Calif. may make it pricier to file a ballot initiative |

Calif. may make it pricier to file a ballot initiative

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers on Monday endorsed raising the fee to file a ballot initiative, despite concerns that doing so would limit the ability of individuals to put their ideas before voters.

The state Assembly voted mostly along partisan lines, 43-22, to raise the filing fee over a six-year period from $200 to $2,000.

If the legislation becomes law, it will be the first time the fee is raised since it was imposed in 1943.

The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, said the low fee has resulted in an increase in frivolous initiatives that never make the ballot but cost the state money because the attorney general’s office has to review the proposed text.

There was no debate on the measure, and no Republicans voted for it. Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber of Lodi also voted against it. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Critics have complained that a higher filing fee would make it difficult for individuals and cash-strapped organizations to advance their ideas.

“There shouldn’t be any more restrictions or financial impediments to give the citizenry the right to take an initiative directly to the voters of this state,” Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Costa Mesa, told The Associated Press after the vote.

In the 1960s, there were 47 initiative proposals submitted for review. That jumped to 647 in the decade that began in 2000, according to the attorney general’s office.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year vetoed a similar bill because it would have allocated the increased fees to the attorney general’s office rather than the general fund. This year’s version removed that provision.

Currently, filing fees are deposited in the state general fund if backers of a proposed initiative fail to garner enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The fee is returned to individuals and groups if it qualifies and is placed before voters.

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