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they have had the initiative process. Currently the people out there in the State of California for example are very concerned about property taxes. I think their interest in the subject and their recognition that taxing is going to kill the country off is ahead of the awareness of our elected officials on the same issue. The property tax issue is so intense there that an initiative is being circulated statewide which will force the legislature to make some needed changes in California law for property tax relief. That is pending this year. Also we have out in California a local issue, the Olympic games, which we hope will come to the city of Los Angeles. The residents want the games and are very interested in them. However, we are concerned about the costs of them and we have a young Governor in California, Governor Brown, who said he would not like to spend any State money to support the games. We as taxpayers don't want any State, county, or local funds spent. As for State funds they could be considerable if the Governor's wishes are carried out. We do not know if Governor Brown will be reelected. That would keep him in office through 1982. But the big spending for the games will start in about 1983.
If the Governor were to run against President Carter for example and be successful, then he would be out of the State.
Senator ABOUREZK. Are you predicting it?
Mr. WARD. No.
Senator ABOUREZK. Is that a message sent out by Governor Brown? Mr. WARD. We are uneasy about all these possibilities because they mean to us that a slight assurance from the statehouse of Governor Brown who doesn't want to spend State money would be gone. Maybe nobody else would take his place. So in California in order to nail down that there aren't any expenditures of State money and in a few weeks I will ask the State legislature if they will pass a resolution to that effect. If they don't, I will attempt to circulate a petition using the process of initiative in California. It will be a statewide petition and if the people place it on the ballot they can vote as to whether they want any state funds.
The same thing would apply to the county and the city of Los Angeles. We have the right to petition and the right to initiative. In the county of Los Angeles I'm trying to get my colleagues→→→ and there are five of us who are supervisors for the county-to agree to place on the June or November ballot the general issue: Should there be every effort made by us in California to ask our Federal officials in California to do all they can to take up the issue of the national initiative and to make it something that can be reviewed by the people? I think that will be the first time that people in any jurisdiction would have a chance to vote on whether or not they are interested at all in this issue of the national initiative.
You as the U.S. Senators might think that we in California have too much participation by people in Government. For almost 70 years we have had the rights of the initiative. We have used it. We have the coastline which was preserved a few years ago through the initiative process and the interested support of certain groups. We enacted a law through the people that required a great curtailing of the activities of lobbyists and special interests insofar as elections are concerned.
These things are done by the people. I am not keen on all the issues that are placed before us by the people and I vote against some. I am concerned by some of the election results.
But all the same, the process is there. California has not broken off and gone into the sea no matter what view you might have of us here.
I think in many respects California because of the initiative is a State not of visionaries but of practical people who might lead the way in this direction.
We are trying to generate some interest in Los Angeles on the subject of the initiative and we have found the NBC television station for example editorializing against it fearing that some special interest could bamboozle the people. The CBS station editorialized for it.
We will try to claim equal time at NBC and point out to them that insofar as the initiative process is concerned, of course, specal interests will try to gain access. Last year the initiative process was used by a group of promoters for greyhound racing and dog racing. They got enough signatures on petitions to place the issue on the ballot of whether there should be legalized dog racing. The issue lost tremendously because the sense of the people was "Let's have a vote on it but let's not allow it to pass" because it was questionable. So, I think in the long run the judgment of people can be counted on and I'm hopeful that we can place the issue on the county ballot which would allow the people there to vote as to whether or not they want you folks to at least consider the issue.
I do not know why it was that the framers of the Constitution did not allow this process in the first place. They were, I suspect, of a conservative age that felt the electoral process for the Presidency should separate the people from that direct activity and possibly the people were not entitled to the initiative. But in cleaning the matter shortly after that in the first amendment they did acknowledge the right of the people to redress their grievances, and this is the process that we think should be made available to them. There is no tool at all to do that unless you and the Congress allow the people the right to determine whether they would like to use the initiative.
If they do, that would give us of and by and for the people. Thank you very much.
Senator ABOUREZK. Thank you. You have presented an excellent statement.
Mr. WARD. I filed it with your committee.
Senator ABOUREZK. It will be inserted in the record.
