Opponents of a state law that would limit voting on ballot initiatives to just a general or special election (eliminating the need for a primary) now can gather signatures for a referendum to overturn the measure, said California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Monday.
In order to place the referendum on the 2012 election ballot, 504,760 signatures from registered California voters must be submitted to the state by Jan. 5.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 202 into law on Oct. 7.
"This measure restores the original understanding of constitutional law that initiatives were to be considered at a general election or at a special election," he said in a signing message. "There are dramatically more voters at a general rather than a primary election… the idea of direct democracy is to involve as many voters as possible. This bill accomplishes that objective."
The law also changes the date when voters are asked to approve amendments to the state’s rainy day fund.
Opponents have argued that the bill curbs the public's right to participate in the initiative process, and the way the bill itself passed the Legislature—through a process known as "gut-and-amend"—also has drawn criticism.
Gut-and-amend is a process in which a legislator can completely revamp a bill at the last minute, introducing new language unrelated to the previous measure.
"The lack of process in this bill is inexcusable... We as Democrats should be ashamed at how this came to the Senate floor," said Sen. Ted Lieu about Senate Bill 202, according to The Sacramento Bee. Lieu represents Hermosa Beach in the 28th District.
Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) in a statement called Senate Bill 202 an example of "the evils of end-of-session gut-and-amends."
The bill "did not receive a committee hearing and it was not subject to adequate public discussion before it was passed late tonight," he said in September, just hours following its passage in the Senate. "I think the Legislature is very aware of how unpopular stripping direct democracy rights from the people is. That is why this bill was passed at 1 a.m., after the press has returned to their offices to meet their deadlines."
Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) authored the bill. After it was approved by the governor she said in a statement, "This is simply good government… Ballot initiatives have a tremendous impact on the lives of Californians. They should be voted on by the largest number of possible voters."
— City News Service contributed to this report.