Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A call for the reform of ballot measures

It's so nice when labor and business gets together to make a common sense decision for the betterment of all. Last month, Ohio's labor unions and business organizations compromised on the removal of the Healthy Families Act from November's ballot. Now, Colorado's unions and employers have done the same on its four controversial ballot measures.
The Denver Post reports that labor and management have reached an accord that will remove the following four issues from its ballot:
  1. Eliminating "at will" employment and requiring private employers to have a "just cause" with supporting documentation before terminating employees.
  2. Mandating that all companies with 20 or more employees provide health insurance for workers and dependents.
  3. Removing workers compensation's "exclusive remedy" provision, and permitting injured workers to collect workers comp benefits and sue their employer.
  4. Holding corporate officials criminally liable for illegal company activities.
Look, these ballot initiatives are scary. In Ohio, one labor organization only needed 250,000 signatures to place the populist, yet very dangerous, Healthy Families Act on the ballot. A system that can be so easily hijacked by special interests looking to push an agenda needs to be fixed. Supposedly, we elect legislators to enact, and a governor to sign or veto, legislation. They are supposed to speak as the collective majority will of the electorate. Yet, the legislature and the governor would have had no say-so if 50% plus 1 voted in favor of the Healthy Families Act.
One possible fix is a super-majority (60%?) to pass a ballot initiative. Another is to require many more signatures than the relatively small number that currently suffices. A third option is to eliminate ballot initiatives altogether. On balance, the super-majority option seems to makes the most sense - it preserves the sanctity of our separation of powers, allows the populace to still have a direct say on issues they it deems to be of great importance, and limits the ability of dangerous laws to play to populist sentiments.
This change is necessary to protect our state's economy from what is coming down the pike in two years when labor unions begin gathering signatures for the next anti-business ballot measures, such as those that were recently removed in Colorado.

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