Opinion: Brown-Munger Shows Need for a New Initiative Process

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The battle between the competing temporary tax measures of Gov. Jerry Brown and his union allies on one hand, and civil rights lawyer Molly Munger and the PTA on the other, shows what's missing from California's initiative process.

Real deliberation on the content of the measures.

The Munger-Brown battle has been about insults and tweets and specious claims about exactly what each measure would do for education. It's been a political story, not a policy story, even though these initiatives make policy changes in taxes and the budget.

What are those changes and what would the measures really do? No one is clear on that.

Which is why California badly needs a deliberative process that gets to the bottom of what's in the initiatives.

What would that mean? Up in Oregon, a new process uses citizens' juries to consider initiatives. Under this Citizens Initiative Review, a representative sampling of voters assembles and spends five days studying all sides of an initiative. The process is public, and so are the results. The participants write up descriptions of the initiative -- and arguments for the yes and no sides -- that can then be published in the voter guide.

Imagine how much more we'd know about these competing measures if we had a process like this in California.

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Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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