A Drought of Water, A Flood of Propositions?

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The main story out of today's news conference from Governor Schwarzenegger is, of course, important news: the governor has officially proclaimed a drought in California but has stopped short of imposing water restrictions, opting instead to first try and get the word out for more water conservation.

Schwarzenegger is using the proclamation to renew his push for borrowing $11.9 billion to create long-term solutions to California's water woes. Water bond negotiations broke down here in Sacramento months ago and have been in limbo ever since.

And so now to our minor but noteworthy point: the governor hopes to add the water bond to the ever-growing ballot that voters will be handed at the polling place on November 4.

"Put it on the ballot this November [and] pass it," he said at today's Capitol news conference, "so that we can start building, and so that we can secure the water for the future."

For those not keeping score at home: the November ballot already consists of eight measures-- seven voter-circulated initiatives, one measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature. That includes the proposition that's likely to crowd out all others for attention, an attempt to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Add #9 if Schwarzenegger's political team successfully gathered enough voter signatures to qualify a redistricting reform measure. And most politicos think that they did.

Add #10 if you think the victim's rights intiative known as "Marsy's Law" will qualify. And that, too, seems likely.

Add #11 for a $5 billion bond encouraging fuel-efficient vehicles and energy research.

Add #12, #13, and #14 if the governor gets his trifecta of budget reform, authorization to sell $15 billion in bonds against future California Lottery revenues, and now... water bonds.

14 ballot measures is a heck of a hefty ballot. Not that there haven't been hefty ballots in years past in California. But it certainly would seem that this particular myriad of complicated subjects, layered on top of an historic presidential campaign, could saddle the voters with quite a challenge.

Needless to say, Schwarzenegger thinks they're up to the task. "I think that the people enjoy participating in the political process," he said.

His complete answer, which focuses more on the policy issue at hand, can be heard here.

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Having lined all of these proposals up, perhaps it's time for a reality check. The budget reform and lottery ballot measure plans are the stickiest of wickets, so much so that the odds of both of these making the November ballot currently seem a little long.

Reality check #2: the Legislature and governor are technically supposed to submit any ballot measures for November by June 26. Ummm... okay. That formal deadline has been stretched to the point of breaking in the past, and would apparently have to be stretched again this time.

Reality check #3: negotiating multiple complicated things at the same time is a tough act to pull off at the Capitol, even though Schwarzenegger today (as you can hear below) urged legislators to give it a shot.

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But were it all to come true... 14 ballot measures, four of which would be near and dear to Schwarzenegger's heart... then consider this: which one(s) would he campaign for? Which would he raise money for?

In other words, how many ways can you slice the time... and spread the influence... of the state's most recognizable politician?

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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