The people don't need no stinking badges
In the government-by-initiative atmosphere that prevails in California, everyone who can afford to pay signature gatherers loves to talk about "the will of the people" and the wonders of direct democracy.
Anybody familiar with the process knows better. Perhaps it helps to have an initiative with popular appeal that can be summarized in a bumper sticker slogan to attract passers-by to a card table set up in a WalMart parking lot, but what matters most is whether someone's got the money to pay bounty hunters to cajole voters into signing.
That little secret will remain well kept, following a veto last night by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He nixed a bill by Assemblyman Joe Nation that would have required paid signature gatherers to wear a button indentifying themselves as such. Be assured that a button would be a turnoff to a bounty hunter's potential targets.
Schwarzenegger's veto message follows:
"I am returning AB 738 without my signature. This bill requires an individual who is paid to collect signatures on any state or local initiative, referendum or petition to wear a badge stating 'Paid Signature Gatherer.'
"I agree with Governor Davis and Governor Wilson, who returned similar measures without their signature, that this bill is unnecessary. Under existing law, petitions must contain the following notice in 12 point type: NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC - THIS PETITION IS BEING CIRCULATED BY A PAID SIGNATURE GATHERER OR A VOLUNTEER. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK.
"I see no compelling reason to change existing law."
“I am dismayed the governor decided to veto a voter-oriented, good-government piece of legislation. However, I understand this bill would have adversely affected his govern-by-initiative approach by forcing paid signature gatherers to reveal their true identity to voters.
“I believe the public deserves a realistic perspective concerning paid circulators and their ability to accurately represent specific issues to voters. I am disheartened that the governor doesn’t agree.”
So the fiction that initiatives are about anything other than the money behind them will go on...