November 1, 2011
By Adam Bink
Today, the Stop SB 48 campaign, a few weeks off their failure to qualify a ballot referendum to overturn the FAIR Education Act (SB 48), announced that they are “working on an initiative.” For those not following, the FAIR Education Act requires social science lessons in California to include historical contributions of LGBT people and movements, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, alongside other civil rights movements and underrepresented minorities.
An initiative requires collection of the same number of signatures as a referendum (504,760) but one gets more time in which to get complete the process (90 days for a referendum to get title and summary, collect signatures and turn them in vs. 150 days for an initiative). In addition, for an initiative, the 150-day clock starts after title and summary is received from the attorney general, whereas with a referendum that time counts against the 90 days (meaning one must wait for title and summary before collecting signatures, but the 90-day clock has already started ticking). The initiative must also qualify at least 131 days before the next statewide election at which the sponsor is attempting to qualify the measure — in this case, before November 6, 2012. They also must start from scratch — they cannot use the signatures they collected the first time around. There are also additional deadlines depending on how many signatures are collected and which counting method is used by elections officials to verify signatures.
Translation of all of that. The Stop SB 48 campaign claims they collected 497,404 signatures. Let’s say for the moment that isn’t bluster and it’s accurate. A general rule of thumb on collecting signatures is that a percentage (some say around 20%) are invalid for one reason or another — and that is acknowledged below by the campaign itself. So they fell fairly short, even if they aren’t exaggerating. If they get an extra 60 days to collect signatures, will they make it? Maybe. They are facing some tight deadlines, and a lot of that depends on different factors — how much money they raise this time to employ paid signature-gatherers since (with very, very few exceptions) all-volunteer or mostly volunteer efforts don’t make it; whether, after our successful decline-to-sign campaign was mounted, the public will be fooled by the lies that were and will be told by the campaign; how many resources our side has to fight the effort; whether, after the law takes effect in January, the public and/or people who signed the referendum the first time realizes the sky hasn’t and won’t fall on kids in California schools; on and on.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. It goes without saying that we will need everyone’s help to beat this back a second time. If you haven’t chipped in to our decline-to-sign campaign efforts, please throw some coin in. If you haven’t signed up for updates on the FAIR Education Act and our work to defend it, please do so if you’re interested. Over 12,000 Courage members across California helped beat this back the first time through community education and confronting signature gatherers, along with our coalition partners at EQCA, GSA Network and others. For more on that, check out the link at top. We’ll need everyone’s help again.
The Stop SB 48 campaign e-mail (excerpted) is below and titled “You Won’t Back Down”:
At least that is what many of you are telling us. Our effort to qualify a referendum to overturn SB48, California’s so-called “gay history” bill, came so close to victory but ultimately did not have the signatures. With 504,760 signatures needed, we only came up with 497,404.
It was a remarkable achievement, but not enough.
With the announcement that we could not qualify the referendum, and every day since, we have received inquiries, advice and pleas all pushing us toward another effort to liberate our classrooms from this very bad law.
We hear you and we want California to hear you.
You didn’t back down when the opponents called you names. And you didn’t back down when they made their threats. So why would you stop just because we did not get enough signatures?
To be sure, a referendum was the most direct route to stopping this misguided law in its tracks. The referendum is called the “people’s veto” for a reason. A bill is signed into the law by the Governor. But if the citizens of California can gather enough signatures in 90 days after the Governor signs the legislation, then the law is suspended until the citizens have a chance to vote.
But there are other tools available. An initiative involves a very similar process of gathering signatures, yet the citizens get more time to gather signatures.
We are working on an initiative and will tell you more about that in a number of weeks.
We are also looking into ways to increase our efficiency. Unfortunately a large number of petitions could not be counted because of various errors. Some of the more technical-minded members of our coalition are looking at ways to lower the error rate.