POLITICS

Voters in California may have a chance to ban government unions in 2022 – Reason.com


In the heat of the withdrawal election, California progressives have been hyperventilating the supposed horrors of a direct-democratic process enshrined in our state’s constitution since the early 1900s. It was then that Government Hiram Johnson introduced withdrawals, referendums and initiatives to give the people a chance to destroy special interests.

It is always dangerous to make long-term drastic changes in response to short-term political frustration. As it turned out, Governor Gavin Newsum survived the withdrawal vote by a huge margin of votes. The system worked according to purpose. A measure that qualifies for the ballot does not mean that most voters will necessarily approve of it.

Fortunately, Newsom worked sensitively in the wake of his victory. He vetoed the law last week by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Anaheim), who was recalled from office in 2018 and still wants to change the rules. Senate Bill 60 prohibits campaigns (for remembrances, initiatives, and referendums) to pay signature collectors on a per-signature basis.

Newsom rightly noted that the bill “would make the eligibility of many enterprises cost-prohibitive for all except the rich, which would have the opposite effect.” It would have damaged our direct democracy, which despite its flaws, the government is the best test for our government overseers.

We learned last week of two new ballot systems for the 2022 ballot that embody the spirit of the official Johnson. They are certainly long-lasting অন্যতম but one of the most interesting aspects of the enterprise process is that it enables government outsiders to include ideas out of the box in the agenda. Collecting enough signatures to cast ballots and win a majority of voters is undoubtedly an expensive process.

In the process, though, Californians can debate ideas that legislators have ignored. The first proposal would prohibit joint bargaining for government employees. The second measure will require 2 percent of the state’s general fund revenue each year to fund water projects until the state collects an additional 5 million acre-feet of available water supply.

The union-related initiative’s official statement explained, “After the legislature approved the joint negotiation by the government employees’ union, government employment costs, including pensions and lifelong health benefits run by taxpayers, have exploded.”

It is based on an accurate description, extensive news coverage and audits of public schools, law enforcement agencies and state administrative bodies. Public-sector unions are the biggest obstacle to improving the public service because of their interest in maintaining stability, even in the case of the most modest reforms.

Teacher unions seek to undermine educational options such as charter schools and protect tenure and other employee protections that make it impossible to dismiss bad teachers or reward good ones. Police unions perform the same task for their members. The annoying impact on the quality of public service in the state is immense.

A spokesman for Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper. “If you go back to 1976, the unions weren’t involved in the negotiations, and the results were great. California K-12 was No. 1 in education and No. 1 as a place to do business,” he told me via email. “Now, since the unions have been involved, California has dropped to No. 47 in terms of education and finally … as a place to do business.”

He is right, but it will be difficult to take all the major unions in the state at once. Draper was a proponent of a 2014 initiative that divided California into six states. It never got off the ground, but it was a great thought test. If nothing else, Californians are talking about shortchanging less populated areas of the state in our current politics, which concentrates power in two mega-metropolitan areas.

The water initiative is less controversial than Draper’s notion that drought is a major concern among voters. It is already building support. For example, the board of directors of the Orange County Water District voted 8-2 last week to support it. It even has democratic legal supporters.

California has built little water infrastructure since the 1970s, when our population was about half its current size. It is better to finance such projects through revenue bonds than to spend general funds, but water under the bridge. We need to do something to ensure adequate water supply in the future – rather than resigning ourselves to rationing.

Just then, the Sierra Club blasted the initiative by telling OCWD that it would work better towards “increasing conservation, storm-water capture … leak repair and replacement of old pipes” and other green projects. Yet such projects – they are fine, but no one will increase the supply admirably – can easily grab funds under the guidelines of the enterprise.

A strong enterprise process does not guarantee that the state will rein in the power of public-private unions or build its water infrastructure, but at least ultimately the decision will be made by the people.

This column was first published in The Orange County Register.



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