Significant Statutes and Constitutional Amendments of the 20th Century
by Rebecca LaVally
Preface by John
From low-fee public
universities to toll-free highways, from civil-rights protections to
environmental safeguards, state laws and constitutional provisions over the
last 100 years have helped define California and its people.
Even today, at the
gateway of a new era, freedoms set in motion by reform-minded Progressives
in the century’s second decade continue to mold California’s public character.
productive Legislature of 1911, spurred by Governor Hiram Johnson, asked
voters in October of that year to approve 23 constitutional amendments,
from women’s suffrage to the rights of
initiative, referendum and recall. Voters agreed to nearly all of the
changes designed to wrest control of California from the machine politics of
the railroad industry. Theodore Roosevelt considered these public-spirited
reforms "the greatest advance ever made by any state for the benefit
of its people."
began putting citizens’ initiatives on California ballots with the next
election of 1912. Some, including 1978’s Proposition 13, captured some of
the biggest lawmaking headlines of the century. But a long continuum of
Capitol legislating created rights, civic structures and a government
framework that most Californians probably accept today without much thought
of how they came to be.
highlights some of the laws and constitutional changes of the 20th
century that helped form modern-day California. Illustrated here are the
trends and ideas that spawned the state highway and park systems, labor and
civil-rights protections, safety nets for the elderly, disabled and the
poor. Here is the evolution of California’s
multifaceted tax structure and environmental protections, its open meeting
laws and privacy standards, its policies on conserving and transporting
water, its building boom for education and its increasing focus on crime as
the end of the century drew nearer.
At its best, the work
of California’s Legislature remains a testament
to what is achievable when dreamers and doers join forces. You’ll find in these pages Senate President pro Tempore
Arthur H. Breed arguing in the 1920s for creation of a state park system:
"What is the use of spending millions on our splendid highway system
if the roads lead us to the blackened stumps of what once were mighty
forests, and along a shoreline fenced off from the public, with signs:
‘Private Property – Keep Out!’?"
California government in the 20th
century had its low spots, too, when the actions of governors, legislators
and voters restricted rather than expanded civic freedoms. Even reformist
Governor Johnson promoted – over the active opposition of President Woodrow
Wilson – a California ban on land ownership by the
Japanese. This and other minority restrictions eventually were repealed or
overturned by the courts, sometimes after decades on the books. Other low
points include the required loyalty oaths of the 1950s that applied even to
University of California faculty and voter repudiation
in 1964 of the Rumford Fair Housing Act’s goal to
protect renters and homebuyers from racial discrimination.
Courts, voters and
Capitol policy-makers sometimes have been at odds over the years. This
chronology offers a brief look at how some of those conflicts sorted out.
Sometimes laws foundered on the quicksand of the day’s
changing issues; sometimes they were timelessly imbedded in concepts that
While hundreds of
laws are enacted each year, this pamphlet offers only a sampling of some
that may have marked turning points. It omits far more than it includes.
These are but a few of the significant legal changes -- whether by statute
or constitutional amendment, by citizens’ initiative or legislative vote,
whether signed into law by the governor or enacted by the electorate – that
helped shape California’s civic landscape during
the past 100 years.
President pro Tempore California State Senate
· Tax Exemption
for Churches -- Church property is exempted from taxation with the
approval of a constitutional amendment by 53 percent of voters. In 1944,
voters expand the property-tax exemption to facilities devoted to
religious, hospital or charitable purposes.
· Pauper Act -
The forerunner of today's county-provided General Assistance for those
ineligible for other welfare aid, the Pauper Act of 1901 requires every
California county to "support all pauper, incompetent, poor, indigent
persons and those incapacitated by age, disease or accident, lawfully
resident therein, when such persons are not supported and relieved by their
relatives or friends, or by their own means, or by state hospitals or other
state or private institutions." (The reference to pauper was deleted
in 1937, but otherwise this wording, now known as Section 17000 of the
Welfare and Institutions Code, remains essentially unchanged.) The 1901 law
also made it a misdemeanor to bring indigent or incapacitated people into a
county or to leave them there. Family members, if possible, were required
to pay the county a sum set by the county board of supervisors to support
an indigent relative. Any excess money was to be returned to the family
after the death of the person, once burial expenses were paid.
· Corporate Taxes
-- The Legislature adopts an annual license tax on corporations doing
business in California, and a state tax on the gross
incomes of corporations is enacted in 1910.
