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Senate approves bill to identify paid
signature-gatherers in initiative process

May 28, 2010 | 12:38 pm
When that nice woman stops you in front of the supermarket and asks you to sign a petition to put a measure on the ballot, she may not be a believer in the cause. She may just be a hired mercenary.

With many arguing that the initiative process in California has been hijacked by wealthy special interests, state lawmakers acted Friday to put a spotlight on what is really going on.

The state Senate approved a bill that would require those taking money to circulate petitions on initiatives and recalls to wear a badge on their chest that says, "Paid Signature Gatherer." The badge also must identify where they are registered to vote, so you will know if the paid signature gatherer has a political stake in the measure being touted. If the person isn’t even registered, the badge must say "Not Registered to Vote."

With corporations showing they can pay to have an initiative qualified for the ballot, the new information will allow voters to be better informed before they decide whether to sign a petition, according to Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), the author of SB 1203.

"We know from surveys that Californians love the experiment in direct democracy in the initiative system, but they also note in many surveys that there are problems with it,’’ DeSaulnier told his colleagues. "This is a bill that we think will help with those problems.’’

The legislation next goes to the Assembly for consideration.

--Patrick McGreevy