Tonight's new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California is, as always, chock full of items that are worth mulling over: a bitterly divided state over the issue of gay marriage, lousy approval ratings for the governor and legislators, and a better sense of who voted for whom in the race for the White House.
A lot of that will be covered by the rest of the news biz, which sent me looking for some other morsels, like this one: we Californians still love our initiatives.
Maybe not individual ballot initiatives, but the system itself. PPIC found 67% of those surveyed were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with the initiative process. That's consistent with their polling from two years ago, but a much warmer and fuzzy feeling about initiatives than voters expressed after Governor Schwarzenegger's 2005 special election.
The most satisified subgroup? Independent voters, of which 73% surveyed give the process a thumbs up.
That being said, it's still interesting how many grumblings there are about a process people like. All subgroups agree there could be changes to the initiative system, though Democrats (42%) want major changes more than anyone else. 51% of respondents overall say there was too much money spent on initiative campaigns in 2008, and almost a third "strongly" agreed that the wording of the measures was too complicated.
So what would folks change? 84% said there should be more disclosure of campaign money, including signature gathering. And 72% of those surveyed believe the opposing sides in an initiative campaign should have to participate in a series... a series... of televised debates (I have to believe the euphoria of a fascinating presidential election has some folks forgetting what they really watch when the clicker is in their hand).
It's hard to know why the love affair (or maybe love/hate affair) with initiatives still continues, but here's one guess, based on info in this poll: when asked who they trust more to make public policy -- lawmakers in Sacramento or voters at the ballot box -- PPIC's respondents chose... themselves. Using the scores from two levels of trust, it's 37% for elected officials, 52% for Joe and Jane Public.
That may say more than anything about why direct democracy is alive and well in California.
A quick look at some of the big bucks on the statewide ballot measure front... based on amounts in play.
The combined campaign cash raised this year for these five measures alone: $155.2 million.
Proposition 8: The battle to ban same-sex marriage is again drawing huge amounts. As of midday, the campaign in support of Prop 8 looks to have raised about $34 million, while the main opposition committee has reported a slight bit more, about $34.6 million. It will be interesting to see just how high this one goes, compared to previous records for ballot measure spending in California.
Proposition 7: Supporters of the renewable energy initiative report no new donations since the last comprehensive filing with contributions of $7.4 million; opponents of Prop 7 have raised about $29.8 million.
Proposition 10: The bond measure to provide rebates for alternative fuel vehicles is spending big bucks. The pro-10 campaign reports about $22.5 million as of today, with almost all of the money coming from sources that can be traced back to oilman T. Boone Pickens; the opponents have yet to get to $200,000 in campaign cash.
Proposition 2: The battle over the confinement of farm animals has drawn $7.9 million in the campaign to relax current confinement standards, while opponents to Prop 2 have raised about $8.33 million.
Proposition 4: The proposal requires parental notification before a teenager seeks an abortion. Supporters have raised about $2.1 million, only about a quarter of the amount -- a little more than $8.4 million -- raised by opponents. A notable contribution in support of Prop 4 came just today from San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
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.
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.
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.
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?