If you've been to the supermarket lately, maybe you've noticed a guy out front with four clipboards in his hand, trying to get your attention. He probably looks a bit like a carny.
That man is trying to get your signature for a ballot measure.
Welcome to California, where the citizen is the legislator – or can be, if that citizen pays $200 and manages to get a few hundred thousand signatures, qualifying his or her idea for the ballot.
Right now, there are more than 60 ballot measures floating around out there. Some are desperately trying to gather the necessary 365,880 signatures needed to qualify. Many others have folded or were never very serious in the first place. Experts are predicting that as many as 20 could end up on the ballot.
A few initiatives have already qualified for the ballot, including overturning the supermarket plastic bag ban and forcing porn actors to wear condoms. A number of others have crossed the 25 percent threshold, meaning they stand a decent shot of ending up on the ballot. These include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (the city of Los Angeles already did this), doing away with the death penalty, instituting a $2 cigarette tax that would include electronic cigarettes, banning large-capacity ammunition clips and, of course, legalizing weed.
But what about the fanciful ones, the nutty ones, the ones cooked up by right-wing crackpots, the ones that will almost surely not make the ballot? Here are nine of those, followed by some bat-shit crazy ones that have already been rejected:
9) California Nationhood
No, this isn't a proposal for California to secede from the United States of America. That would be downright sensible compared with this ballot measure, which “places [the] question of whether California should become a separate nation on the ballot every four years, beginning November 2020.”
Should that measure pass, then California would ask the USA to recognize it as its own country. Should the USA refuse (the USA having a history of not being particularly amenable to secession), another ballot measure goes before voters: “whether California should unilaterally declare independence from the United States … and request admission to the United Nations.”
Sounds crazy, sure. But if Trump becomes president, this starts to look pretty good.
8) The NASCAR Initiative
This brilliant idea, being pushed by business owner John Cox, was apparently inspired by a Robin Williams stand-up routine, in which he suggested that politicians should wear the logos of their corporate contributors, à la NASCAR drivers. Cox thought that was a pretty good idea and had it written up as a ballot measure: the “Name All Sponsors California Accountability Reform,” or NASCAR. It would require all state legislators “to display on their persons the identity of the top 10 donors to their controlled committees.”
According to Mashable, Cox has committed to spending $1 million to get the signatures. Unfortunately for him, with all the ballot measures out there, the price of a signature has gotten rather inflated – they're going for up to $4.50 a signature. The word “uphill battle” is being thrown around a lot for this one.
7) Expand the Legislature
The NASCAR thing might not even be Cox's wildest idea this year. He has another ballot measure to expand the California state Legislature “almost 100-fold.”
That's right: a state assembly of just under 800 members and nearly 400 state senators. These roughly 1,200 legislators would then elect “working committees” the size of the current Legislature, which would have the sole power to amend bills.
Calm down, Cox. The NASCAR thing was cute, but you're pushing it here.
6) Lower the Minimum Drinking Age
Pretty straightforward, this: Lower the minimum drinking age from 21 to 18.
Is that nutty? If you're old enough to carry an uzi and kill for your country, shouldn't you be old enough to buy a six-pack of Heineken?
5) Create a State-Owned Electric Company
This vaguely socialistic move would create the California Electrical Utility District — a bit like the DWP, only much bigger. That oughta work well. It would ban “most investor-owned utilities, such as PG&E, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Bear Valley Electric.” Publicly owned electric utilities, like the DWP, would still be kosher but could volunteer to be swallowed up by the newer, bigger utility.
4) Sales Tax on Political Ads
Another simple one: imposes a 1,000 percent sales tax on all political advertising, with the proceeds going to “public education.” Won't someone think of the political consultants?
3) Holocaust Denial Restrictions
Basically, this would ban any school, educational institution or museum that gets state funds from teaching that the Jewish, Armenian and Ukrainian Holocausts didn't happen. A well-meaning idea but probably unconstitutional.
2) Elimination of Charter Schools
In 1992, California became the second state in the union to legalize charter schools, which receive public money but operate semi-autonomously from local school districts. Since then, they've become very popular – more than half a million kids attend charter schools in California. But they're still the scourge of teachers unions. This measure would ban all charter schools. School districts could choose between converting the charters to traditional public schools or simply closing them.
1) Abortion Access Restriction
This would require parental notification and a 48-hour waiting period for any minor wanting an abortion, with “exceptions for medical emergency, parental waiver, or parental abuse documented by notarized statement from law enforcement or relatives.”
And here's a lightning round of six ballot measures that have already been rejected:
6) President of California
“Amends the California Constitution to replace the word Governor with the word President.” How cool would that be?
5) Shellfish Ban
“Makes sale or consumption of shellfish a serious felony punishable by a $666,000 fine per occurrence and/or prison sentence of up to six years, six months and six days.” What's with all the 6's? Oh, this is a religious thing, isn't it?
4) Religious Organizations
“Rescinds religious tax exemptions for religious organizations that interfere with legal proceedings by not complying with court orders, concealing or failing to report criminal activity, promoting false testimony, or using intimidation to prevent others from taking legal action against them.” Scientology, anyone?
“Legalizes the possession, importation and transportation of pet ferrets.” An idea whose time has come.
2) Shoot the Gays
In June, a judge said the “Sodomite Suppression Act” was “patently unconstitutional.”
1) Screw the Guy Who Said Shoot the Gays
“Provides any person who proposes a ballot measure that advocates the killing of gays and/or lesbians must attend sensitivity training and donate money to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.” Kind of amazing.