How to Fix the Problems With Prop 37 Without Another Initiative Battle


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Senate Majority Leader Steinberg, Governor Brown, Speaker Perez as tomatoes

Something unusual has gotten into our produce — but California Dems like Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg, Governor Jerry Brown, and Assembly Speaker John Perez can now act to fix the problem the right way!

The ostensible argument against Prop 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was that it was not well written.  (Funny, that didn’t seem to hurt Prop 35!  It’s a wonder what a couple of million dollars of advantage in spending will do.)  This led not only to confident although general disparaging statements all over television from people in lab coats, but allegedly to strange and unwanted outcomes such as treating the same food item separately when sold to consumers for home use versus at a restaurant.  (Yeah — because we’re currently all in the restaurant kitchen looking at the ingredient labels.)

Prop 37 was a home-cooked initiative — initially the inspiration of a single activist, Chico grandmother Pam Larry — that caught fire, went viral (so to speak — GMO joke there), and required about $50 million from Monsanto and its friends to destroy in a smear campaign.  (As noted in this constructive critique of the initiative effort by Jonathan Greenberg, which I suggest that people read despite my still thinking through what parts of it I might want to quibble with, to avoid turning off the voting public they chose to avoid the underlying and more pressing question of whether this stuff was likely to kill you.)

The nice thing about the just-ended campaign, which ended in Prop 37′s narrow defeat, is that it was generally fought on grounds that did not deny the legitimacy of consumers’ desire to know what was going into their food – if it could be done correctly.  Beyond the bogus “food will cost everyone $400 per year” claim, for the most part the No on 37 campaign would leave one thinking that the proposition as written was simply a bad means to a reasonable end.

Great!  That means that there’s an alternative route to getting it approved: instead of going through the initiative process in 2014, proponents can, in 2013, try to get it passed through the legislature.

Among the things that such a path would do is to get the professionals involved — the legislative analysts and drafters who could come up with something that would be much harder for opponents to attack.  It would also mean legislative hearings into GMOs — also probably a winner for Democrats who are proponents of labeling.  It would infuriate Monsanto, of course — but that’s the sort of thing that can backfire on them.  After all, if the legislature does pass such a bill, their best bet would be to try to undo it — or at least stall it — with a referendum; once the weight of the legislature is behind the bill, they’d need a lot of good will to make that work.

It looks like Democrats will have a healthy majority in the Assembly and Senate next year.  Not all of those Democrats are particularly great Democrats — but enough of them may well be.  If we have a majority like that, isn’t it time to use it?


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.