California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a measure that would have severely limited the ability of wealthy activists and corporations to use paid signature gatherers to get initiatives on the ballot. The measure, Assembly Bill 857, would have required 10 percent of signatures for any given ballot initiative to be collected by volunteers, rather than by paid signature gatherers. The number of signatures supporters need to turn in is based on the number of votes in the last gubernatorial election; that means groups would have to rely on volunteers to gather a little more than 50,000 of the 504,760 valid signatures required to get an initiative on the ballot. “The initiative process is far from perfect and monied interests have historically manipulated it at will,” Brown wrote [pdf] in a veto message. “Requiring a specific threshold of signatures to be gathered by volunteers will not stop abuses by narrow special interests — particularly if ‘volunteer’ is defined with broad exemptions as in this bill.”
Those exemptions included employees or members of nonprofit organizations, who could be considered volunteers. That provision, the bill’s opponents say, allows unions to count signatures collected by their members as volunteer-collected, giving labor organizations an advantage in qualifying ballot measures.
As the number of required signatures has grown, so has reliance on paid signature gatherers. Deep-pocketed interests, whether business groups or wealthy individuals that fund the signature drives, frequently pay $5 or more for every signature a gatherer turns in. And because many signatures turn out to be invalid, strategists backing a given initiative routinely strive to turn in hundreds of thousands of extra signatures; simply paying the signature gatherers can cost $3 million to $4 million, or more, even before a traditional campaign begins.
Full Article: Brown nixes Democrats-friendly initiative reform measure.