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(1) POLL TAX REFERENDUM
The poll tax, long time nemesis of civil-rights advocates, was abolished in the Far West by successful initiative campaigns early in this Century. The first poll-tax repealer passed in Oregon in 1910, another passed in California in 1914, and a third passed in the state of Washington in 1922.
(2) UNICAMBERAL LEGISLATURE
In the 1940's, Nebraska became the first (and still the only) state to change its Constitution to provide for a one-house legislature. Citizens reportedly voted in favor of the change in order to cut costs and inefficiency in their existing legislature.
(3) ELECTION-DAY VOTER REGISTRATION
So-called "instant" voter registration, modeled after a national bill, was passed in 1977 by the Democratically-controlled Ohio State legislature after overriding Republican Governor Rhodes' veto. With leadership from the Republican Party, about a half million signatures were collected to place the issue on the ballot for a November 1977 vote. The people voted by over 60% to repeal the registration law, thus indicating a marked difference between the legislature's action and public attitudes on that issue. The vote in Ohio was considered to have impact on consideration of the instant voter registration bill nationally.
(4) RETURNABLE BOTTLES
The solid waste and litter control problems posed by "throwaway" beverage containers have been addressed in several states via "Bottle Bill" initiatives that require mandatory deposits on soft drink and beer containers. Such a rule has been in effect in Oregon since 1972, and Vermont since 1973, when "Bottle Bills" were passed by the state legislatures. Despite polls showing public support for this law, legislatures in other states failed to enact or, in many cases even seriously consider, Bottle Bills. This was the case in Maine and Michigan until 1976, when voters enacted mandatory deposit container legislation by initiative.
(5) WOMAN SUFFRAGE
Another civil-rights issue of the early decades of the twentieth century was women's voting rights, which voters enacted into law by initiative in Arizona and Oregon in 1912. The Oregon vote was the third woman suffrage initiative to be placed on the ballot in that state in four years; the previous two attempts failed. In 1914, voters approved woman suffrage bills in Montana and Nevada which had been submitted to them by the legislature. Three initiatives on the issue in the same year lost at the polls (in Nebraska, Missouri, and Ohio), but aided the suffragists in the long run by broadening debate on the issue and showing politicians the growing strength of the previously-disregarded movement for equal suffrage for women. Six years later, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which secured those rights nationwide, was ratified.
(6) FAMILY FARM PRESERVATION
In North Dakota in 1932, and all across the country, farmers by the thousands were falling victim to foreclosures on their land by banks and corporations. Responding to this crisis, the North Dakota Farmers' Union petitioned to put an initiative on the ballot to outlaw corporate farming. The measure, which prohibited corporations from engaging in farming unless 75% of their members were farmers who lived on their land, was passed by the voters on June 29, 1932. According to the North Dakota Farmers' Union, it has effectively helped to preserve the family farm in that state.
(7) THE DEATH PENALTY
Since 1970, Washington and California have voted on the death penalty. Both state initiatives were decided in favor of the death penalty, although they were later ruled invalid by a U.S. Supreme Court decision interpreting the Constitutionality of capital punishment.
(8) PRIMARY ELECTIONS
Use of the primary election to choose party nominees for elective office, an accepted practice all over the nation today, received much of its original impetus as a result of the initiative. In 1904 in Oregon, and in 1911 in Maine, voters passed initiative measures giving themselves the right to choose party nominees by primary ballot. The breakthrough for presidential primaries, however, came in 1910 in Oregon, when voters approved an initiative providing for selection of presidential nominees by primary ballot. It was the first law of its kind in the country, and its success in Oregon paved the way for the passage of similar laws in many other states, eventually resulting in the system of presidential primaries in use today.
(9) POLITICAL REFORM
In 1972, voters in the state of Washington approved the first in a series of post-Watergate reform initiatives dealing with campaign finances, lobbying regulations, and conflicts of interest that were to become law in six states over the next four years. In 1974, voters put out an unprecedented mandate for honesty in government by passing similar "political reform" initiatives in Alaska, Idaho, California, and Missouri. And in 1976, yet another "sunshine in government" initiative was passed by Florida voters, marking the first successful use of the initiative in that state since initiative procedures were written into the state constitution in 1968.
(10) NUCLEAR POWER
In California, proponents of a strict “nuclear safeguards" law collected half a million signatures and put an initiative on the ballot. The legislature subsequently held a comprehensive series of hearings on all aspects of nuclear power, and passed three bills on the subject which Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. called "the strongest nuclear safety laws in the country" when he signed them into law just one week before the public vote on the initiative in June, 1976. The intense public debate sparked by the California initiative led to the placement of similar initiatives on the ballot in six other states. None were approved by voters, but the national discussion generated by the initiatives served to increase public awareness of energy problems and policy all across the nation.
