Michael Walch

Initiatives trample rights, Justice Moreno says

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 16 February, 2010

Here is the SF Chronicle article.

Finally, someone from within has pointed out that the initiative system in California is a disaster.  In California anyone (with enough money and a few thousand signatures – in a state of 36 million) can put anything on the ballot for a simple majority vote.  If it passes, it is an Amendment to the State Constitution.  The gay marriage battle (Prop 22, now Prop 8, among others) has highlighted that the state constitution is up for sale by way of advertising budgets.  Beyond individual rights, the state of California has had growing budget shortfalls ever since the passage of Prop 13, which slashed property taxes and crippled budgets at every scale (municipal, county, and state).

Constitutional Law is a very specialized field of both the academic and professional practice of law – not to be crafted by amateurs and voted on by the populace at large.  Rights cannot be voted on.  Their strength is in their unpopularity (interracial marriage, segregation, abortion), their cost to business (minimum wage and working conditions) and individuals (taxes), but in long-term and often intangible ways they reward us with a more equitable, productive society (I don’t have a reference off the top of my head but these are generally correlated), and provide for our health, safety and welfare.  The value of these is difficult to define in dollars, but as they are largely intangible, I suspect they are invaluable.