California’s Propositions: When Industry Takes Its Beef to the Ballot

See if you can spot the trend.

  • In 2014, California lawmakers passed a law banning single-use plastic bags. Outraged plastic bag manufacturers gathered the requisite signatures for a referendum, asking voters to strike down the ban in 2016. (The ban survived).
  • In 2018, lawmakers ended cash bail in California. Two years later, the question was on the ballot in a campaign funded by the bail bond industry. (Voters brought cash bail back).
  • In 2020, the Legislature passed a ban on flavored tobacco. Those in the smoking, vaping and chewing business immediately got to work, which is why you’ll find the question on your ballot this November.

Just last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of bills codifying the state’s aggressive climate change goals. Among them was legislation by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, a Long Beach Democrat, that aims to ban new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

On Monday evening Jerry Reedy, a California Independent Petroleum Association board member, filed a proposed referendum for 2024 with the attorney general’s office.

This follows a similar move by the fast food industry. Last week, Big Burger won a step toward getting a referendum on the 2024 ballot to overturn a law creating a state council regulating wages and working conditions at franchised restaurants.

A complete look at the 2022 statewide ballot measures.

Powerful interests have always had the power to go directly to voters when they don’t get their way in Sacramento. But as Democratic control over the Legislature has become even more dominant in recent years, aggrieved businesses have adopted a new fondness for the strategy.

Oil and gas producers still have a long way to go before getting the setback law on the ballot. First the attorney general will provide a title and summary for the measure. Then proponents will have to gather more than 623,000 valid signatures from registered voters. Then it goes to the voters.

Getting a majority of California voters to agree with the oil industry might be a tough sell. But a referendum campaign can be its own reward. Once a referendum measure qualifies, the law is suspended until the electorate can weigh in.

The oil and gas industry won’t be able to count on the support of at least two California voters: Gov. Newsom and Sen. Gonzalez.

In a live-streamed interview at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, the governor bemoaned the fact that the bill was already being undercut — and had some sharp words for the more industry-friendly members of his own party.

“We may be dominated by Democrats, but many of us are wholly owned subsidiaries of the fossil fuel industry…They just filed a referendum yesterday — big oil,” said Newsom. “These guys aren’t going away.”

Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, didn’t reply to request for his response. But the organization’s lobbyist responded on Twitter: “Fact Check: Untrue!”

Gonzalez is also in New York this week, though she said she missed the governor’s comments. But she did call this latest referendum effort and similar campaigns an “abuse” of the process.

“Somebody with money can just come in and completely overturn it and continue to lie and spend money and provide mistruths, and there goes the legislative process,” she said.



  1. California elected officials prefer to rule over their subjects with an iron fist –
    better not question their new taxes, over bearing mandates and restrictions.

    Law abiding citizens of California went to the polls and a majority approved of a proper punishment for the soaring crime and homicide rate in California.
    Voters chose to reaffirm a Death Penalty in California and even approved a proposition to speed up the Death Penalty process.

    But Soft-on-Crime and so-called “Progressive” (we know better) office-holders–
    Like hypocritical Gavin Newsom – again decide not to follow the will of the voters.

    2016 – Proposition 66 – Death Penalty Procedures
    Result: Approved.
    A “yes” vote supported changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences, including requiring the amount of time that legal challenges to death sentences take to a maximum of five years.

    2016 – Proposition 62 – Repeal of the Death Penalty
    Result: Defeated
    A “yes” vote supported Repealing the death penalty and making life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder.
    A “no” vote opposed this measure repealing the death penalty.

    On March 13, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty.
    Sleazy Gavin Newsom again went against the will of the voters and advocated for violent killers and ignored the victims of murder and the families of murder victims.

    Businesses in California have 2 options – ask the voters to vote with common sense and in their best interests
    or just continue to flee the many “Freedoms” that California imposes on its subjects.

  2. In many ways this is all positive. We can just vote to have a part time legislature and limit their authority to a very narrow scope. Then put all the big picture decisions up to a decision by the population. That is a true democracy. So, it’s all good in the end the end.

  3. What does Ben Christopher mean the “The oil and gas industry won’t be able to count on the support of at least two California voters: Gov. Newsom and Sen. Gonzalez?” Governor Newsom campaigned against fracking in the state in 2018 and since coming to power in January 2019 has rapidly increased state-issued permits for oil and gas drilling and fracking and relaxed regulations and oversight of the main energy corporations operating in California (;;;;

    At the same time, he throws public, dramatically-staged, tantrums about climate change deniers ( newsom-rails-against-climate-change-deniers-as-historic-wildfires-rage-across-california/) and, as pointed out in Ben Christopher’s piece, calls out his fellow Democrats as “wholly owned subsidiaries of the fossil fuel industry.” That’s a true enough statement but it applies to Newsom far more than to Democrats in general. After all, he was and is the darling of California’s wealthiest families–including the oil-wealthy Gettys, who are long-time family friends. After all, who do you think were his dinner partners at the French Laundry? (;;

    Theatrics and spin for the public; service to the powerful: the recipe for the destruction of the physical environment and the social fabric.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *