Friday, August 19, 2011

Sacramento Bee: Bill mandating paid signature gathers to wear a badge

Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

August 18, 2011
Bill requiring badges for paid initiative circulators goes to Brown
PHOTO CREDIT: In this photo taken in Sacramento on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009, John Marcotte discusses his proposed ballot initiative to ban divorce as Ryan Platt, left, signs the petition to get the measure on the ballot. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)
California Banning Divorce.JPGPetition circulators hitting the streets and storefronts in search of voter support would have to wear identifying badges if they are being paid to gather signatures under legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown today.

Senate Bill 448, by Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, would require that paid solicitors working to qualify initiatives, recalls or referendums for the ballot wear badges stating in "no smaller than 30-point font print" that they are a paid signature gatherer.

The state Senate today approved amendments to the measure, which had previously passed both houses, on a 24-14 vote. The lower house had stripped a provision that would have also required identification badges for those working as a "volunteer signature gatherer."

Supporters say voters deserve the disclosure, pointing out that many professional circulators are paid on a per-signature basis to pitch the proposals.

"When volunteers cannot circulate petitions because of the bad actions of special interest petitioners, this is bad for true community activism and civic engagement," DeSaulnier said in a statement. "Approval of this bill is an important first step in restoring the initiative process to what Hiram Johnson intended."

Opponents counter that the move would hurt the state's direct democracy system by making it harder for individuals to collect signatures.

The signature-gathering industry has grabbed its fair share of headlines in recent weeks. A labor-backed group late last month launched a campaign claiming that signing initiative petitions can lead to identify theft. A group of paid signature gatherers has also been protesting one grocery chain's policies aimed at curbing their presence outside the stores.

Brown, who has not publicly taken a position on SB 448, recently vetoed a bill that would make it illegal to pay professional circulators by the signature.

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