Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NO on 80: The Initiative Process is No Place for Energy Policy

While there are a number of complex propositions on this ballot, perhaps the most perplexing is Proposition 80, an initiative statute to re-regulate the electrical energy industry in California. I feel quite confident in giving this one a "prima facie NO". Only an energy policy uber-wonk would be qualified to evaluate such a technical proposition, while the other 99.999% of us Californians would be unable to formulate any rational opinion about the merits of this proposition. However, I can formulate an intelligent "meta-position" on this proposition, which is to say that it is utterly assinine to be codifying any energy policy as an initiative statute. Two good reasons for this meta-position. First, as already mentioned, the voting population at large is simply not qualified to make any intelligent decision on such technical matters (especially ones with such potentially far-reaching consequences). Second, codifying such broad policy as an initiative statute unduly constrains our ability to "fix it" when we realize that parts of it are "broken" or need updating. Keep in mind that under California's Constitution, initiative statutes are "super statutes" that cannot be touched by the Legislature, and require another ballot measure to make any changes to them. (While the measure has some limited provisions to allow for minor amendments by the Legislature, they are too constraining, as well as lawsuit-invitingly vague.)

In addition to this well-founded meta-position of voting NO on 80, I have a "meta-philosophy" on initiatives in general. When I doubt, one should always vote NO. Not only is it the safer position, but perhaps if more initiatives are defeated, people will become more discouraged from submitting more initiatives in the future. We have too many initiatives as it is, with too many of them hitting on topics that are no business for an initiative. Prop 80 is a fine example of the sort of initiative that needs to be discouraged.

No comments: