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California's Initiative and Referendum Process: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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UC Hastings College of Law Professor Michael Salerno will speak on “California’s Initiative and Referendum Process: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at the College of Alameda campus on Thursday, November 29, at 7:00 pm.


Professor Salerno’s free public presentation on reforming California’s 102-year-old initiative and referendum process is cosponsored by the League of Women Voters of Alameda and the College of Alameda. The event, which will include a discussion session, will occur in Building F on the College of Alameda campus at 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway (at Webster Street) in Alameda.


Salerno sees a number of problems with California’s current initiative and referendum process.


"I’m not against direct democracy— it is California's version of direct democracy that I do not support,” Salerno said. “The initiative process in California does not yield good results the way it is presently structured. I am a strong believer in direct democracy—just under conditions that do not currently exist in California,” he added.


Voters often complain that California’s initiative and referendum process no longer works as it was intended to in 1910. Costly initiative petition efforts and ballot measure campaigns put the initiative process out of reach for most citizens. Ballot measures are often flawed and too complex. And with 90 percent of state spending predetermined by the conflicting revenue and spending requirements of numerous voter-approved initiatives, the legislature only controls 10 percent of California’s annual general fund budget.


Professor Salerno teaches at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He serves as Associate Director of the UC Hastings Center for State and Local Government Law and supervises the school’s Legislation Clinic in Sacramento. Salerno previously served as Executive Director of the California Fair Political Practices Commission and worked for the California Legislative Counsel. He received his J.D. degree from UC Davis and his B.A. from UC Santa Barbara.


Professor Salerno’s appearance is part of a statewide League of Women Voters of California Initiative and Referendum Process Update Study. Many local League study groups are examining the effectiveness of the current process, including the ways initiative petitions are currently written, circulated, and funded. The League’s statewide study resources are available at no charge to the public.


Professor Salerno teaches courses and seminars on Legislative Process, Statutory Interpretation and Bill Drafting, Advanced Legislative Process, and Issues in State and Local Government Law. More information on his expertise in legislative and governmental processes is available on the UC Hastings web site.


Building F and the College of Alameda campus are wheelchair accessible, The college is served by AC Transit District local bus lines 20, 31, and 51A, plus Transbay lines O, OX, and W. Free parking will be available in the student lots. (To reach the parking lots take Ralph Appezzato Parkway west from Webster Street and turn right onto Campus Drive: follow the Campus Drive loop to the parking lots behind the buildings.)


The College of Alameda, which is cosponsoring Professor Salerno’s presentation, has served over 200,000 East Bay students since being established in 1970. As a part of the Peralta Community College District, it offers students of all ages a range of educational programs and life-long learning opportunities. Additional event cosponsors include the League of Women Voters of Oakland and the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area.


The League of Women Voters of Alameda, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, offers voter service and citizen education activities to increase citizen participation, study community issues, and support positive public policy solutions. League membership is open to all--men as well as women. For more information on membership in the League of Women Voters please call 510-869-4969.


For more information on Professor Salerno’s presentation November 29 at the College of Alameda please contact LWVA President Kate Quick (510-610-4042; katequick@comcast.net) or visit the LWVA public events web page: http://alameda.ca.lwvnet.org/Public_Events.html.

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