Why California Laws Are At The Forefront

Why California Laws Are At The Forefront

Why California Laws Are At The Forefront

California laws are at the forefront of legislation in the United States. Whether related to cannabis, the environment, employment, human trafficking, consumer protection and privacy, the list of cutting-edge legislation is long. A 108-year-old California ballot initiative system enables anyone with the required number of signatures to get virtually anything on the ballot.

“If a citizen wants to get a law passed, they don’t have to do it in a conventional way. That’s given rise to a do-it-yourself political culture that doesn’t exist in other places,” said California expert Jim Newton, author of “Jerry Brown and the Creation of Modern California.” “Layer on top of that a long tradition of political experimentation.”

“It’s an extremely big place and extremely varied, so there’s a whole range of ideas being kicked around,” Newton said. “People come here to get away from rigidity in other places in the country, so that probably helps fuel the freethinking political culture.”

The pattern is: California enacts some unprecedented law. The rest of America makes fun of it and mocks it. And a few (or many) years later, they catch up and enact similar legislation. The first example of this was gas emissions in 1966 when California was the first state to create a tailpipe emissions standard. It enacted the first state anti-stalking law in 1990. Not everything works. 1994’s Proposition 187 denying public benefits and education to immigrants was declared unconstitutional.

Glen Gendzel, a history professor at San Jose State University, described it his way, “California is America’s crystal ball, where a nation looks to see its future and doesn’t always like what it is. California is willing to try. We’re not willing to say the old way of doing things is the only way of doing things.”

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