California Government Ignores the Will of the People

To borrow a term from the legal world, prima facie evidence indicates the governor and legislature have little regard for what the voters think and choose to go their own way. It can be seen with the governor’s moratorium on the death penalty and the legislature’s decision on rent control.

Governor Newsom’s position on the death penalty is well known. He worked on a 2012 initiative to end the death penalty, made clear his goal was to end the death penalty in California, and soon after being sworn in as governor, Newsom signed an executive order to prohibit carrying out death sentences while he is in office.

Yet, voters expressed a different view.

In the 2016, voters approved Proposition 66 to speed-up the death penalty process while rejecting Proposition 62 to abolish the death penalty. Voters also shot down a death penalty abolition initiative in 2016.

But, the governor said we’ll do it his way.

This week, the California Supreme Court said death penalty cases could move forward despite Newsom’s order on the death penalty. The justices were following the law.

Similarly, voters had a chance to offer their verdict on rent control by voting on Proposition 10 in 2018, a rent control measure put on the ballot by initiative.  Thumbs down on that ballot measure, too, with a nearly 60% no vote.

Along comes the legislature less than two years later to pass AB 1482 that would establish a statewide (albeit temporary) rent control in California. 

You think elected officials would give deference to the voters on policy issues which voters took time to study and vote upon. If officials feel that their arguments on the death penalty and rent control are stronger today than when the voters spoke, they should go back to the ballot with a new request. Until then, the voters’ wishes must be upheld.

There’s even an example of dodging the public will at the local level that I touched on yesterday when it came to the legislature passing a bill to allow local governments to establish public banks.

Los Angeles voters turned down a measure placed on the ballot by the city council on the 2018 ballot to establish a city bank. Along came a state bill to allow local governments to get involved in banking and Los Angeles officials officially added their support for the bill. While voters of the city said no to such a proposal, not long after, city officials jumped at an opportunity to go around the voters.

When government authorities ignore voters’ clearly stated positions, the foundation of the state’s democracy is weakened and respect for governments on the state and local levels is lost.

Joel Fox is editor and co-publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily, where this article was originally published.