September 3, 2015 — With no fanfare, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Tuesday a bill co-authored by Santa Monica Assembly member Richard Bloom that raises the filing fee for State ballot initiatives from $200 to $2,000.
The original fee was set in 1943.
Bay Area Assembly member Evan Low, AB 1100’s other author and like Bloom a Democrat, applauded Brown’s action in a press release. He said the higher fee “will deter frivolous submissions” for the ballot.
Bloom did not release a statement about the bill’s passage. Gov. Brown made no comment when signing AB 1100. He signed several other bills that day.
AB 1100 was written in response to a Huntington Beach attorney’s attempt to get a measure on the ballot calling for homosexuals to be “put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”
Not everybody was happy with the governor’s decision. Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog issued a statement Wednesday saying Brown signed a “misguided bill.”
The group made similar comments earlier this summer when AB 1100 was starting its journey through the legislative process and again last month prior to the Assembly vote.
“After a year in which FBI corruption scandals removed three state senators from office, and voters came out in smaller numbers than ever before for a California election, what's the response from Sacramento? Make it harder for citizens to use the process of direct democracy," wrote Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
AB 1100 originally called for an $8,000 filing fee. State senators brought the amount down to $2,500, and later $2,000. The Senate vote for the bill was 23-14 and the Assembly passed it 48-31.
The new filing fee is the largest in the nation, sources say. Many states have no fee at all.
Sean MacNeal, Bloom's spokesman, told the Lookout in June that when the California fee became $200 in 1943, that was a “difficult hurdle,” preventing frivolous proposals from moving forward.
“It’s practically nothing in today’s dollars," he added.
MacNeal said a larger fee “would discourage people from putting ballot initiatives out there just for giggles.”
Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin’s proposal, called the Sodomite Suppression Act, was likely not an attempt to be funny.
The proposal received lots of serious attention nationwide when McLaughlin submitted it to the State in February along with the $200 filing fee.
Although the likelihood of McLaughlin collecting the 365,000 signatures required to get the measure on the ballot was extremely low, many people did not think he even deserved the opportunity.
Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to process the proposal, calling it “patently unconstitutional.” A Sacramento County judge sided with Harris in a June decision.