Touching the Third Rail: The California Initiative Process, Proposition 13, and the Effort to Fix It

In October 1911, shortly after California progressive Hiram Johnson’s landslide gubernatorial win,[1] voters in a special election passed several measures, among them a state constitutional amendment establishing the California initiative process, giving voters the right to enact legislation.[2] The initiative, referendum, and recall[3] provide the voters equal power to the legislative branch, effectively creating a “fourth branch” of government.[4] The progressive (and some argue populist[5]) movement towards direct democracy measures in several states in the early 20th century intended to satisfy popular demand to wrangle power from entrenched monopolies and “special interests.”[6] However, the next century’s political development showed that direct democracy, and the initiative in particular, has moved well beyond its original intent, to the point that it has often overwhelmed the governing process it was designed to monitor.


Read the rest of the article on the Contra Costa County Bar Association Website.