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In a victory for Democrats and their labor union allies, Gov. Jerry Brown Friday signed a bill restricting initiatives and referendums next year to the November ballot, when the party's voter turnout is expected to be higher than in June.

The bill language, inserted into legislation at the last minute by legislative Democrats, could help labor unions defeat a pending measure to limit unions' ability to raise campaign funds from members.

The union dues measure was expected to qualify for the June ballot, when Republican turnout is expected to be proportionately higher than in November.

Read the signing message here.

Senate Bill 202 was passed in the final hours of the legislative session, and Republican lawmakers called it an example of extreme partisanship.

But the political implications of the measure may not resonate outside Sacramento, even among Republicans. According to a recent Field Poll, registered Republicans support the proposed change by a 15-point margin, and 56 percent of voters overall favor the change.

After the poll was released, Brown said of Republican lawmakers' opposition to the measure, "I think they're a little out of touch with their own members, because obviously the Republicans seem to want that."

He said, "So maybe I should just flaunt the will of the majority of Republicans, independents, Democrats."

The bill would also delay until 2014 a "rainy-day fund" measure approved as part of a budget agreement last year.

The bill's author, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, had said putting initiatives on higher-turnout elections is "good government."

Brown allowed ballot initiatives to go on primary ballots four decades ago, when he was secretary of state, and he sponsored a political reform initiative on the ballot in June 1974, the year he first ran for governor.

The bill would not affect two initiatives that have already qualified for the June 2012 ballot, one related to term limits and the other to tobacco taxes.


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