A California group called the Think Long Committee has issued a new report recommending what almost sounds like a new, fourth branch of government for California: the Citizens Council for Government Accountability. The Council, made up of 13 members appointed to six-year terms by the governor and the leaders of both parties in the legislature, would have the power to place proposed laws and constitutional amendments directly on the ballot. No legislative vetting or petitioning required.
It's not an idea that's entirely unheard of -- Florida has two entities that are similar. The Tax and Budget Reform Commission and Constitution Revision Commission each meet every 20 years and can place questions directly on the ballot for voter approval. Both have a narrower scope than what's being proposed by Think Long - the TBRC is restricted to (not surprisingly) matters dealing with taxation and budgets. The CRC has somewhat broader discretion and can recommend a change to any part of the state constitution, but even the CRC could not propose changes to state law.
The idea may sound far-fetched (journalist Joe Mathews called it "a Jedi Council for California), but the $20 million backing Think Long has thanks to billionaire Nicolas Berggruen certainly adds at least a touch of credibility to the idea.
Read more about it on KQED News's Capital Notes Blog.