The people who ask for your signature on some petitions may face new regulations involving their training and truthfulness.
Assembly member Isaac Bryan, a Democrat representing Los Angeles, says some referendum petition circulators misrepresent what their petitions would do and who they work for. He’s introducing a bill that seeks to address those issues.
If passed, the bill would require campaigns to disclose key information on the front page of the referendum petitions, like a summary of the measure and the names of its top three donors, in an effort to increase transparency.
It would also introduce additional government oversight in the signature-collection process: Paid signature gatherers would be required to register and take training courses with the Secretary of State’s office. And at least 10% of signature gathering efforts would have to be done by volunteers.
“What this bill will do is remove some of the paid signature gathering incentives and for actual volunteers — actual people who care about the issues — to go out and convince other people to care about the issues, the way the referendum and ballot process was intended,” Bryan said at a press conference on Monday.
If passed, the new rules would be applied to both referendum efforts and other petitions to change recently-passed state legislation.
The bill has support from labor unions, environmental groups and state social justice organizations. Leaders of these organizations were present at Monday’s press conference, and pointed at two referendums slated for the Nov. 2024 ballot: One sponsored by a group of restaurant business organizations, and the other sponsored by a group of oil and gas industry leaders. Both referendums seek to block recently-passed laws that would have tightened regulations in their respective industries.
“Direct democracy tools like the referendum process were created to help communities break up corporations’ stranglehold on power in California, but the opposite has actually been true in recent years,” Melissa Romera of California Environmental Voters said of SB 1137, one of the new laws on hold. “Megacorporations are abusing this tool to overturn laws that the environmental justice movement has fought for, and we are sick and tired of our lives and our future being the target.”
Though it was just introduced on Monday, the bill has already garnered some opposition.
“This is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise Californians [and] help out partisan special interest backers,” said Tom Lackey, a Republican representing the Bakersfield area, wrote in a tweet. “As Elections [committee] vice-chair, I will be voting no.”
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