Senator ABOUREZK. Let me ask you this. You are going to put it on the ballot in the county or try to?
Mr. WARD. Yes.
Senator ABOUREZK. Is the question whether it should be a Federal initiative or not?
Mr. WARD. Yes.
Senator ABOUREZK. When would that go on?
Mr. WARD. The question would be phrased as follows: Shall we in the county of Los Angeles ask our elected Federal officials from California to do all they can to ensure that the initiative process
is placed before the people. It would be merely an expression or a resolution of the people. There are 7 million residents in Los Angeles County. It's about one-third of the State. We think it would be some kind of a signal or at least we would hope that that would be the
Senator ABOUREZK. I think we might even try that out in South Dakota. That's a great idea.
Mr. WARD. Good.
Senator ABOUREZK. Is it too late to put it on the State ballot in California?
Mr. WARD. No, it is not.
But I thought if we could get the matter is coming off dead center there. There has not been a lot of interest in it. I thought a first step to do would be to try to get it on a county ballot. If you can do that, then possibly we could circulate it statewide. That's an excellent suggestion but we have to start someplace. I work for the county so I could not see beyond that as a first step.
Senator ABOUREZK. What do you think about the inclusion of a referendum as well on this particular constitutional amendment? Mr. WARD. It would be vital but I don't know that it would be binding particularly. The more opportunity for the public to be aware of the issue, to discuss it and have some opportunity to express opinions would be excellent.
I do not know just how you would propose the referendum be framed, sir.
Senator ABOUREZK. We did not do it in the initial draft of this constitutional amendment because we just thought politically it would be enough to go after the initiative and try hard to get that. But there has been a great deal of comment that we should have included the referendum. So we are asking all the witnesses that question.
Mr. WARD. Would the referendum in any way-I have thought that the process, Senator, was that you would enable the people to participate in the issue itself and then there would be a referendum. I did not understand how it was to work.
Senator ABOUREZK. No. We are setting up a process for Federal Government to have initiatives only.
Mr. WARD. That would be excellent.
Senator ABOUREZK. We would include that.
Mr. WARD. That's fine.
Senator ABOUREZK. You use that in California, don't you; and recall, don't you?
Mr. WARD. Yes. Rarely is the recall used but it can be from time to time. An assessor was recalled recently.
Senator ABOUREZK. In a recall you have to run somebody against the incumbent. You can't just get him out of office. You have to have an opponent, don't you?
Mr. WARD. Yes.
Senator ABOUREZK. Senator Hatch, any questions at the moment? Senator HATCH. I have no questions at the moment.
Senator ABOUREZK. Thank you very much, Mr. Ward. That was
an excellent statement. We appreciate it very much.
Mr. WARD. Thank you.
[Mr. Ward's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF BAXTER WARD, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISOR
Although we are here to discuss a federal issue, please permit me to approach this in a parochial manner. Currently in California we are in the midst of a state and local debate. Some of our officials are attempting to secure the 1984 Olympic Games for Los Angeles. Their efforts have included promises that Los Angeles will not incur the massive costs that were experienced in Montreal.
Governor Brown has promised no state funds will be used. The validity of his promises will be affected by the Governor's political plans. If he runs for reelection next year, his term would take him through 1982-ending two years before the Olympics. Should he successfully attempt to become President, he would leave office in California in 1980-four years before the Games. He has not publicly mentioned the possibility of running against Senator Hayakawa, but that too, if it should occur, might take him out of the state before the final tabulation of Olympic costs.
With the possibility that Governor Brown will no longer be in office, and with the very real possibility that the State Legislature and the other elected officials might get caught up in the "Olympic fever," we all now run the risk of millions upon millions of tax dollars being appropriated for this event. Residents of Southern California have reiterated loudly and clearly, their desire to have the Olympics only if no tax dollars are to be used.
I mention all of this in a federal hearing, because in our state the public can find a means to deal with the dilemma. In California, we have an initiative process. We have the legal right, as citizens, to protect ourselves from possible abuses. In a few weeks I will ask the State Legislature to consider placing the issue of tax dollars for Olympic Games before the people. Such a vote will protect all of our pocketbooks, without regard to the Governor's political aspirations.
