State lawmakers on Monday voted to increase the cost of filing a proposed ballot initiative in California from $200 to $2,000, in response to a failed bid for an anti-gay measure to appear before voters next year.
The state attorney general rejected as unconstitutional the “Sodomite Suppression Act” proposed by a Southern California attorney. It would have called for the execution of gays and lesbians.
Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) suggested raising the filing fee to $8,000 to thwart such proposals, but lawmakers settled at $2,000, which would be refunded for any initiative that made the ballot.
“There are some lunatics out there, and for $200 we encourage them,” Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said during a spirited floor debate on the bill.
The measure, which passed the state Senate on Monday, goes back to the Assembly for approval of amendments. Brown has not taken a public position on the measure.
Opponents of the higher fee called it an attack on direct democracy.
Democratic Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) joined Republicans in opposing the measure on grounds that it could discourage legitimate initiatives by average citizens.
“What my challenge is, on a personal level, is this sends a message to the public that we as a Legislature are telling them that we want to put barriers up against their right to participate in the system,” Herzberg said during the debate.
Having an occasional offensive initiative proposed, he said, “is the price we pay in a democracy.”
Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego said the bill would hurt average citizens while allowing the wealthy continued access to the ballot.
“We are going to put a chilling effect on poor people who want a voice in the process,” Anderson said.
The fee is charged to cover the cost of the state attorney general’s preparation of an official title and summary for a proposed initiative, for use on petitions that would be circulated to qualify the measure.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said the actual cost for the state’s top attorney to prepare the title and summary is about $8,000, and the $200 fee was set 72 years ago.
Meanwhile on Monday, Brown signed 14 bills into law.
They include a measure that will require large grocery stores to keep workers for at least 90 days after a change in store ownership. Another will give local governments that operate skateboard parks immunity from liability for injuries suffered in the parks by recreational cyclists, scooter riders, roller skaters and people in wheelchairs.
Local governments already have immunity for skateboarders using the parks.
The new laws take effect Jan. 1.
The governor also vetoed a couple of bills, including one that would have raised the cap on sales taxes levied by cities and counties for transportation projects.
In most counties, the limit is 2%. The bill would have set it at the 3% already provided to Los Angeles County.
“Although I have approved raising the limit for individual counties, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being discussed and proposed for the 2016 ballot,” Brown wrote in his veto message.
Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.