An Actual Threat to Our Democracy

The ever-crazier California legislature has passed a law that, as the Wall Street Journal’s editors describe it:

…creates a state council to dictate wages, working conditions and benefits, among other things, for fast-food workers who aren’t unionized. The law is intended to coerce fast-food franchises to surrender to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Can that possibly be constitutional? I don’t know, but it any event it is a terrible idea:

…the state council could issue edicts such as raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $22 a hour.

Which will accelerate the shift from employees to kiosks and robots in fast food restaurants. But some Californians are fighting back:

Save Local Restaurants has filed a referendum petition with more than one million signatures, which far exceeds the 623,212 required to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. Under the state constitution, a law is required to be put on hold once a referendum petition with enough signatures is filed.

This is where the threat to Our Democracy™ comes in:

But Democratic state officials say the law will take effect on Jan. 1 until all the signatures are verified, which could take months.

Months? That sounds optimistic.

California voters amended their constitution in 1911 to reserve “to the people the power to pass judgment upon the acts of the legislature, and to prevent objectionable measures from taking effect.” Once a referendum is filed, “no such act or section or part of such act shall go into effect until and unless approved by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon.”

That sounds clear.

Never in the state’s 111-year history of referenda has a law been allowed to “temporarily” take effect once a referendum petition has been filed. As the lawsuit notes, the state’s position “would be unworkable from a practical perspective, putting Californians in the untenable position of having to guess when, and for how long, a law may or may not be in effect.”

This Democratic gambit carries far-reaching implications for other referendum drives, including one to overturn a recently enacted law that would ban new oil and gas wells in a large portion of the state. Democrats could deliberately pass bills late in the legislative calendar in order to limit their opponents’ ability to stop them from taking effect.

Maybe the courts will intervene. Yesterday, a California judge issued an order barring enforcement of the statute until a hearing can be held.

This controversy is one instance among many of liberals’ growing contempt for the rule of law. They sense, I think, that totalitarian power is within their grasp, and they don’t intend to let anyone or anything stand in their way.

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