If the Legislature does not respond, then I have the right as a citizen to circulate a petition and place the issue before the voters despite legislative inaction or political posturing.
It is an action which I will seriously consider if the Legislature does not act.
You may think that there is more "citizen participation" in California politics than you believe may be desirable. Almost every General Election sees some type of measure brought to the ballot through the initiative process. Candidly, I must admit that I am not always pleased or supportive of the issues that qualify. I do not even always agree with the decisions which are made by the people. I do know, however, that our initiative process gives the people the "right to redress their grievances," a constitutional right which is certainly entitled to more than mere rhetoric. I do not believe that "the right to redress grievances" exists unless a tool, a legal power, is provided to the electorate.
Some of the most important reforms California has seen in recent years were initiated by the people. They have acted to preserve the California coastline and to control the influences of lobbyists and special interests of their legislators. During the nearly seventy years in which California has had the initiative, we have not only survived but have been strengthened by the process. The initiative process in California has not caused California to fall in the sea. It is people passing laws that has provided insight and knowledge on basic issues for our residents and our neighboring states.
Currently I am asking my fellow members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to place a plebiscite before the seven million Los Angeles residents on the use of a national initiative. If approved, the ballot will read as follows:
"NATIONAL INITIATIVE. Should the elected representatives of Los Angeles County take all possible legal actions to amend the United States Constitution, with an amendment which would allow citizens to propose Federal law by petition and initiative and which would permit the citizens of the United States to vote on such proposed Federal laws?"
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If I can obtain placement of that issue on the June, 1978, ballot, I believe it will be the first instance in America in which the public would be allowed to express its opinion on the process we are discussing here today. The possibility that the public will vote on the issue of a national initiative has sparked sharp controversy in Los Angeles. The NBC Station has editorialized against it. The ABC Station supports it. Particularly alarming to NBC was the possibility of special interest groups "bamboozling" the people with high powered campaigns. While certainly that risk exists, our last statewide election may be instructive. A special interest group spent fortunes collecting signatures in an attempt to legalize dog racing. They were soundly defeated. I cite all of these California illustrations simply to give evidence that, on a modest scale, the public has already had seventy years of experimentation with the initiative process and the results have demonstrated that the public can be trusted to exercise great wisdom-sometimes even more wisdom than those of us in public office. In urging you to approve the national initiative, I hope you will seriously consider our California experiences, the collective experiences of ten percent of our nation's population, and realize that the cynicism that many hold for the wisdom of the electorate has been proven unfair and unaccurate. The depth in quality of the national character has been tested and found to merit respect.
Our people want to participate in the decisions that affect our nationthey only wait for the tools to permit that. You hold in your hands and in your votes an opportunity to give meaning to our First Amendment rights to redress our grievances. I urge you to trust the people and to acknowledge the value of government of, for, and by the people.
Senator ABOUREZK. Our next witness is Ralph Nader.
Mr. Nader, we want to welcome you to the subcommittee hearings. We appreciate your testimony on this issue. You may begin.
TESTIMONY OF RALPH NADER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. NADER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Hatch. I would like to congratulate the subcommittee for having hearings on this important issue. Too often there is a neglect in Congress in exploring basic issues in democratic decisionmaking. Certainly this one raises a basic issue which has been debated and deliberated since the Jeffersonian-Hamiltonian exchanges.
We do not have to develop very detailed foundations for the thesis that the process of governmental decisionmaking has become more and more remote, not only from the people but from the legislative branches at the State, local and national level as well.
This is a process of decisionmaking that has not only extended itself into the executive branch and subexecutive branch agencies but has moved even more remotely from the executive branch with the development of quasi-public institutions at all levels of government that affect people in as real a way as a traditional government agency would affect people.
I point out to you for example the New York Port Authority which is one of these institutions that does not seem to be either under Federal or State control as it straddles the three States of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Having said that, the point I would like to make is this. It is important to have a close understanding that the ultimate check on representative democracy is direct democracy.
If representative democracy turns itself into an institutionalized tyrant or is arbitrary in its decisions or insensitive in its decisions,