Evaluating Prop 37

Rick Frank posted about a UC Davis white paper on Prop 37, which provides detailed background on the ballot measure.  For those who want something that just lays out the issues concisely, I’d recommend Ezra Klein’s post on the subject. It’s brief and fair-minded to a fault — I’m sure partisans on the issue would emphasize the “to a fault” part.

Maybe it’s a reflection of the fact that I’m not a native Californian, but I’m skeptical about the use of popular initiatives to enact legislation. One reason is that the initiative process makes it difficult for laws to adjust to new evidence or experience with implementing a rule.  For example, Prop 37 provides: “This initiative may be amended by the Legislature, but only to further its intent and purpose, by a statute passed by a two-thirds vote in each house.”  But what if we find out later that the labeling requirement is counterproductive or if the science later shows that GMOs don’t pose a risk? It seems unwise to tie the legislature’s hands this way, especially in an area where the science could change quickly.

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