On June 20, the California Supreme Court ruled that the Taxpayer Protection Act, a ballot initiative that would have given voters veto power over new taxes, was a violation of the state constitution. The initiative, for which proponents had already gathered nearly 1.5 million signatures to qualify it for the ballot, was a desperate attempt by taxpayers and businesses to get California’s state and local government spending under control.

The court decision hinged on whether the initiative’s language constituted a “revision” of the state’s constitution or an “amendment.” The answer to this question is subjective and hinges on the “totality of the impact on the basic constitutional powers of government entities.” Ignoring ample contradictory evidence and precedent, the court decided that the changes proposed by the initiative were sufficiently sweeping to categorize it as a revision to the state constitution, and unlike amendments, revisions to the state constitution are only possible if the initiative is brought to voters by an act of the state legislature.

Thus, the Taxpayer Protection Act, which was a product of private grassroots groups, is dead. And with it, direct democracy – California’s last, best hope – is also dead. […]

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