A Modest Proposal or Eight

This may not matter to anyone who doesn't live in California, but we've got an election coming up. It's a "special" election where California voters will vote on Governor Schwarzeneggar's many propositions. I still can't say (or type) "Governor Schwarzeneggar" with a straight face.

So here's my thoughts on the propositions: Screw 'em all. Well, screw seven of the eight, one of them is actually pretty important. Of the remaining seven, six of them I disagree with enough not to vote for them under any circumstances, though five of those six I'd vote against regardless of my opinions on them.
I promise, this will all make sense in a moment.

You see, I believe there's two main problems with California politics: The Proposition system and the budget system. This election is primarily about propositions, but the two issues are fundamentally interrelated so they need to be discussed together.

The problem with ballot initiatives (which come in the form of propositions) is that they are, for all intents and purposes, amendments to the state constitution. (Before I get too far, I should mention that my opinion on this matter is largely formed from a post by Kevin Drum, the California-based blogger for Washington Monthly). They were originally created to solve a thorny political problem: There are certain potential laws that may have broad public support but a state legislature won't tend to pass, principally laws that make life harder for the legislators themselves. So how do you get those laws passed? By taking it to the voters, by passing the traditional legislation process. And of course, once passed, they can only be modified or rescinded via another election (or judicial intervention), not by the legislature.

That's all well and good except that ballot initiatives have become the primary method of legislation in this state. Most of these initiatives cost money, which ends up tying up our state budget to the point where there is little left over for actual governance. And even worse, the original voter-driven, grassroots principles behind the ballot initiative system no longer exists thanks to the enormous cost of getting one of them on the budget. Propositions are the way special interests from all sides get what they want. Adding three or four more costly amendments to the state constitution every election entirely defeats the purpose of even having a constitution, and ends up wasting billions of dollars.
In other words, if a given proposition turns out to be a very bad idea, we're more or less stuck with it. Sacramento needs to be able to fix laws that suck. So, out of principle, my opinion is to assume I'm voting "no" on any Proposition unless it not only is an issue I support with a clear benefit to the state, but that it's an issue that is worthy of amending the state constitution over. So in my opinion, only one of the proposed amendments meets that criteria.