Washington State in 1977 approved an initiative to ban most adult book stores and movie theaters.
(12) WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION
In the early decades of this century, workers petitioned to put initiatives on the ballot dealing with subjects such as blacklisting and workmen's compensation. In Arizona in 1914, voters approved a proposal to prohibit blacklisting, which was one of several initiatives on the state ballot that year designed to benefit workers. In Oregon in 1910, an initiative "fixing employers' liability for protection of laborers in hazardous employment" was approved. Also in Oregon, voters passed an initiative limiting the work day on public works projects to eight hours, and in 1913 passed a workmen's compensation act. These benefits, which working people today take for granted, were almost unheard of at the turn of the century.
(13) REPEAL OF SALES TAX ON FOOD
In Michigan in 1974 and Washington State in 1977, citizens used initiative to repeal laws applying the state's sales tax to food. The Michigan initiative was backed by state United Auto Workers, and poverty and consumer organizations. In Washington State, similar organizations were joined by conservatives and taxpayer groups.
(14) COASTAL ZONE CONSERVATION
During the late 1960's, Californians became increasingly concerned about the threats to the coastal environment posed by rapid real estate development
and other man-made projects. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to persuade the legislature to pass a coastal protection bill, conservation and homeowner groups put an initiative on the ballot in 1972. Voters passed the proposal, which was designed to ensure that future coastal development would safeguard the natural features, while allowing increased access to them by the public. Now, more than five years later, the "Coastal Bill" is hailed as one of the most successful conservation laws in the U. S. It has shown that environmental protection can be achieved without economic harm, and is looked to as a model by people seeking to pass similar laws in other seacoast states.
(15) SENIOR CITIZENS' PENSIONS
Voters in many states allowing the initiative process have enacted measures either establishing or liberalizing state-paid pensions for senior citizens. The first on record is the "Old Age and Mother's Pension" initiative which passed in 1914 in Arizona. In 1936, Old Age Pension initiatives were on the ballot in Nevada and Washington state, but both were rejected by voters. Proponents of the initiatives weren't discouraged, however, so they tried again, this time successfully, in Washington in 1940 and Nevada in 1944. It was at this time that the federal government was getting social security under way, after a decade of public pressure for it. Other states where voters passed initiatives to extend benefits to senior citizens include Oregon (1938), Massachusetts (1950), and Idaho (allowances for medical aid, 1944).
(16) CONSUMER CREDIT INTEREST RATES
In Washington state in 1967, the legislature passed a law that fixed the limit on interest charges to be paid on retail installment sales at 18% per year. The bill, which passed by a vote of 48-0 in the State Senate and 84-4 in the State House of Representatives, was not so well received by consumers, many of whom regarded the 18% interest rate as an outrage. Washingtonians petitioned to put an initiative on the ballot to roll back the rate to 12%, and subsequently approved the bill in the November, 1968 election.
[Whereupon, at 12:35 p.m., the subcommittee recessed to reconvene at 10 a.m., Wednesday, December 14, 1977.]
VOTER INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 67
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1977
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, at 10 a.m., in room 2228, Dirksen Senate Office Buildng, Senator James Abourezk (acting chairman of the subcommittee) presiding."
Present: Senator Hatch.
Staff present: Nels Ackerson, chief counsel and executive director; Mary K. Jolly, staff director; Kenneth L. Foran, minority counsel; Linda Rogers-Kingsbury, chief clerk; and Kevin Murray, counsel to Senator Abourezk.
Senator ABOUREZK [acting chairman]. The hearing will come to order.
We will alter our witness list just slightly to allow Baxter Ward to catch an airplane back to California. We are pleased to have you here and thank you very much for coming.
TESTIMONY OF BAXTER WARD, SUPERVISOR, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, LOS ANGELES, CALIF.
Mr. WARD. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity and I am pleased by the change of the order.
It is remarkable for someone at the local level of government to be allowed to speak here at these proceedings. I appreciate that.
I was distressed though to read in yesterday's papers in California and today here that your chairman expressed some reservations about the issue that is being discussed. I am fearful that he feels as do some others that the people can be trusted up to the point of electing them but not beyond that or that maybe people should not be trusted at all because they were foolish enough to elect us. I do not know why at some point the faith of officials in Government falters as far as the people are concerned. [Laughter.]
Senator ABOUREZK. I always thought that my constituents had exquisite taste.
Mr. WARD. It is justified by the procedure today and your interest in this issue.
I would like to speak to this issue if I might from a provincial standpoint. I come from California and there for almost 70 years