SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – A bill that would have made it illegal to pay a per-signature fee to companies that circulate ballot petitions was vetoed Monday by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Brown wrote in his veto message that the bill by State Senator Ellen Corbett would “drive up the costs of circulating ballot measures,” the very abuse the legislation was meant to remedy.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier noted that Brown is already looking at qualifying some kind of revenue package for the November ballot that can only get before voters by paying signature gatherers.

“If he’s paying a flat hourly rate, it could cost him a lot more to get those signatures,” Matier said.

KCBS And Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

The dozen or so companies that specialize in signature gathering have become a fact of life in California politics, hired by unions, out-of-state political action committees and Golden State politicians.

Matier said only extremely local measures such as school bonds and small town fire bonds rely on volunteers to qualify for the ballot.

“If it’s a big city or it’s statewide, chances are that person with that clipboard is getting paid per signature,” he said.

Corbett championed this legislation, twice vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in part because the cost per signature on hot-button issues tends to escalate as the deadline approaches. Her bill would have made it legal for companies to charge only by the day or by the hour.

Matier said a measure that pays 75 cents per signature can wind up costing four to five times more if voters have been reluctant to sign on.

“The closer it gets to deadline filing time and the further behind they are, they can be paying upwards of five dollars a signature, which is what Jeff Adachi’s campaign was doing for his pension reform measure,” he said.

Groups who support the legislation have charged that the added pressure to get registered voters to sign in favor of unpopular measures can lead to dubious pitches about what a ballot measure really would do.

You can hear Phil Matier’s comments Monday through Friday at 7:50am and 5:50pm on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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