A recall effort against a state legislator from Southern California raises new questions about the state’s extensive use of direct democracy.
One of them is our Question of the Week: Are California voters asked to decide too much, or too little?
The issue of the moment involves Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who is being targeted by a signature-gathering campaign that could force a recall election.
Recall supporters say they want to remove Newman from office because of the first-term senator’s April 6 vote in favor of increases on gas and diesel fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to fund overdue repairs to highways and bridges. The increases passed both houses of the Legislature and were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Newman supporters say the recall is a purely political bid to defeat a duly elected representative, an attempt by Republicans to chip away at Democrats’ two-thirds hold on both houses of the Legislature, a so-called supermajority that allows liberals to pass tax increases without GOP support.
Pushing back, Democrats last week passed a bill to change the rules for recalls, allowing 30 days for petition signers to withdraw support and requiring more extensive signature verification. This could delay recall elections, probably until the next regularly scheduled elections. The higher turnout at those elections could favor Democrats.
Would the recall rule changes weaken or strengthen the public’s political power?
Is a recall effort like this a good or bad use of direct democracy?
Voters generally have more direct power in California than elsewhere thanks to the state’s 106-year-old system of ballot initiatives. The Nov. 8, 2016 state ballot featured 17 proposed laws.
Is it good that the public can bypass elected officials and change laws directly? Should voters have more say on things like major tax increases? Or is it legislators’ job to make laws and set taxes?
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