“Third world” corruption or judicial prudence? California supreme court ices Cal3 initiative

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The plan to split California into three new states won’t be on the November ballot. The California supreme court put the Cal3 initiative on hold Wednesday, while it decides whether or not the proposition meets spec under the California constitution. Opponents claim it is a constitutional “revision”, which needs the concurrence of two-thirds of the California legislature, rather than an “amendment”, which can be put on the ballot by initiative alone.

Arguably, it’s neither. It substitutes a popular vote for the decision making authority of the legislature, as the initiative process is intended to do, and triggers a request to the U.S. congress to create the new states, as the federal constitution allows.

Whether that amounts to a revision of the California constitution is the question before state supreme court justices, who unanimously decided they needed more time

Because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election, respondent Alex Padilla, as Secretary of State of the State of California, is directed to refrain from placing Proposition 9 on the November 6, 2018, ballot.

The initiative’s primary backer, Silicon Valley financier Tim Draper, was outraged, according to the Los Angeles Times

“Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work,” he said in an email. “This kind of corruption is what happens in Third World countries.”

He said the state’s “insiders” were “in cahoots.”

The Cal3 initiative poses an existential threat to California’s political establishment, which includes supreme court justices: they are political appointees who must periodically face voters. There’s no doubt that the initiative would have landed in their laps if voters approved it, which is how it usually goes. It’s uncommon for them to block a vote.

If they let it proceed, the next window of opportunity is the November 2020 general election, when it and everything else will likely be overshadowed by Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That would be a shame. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s a priceless opportunity to have a consequential debate over how California should be governed.

We need that.