The California Assembly rejected legislation Wednesday to place before voters a proposal to stiffen requirements for qualifying and approving citizen-led initiative drives that would alter the state constitution.
The measure, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10, died by a vote of 39-29, 15 votes shy of the 54 necessary for passage.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, told legislative committees that his proposal was a way to ensure that changes to the state's most fundamental document, its constitution, are not made lightly.
California's constitution has been amended 521 times in 133 years, while the U.S. Constitution has been altered only 27 times in 223 years, according to an Assembly floor analysis of ACA 10.
Gatto's proposal would have required that petition drives for initiatives to change the state constitution collect voter signatures totaling 8 percent of the ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election by residents in each of 27 or Senate districts.
Such petition drives also would be required to garner signatures totaling at least 8 percent of all votes cast statewide for governor.
Once on the ballot, passage of a constitutional amendment would require 55 percent support rather than a simple majority.
Opponents characterized ACA 10 as an attack on citizens' constitutional right to sidestep the Legislature in altering state law. Making it harder to qualify an initiative petition would be a blow to the democratic process, they said.
"It's the only voice that people have when they don't like what goes on in this building," Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said of ballot initiatives.