Green Day and Kendrick Lamar. But after the recent layoffs and the owner’s announcement of the end of day-to-day operations, the fate of the famous Los Angeles music studio is in limbo. Los Angeles Times

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re looking for a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse group of reporters from the award-winning LA Times newsroom, delivers the hottest stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


An upcoming mandate to require ethnic studies classes for California public high school students has some districts in the state inundated with angry and accusatory emails. Battle lines are forming as educators across the state work to develop curriculum that examines racial issues.to which some parents openly oppose. San Francisco Chronicle

Governor Gavin Newsom hopes the Biden administration can help allow Medi-Cal to cover rent for some Californians. Newsom calls the program “transitional rental” and aims to provide up to six months of rental or temporary housing for people who are homeless and on the brink of homelessness. “I’ve been talking to the president,” the governor told Kaiser Health News. “We can’t do this alone.” Los Angeles Times


Starting in the 1990s, CalPERS began offering retirees long-term care insurance, with the promise that it would not substantially increase rates for certain plans. Then fixed income plan holders saw rates jump 85% in 2012. The retirees sued and now CalPERS is preparing to pay a settlement of approximately $800 million. CalMatters

Two former Torrance police officers linked to racist texting scandal could face criminal charges for shooting and killing a black man in 2018. Documents reviewed by The Times indicate that a grand jury is expected to meet today and begin hearing evidence. Christopher DeAndre Mitchell was sitting in a car and holding an air rifle when he was fatally shot by former officers Anthony Chavez and Matthew Concannon. Los Angeles Times


The COVID-19 emergency in the US will formally end on May 11. Times health and science reporter Melissa Healy eloquently puts that milestone in perspective, writing that it “marks neither victory nor peace” but rather “a cessation of hostilities with a dangerous virus still with us.” . The key question to move forward in a post-pandemic world will be: How immune are we? Los Angeles Times

A huge offshore wind farm is planned off the coast of San Luis Obispo County, but it is unclear what impacts the emerging industry will have on fish, whales and other marine life. Researchers are taking advantage of the noise from the ocean, working to understand as much as they can about marine life before the turbines kick in and start spinning. San Luis Obispo Grandstand


The Girl Scouts have a new cookie, but good luck finding a box.. The organization tried something new with its Raspberry Rally cookie, offering it as an online exclusive. But stock quickly ran out, creating a resale market where boxes that initially sold for $6 sell for as much as $200. I guess I’ll stick with the Samoas. Los Angeles Times

The Golden State has six new entries on the coveted Michelin list of California’s best restaurants. Three are in Los Angeles County, and the others are in Laguna Beach, San Diego, and San Francisco. Los Angeles Times

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from today california landmark is from dick stanley from Walnut Creek: echo lake in El Dorado County.

Take a moment to reflect on this August 2012 photo of Lower Echo Lake.

(Dick Stanley)

Dick writes:

Echo Lake is a magical place – beautiful, uncrowded, not commercialized. Many of the cabins have been there for generations. It has all the wealth of the Sierra Alta: the forests, the granite, the water, the hiking trails. In fact, it is an essential California landmark.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special place in California — natural or man-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Be sure to only include photos taken directly by you. Your presentation may appear in a future issue of the newsletter.

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