It's still more than six months away, but there's a good chance the November statewide ballot could feature some of the most interesting ballot measure battles in recent memory -- perhaps not because of the deep pockets behind the campaigns, but because of the actual issues themselves.
At this point, only two proposals have nailed down a spot on the fall ballot. One is a long suffering bond offering to jump start California's long discussion over high-speed rail. I say "long suffering," because the bond measure has been moved from ballot to ballot in recent years by the Legislature... usually because they didn't want to risk voters feeling overwhelmed by all the new borrowing, and thus reject other bond proposals (most notably, the Governor Schwarzenegger-led infrastructure bonds of 2006).
The second currently qualified measure, as reported last week, is one to ban certain kinds of animal confinement on California farms. The ag industry is likely to fight this one with a big campaign warning of the economic costs, while animal rights advocates will no doubt make an impassioned ethics and morality argument.
Another argument of morality and ethics could be in store with a new chapter in the debate over same sex marriage. There's a reasonably good chance that an initiative to amend the state constitution banning same sex marriages could qualify. It's a much tougher stance on the issue than the still debated Proposition 22 from 2000. And its chances at being on the November ballot are real enough that Governor Schwarzenegger waded in to the issue last week, telling a gathering of gay Republicans that he's strongly opposed to the proposal. That, as you might imagine, didn't sit well with many of the conservative groups pushing the proposal. The timing of the ballot fight could be particularly combustible, as the California Supreme Court's ruling on the issue is expected by the summer.
What else? Well, a coalition described as environmentalists, labor leaders, and others have submitted what they say is enough signatures for an initiative requiring 50% of all California energy be from renewable sources by 2025. And elections officials are checking signatures on two health care initiatives: one that affirms that health care is a "fundamental human right," and one to sell bonds to pay for new hospitals for children.
And if that isn't enough, there seems to be a very good chance that the Schwarzenegger-endorsed initiative to change the process of political redistricting. The proposal was written by a handful of government reform groups, but is being bankrolled largely by the governor's political operation... a sign that its chances for getting on the November ballot are very good.
That's seven ballot measures right there... and many more are in circulation. Yes, we've had this many... and more... on the ballot before. But remember, voter turnout is likely to be huge on November 4 -- the most closely watched presidential campaign in a generation -- and it'll be fascinating to see who shows up at the polls for that race, and subsequently weighs in on these big issues, too.