Democratic legislators are considering an 11th hour bill that would shift all initiative ballot measures to the November ballot -- a move that, if enacted, would help their union allies stave off a measure they oppose.
"We're considering it," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Monday, responding to several speculative reports on political websites during the weekend.
A coalition of public employee unions is reportedly pressing Democrats to make the change in hopes of thwarting a pending initiative that would bar unions from collecting political funds through members' paycheck deductions.
The unions believe that if the measure qualifies for the ballot, it would have a better chance of passing in the June, 2012, primary because Democratic voter turnout would be depressed due to having no contested presidential primary, while Republican turnout may be high for a multi-candidate presidential contest. Conversely, voter turnout is historically much higher for November presidential elections.
The state constitution declares that initiative and referendum measures are to appear on "general election" ballots. But beginning 40 years ago, after the Legislature began placing its own ballot measures on the primary ballot, the secretary of state's office also placed initiatives and referenda on the primary ballot as well.
The embryonic legislation - which has yet to be introduced - could be passed with only Democratic votes, but to affect the 2012 election, it would have to clear the Legislature by its adjournment on Sept. 9 and also obtain the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.
The state Democratic Party has called for major changes in the initiative process this year, the 100th anniversary of the initiative's adoption, and a number of bills to overhaul the process are pending. However, Brown vetoed one bill that would have prohibited initiative petition signature-gatherers from being paid by the signature.
Editor's note: This post has been changed to remove references that a pension overhaul measure could provide motivation for the move. There is no active pension measure aimed at the June ballot. Updated 3:20 p.m. Aug. 29, 2011.