The Consequences of Horribly-Written Initiatives

The Governor’s twin Delta tunnel initiative has provoked a lot of reaction from both supporters and opponents.  The most extreme reaction comes from Dean Cortopassi, a Stockton farmer who promptly spent more than $4 million to qualify an initiative on the November 2016 ballot, deceptively named the “No Blank Checks” initiative.  This initiative requires a public vote before state revenue bond projects of more than $2 billion can be approved.  Revenue bonds are different than general obligation bonds, which already require voter approval.  Revenue bonds generally don’t require voter approval because they are tied to very specific revenue streams for repayment, like water bills.

The San Jose Mercury News just published an editorial on this initiative, and it is brutal.  The Merc makes it clear that while they oppose the Governor’s Delta tunnel plan, calling this initiative “a really bad idea” is “an understatement”.  Among their criticisms of the initiative:

  • They quote the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office’s review: “…it is unclear how certain provisions of the measure would be interpreted by government agencies and the courts, which could affect the number of projects subject to the measure’s voter requirements“.
  • Some think emergency projects after floods or an earthquake might be delayed unconscionably by the need for a vote“.
  • Voters shouldn’t lock into law any proposition leaving this much uncertainty“.
  • Lack of clarity makes this measure a prime example of why laws are best vetted in the Legislature“.
  • The measure is “broadly subject to interpretation – which is all you need to tie up urgently needed projects in costly litigation“.

Wow.  Does this sound really, really familiar to anyone?

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