· Yosemite Valley-- Responding to 15 years of
pressure from John Muir and his supporters, the Legislature turns over Yosemite Valley to the federal government. A
year later Congress approves merging the valley with a national forest
reserve it previously had designated around the area, creating a unified YosemiteNational Park. Yosemite Valley remains a federally protected
gem of California's early conservation
Colleges -- The governing boards of public high schools are authorized
by law to establish courses for education beyond high school, paving the
way for development of California's community college system.
The first public junior college in the country opens in Fresno in 1910. The CaliforniaStateUniversity system traces its beginnings
to 1862 and the University of California to 1868.
· Direct Primary --
The Legislature, its membership reconstituted by reformists in the 1908
elections, enacts a direct primary law to give control over nominating
state party candidates to voters instead of machine politics. Using that
power for the first time, voters in 1910 make Republican Progressive Hiram
Johnson their governor and give Progressives control of the Legislature.
This opens the way for a series of political and social reforms that cast
off the old system of Southern Pacific's control over California government and politics.
· Banks -- The
Bank Act of 1909 defines and regulates the banking industry with the goal
of assuring its soundness. It remains the state's fundamental banking law
until the 1930s. An assessment on banks to pay for a system that would have
insured deposits is defeated.
· State Highway
System -- Voters ratify the 1909 Legislature's State Highway Act to
create a system of highways in California. By a vote of 53.7 percent,
they authorize $6 million in bonds to pay for highway construction,
improvements and land acquisition.
· Property Taxes -
Voters give cities and counties a right to impose, collect and allocate
property taxes, ending the state's reliance on the property tax as its
major revenue source since the tax first was imposed by California's inaugural Legislature in
1850. (Constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature; approved by
59.4 percent of voters.) In 1968 voters endorse a property-tax exemption of
$750 (now $7,000) for homeowners in a constitutional revision proposed by
the Legislature. Lawmakers and Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972 enact a
renters' income-tax credit to offset a sales-tax increase financing the
· Women's Suffrage
- Voters grant California women the right to vote in
state and local elections nine years before women win the federal
franchise. California becomes the sixth state to
give women voting rights, but approval is by the narrowest margin of 22
constitution amendments approved on the same ballot. A similar measure had been
defeated in 1896. (Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature,
approved by 50.7 percent of voters.)
· Right of
Citizens' Initiative -- Proposition 7 gives citizens the right to
propose ballot initiatives by collecting sufficient signatures from voters.
It also gives voters the right to petition to put referendums on the ballot
to rescind laws or parts of laws enacted by the Legislature.
(Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature, approved by 76.4
percent of voters.)
· Recall from
Office -- Proposition 8 permits voters to remove from public office, or
recall, elected officials including judges. (Constitutional amendment,
proposed by the Legislature, approved by 76.5 percent of voters.)
· Regulation of
Public Utilities -- The nation's most comprehensive system of public
utility regulation is created with enactment of the Public Utilities Act.
The state Railroad Commission is given power to regulate the rates charged
by all public utilities except those owned by municipalities. The name is
changed to Public Utilities Commission in 1946 and state Senate
confirmation becomes a requirement of the governor's appointees to it.
(Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature in 1946; approved by
59.7 percent of voters.)
· Board of Control
-- The state Board of Control is established to provide California's first consistent system of
supervision over state finances. The board gives California its first comprehensive state
budget and inventory of state property, and proceeds to ferret out graft,
embezzlement and other government corruption.
· Labor Reforms --
A package of labor laws includes an eight-hour day for working women,
although farm labor and the canning and packing industries are excluded.
Children under 18 are prohibited from working
between and Wages must be paid at regular
intervals. A voluntary workmen's compensation program will provide benefits
in the event of on-the-job accidents. Workmen's compensation becomes
mandatory in 1913.
Elections -- The election of judges and school officials is made
nonpartisan statewide. Two years later county elections become nonpartisan.
Nonpartisan elections were first applied to cities in the Berkeley city charter in 1909.
· Free Schoolbooks
-- Proposition 2 for the first time makes textbooks free to
schoolchildren. It also requires the Legislature to reorganize the state
Board of Education, then composed of the governor,
state superintendent of public instruction, president of the University of California and the principals of
"normal schools," which are post-secondary schools for training
schoolteachers. (Constitutional amendment, offered by the Legislature,
approved by 66.7 percent of voters.)
Welfare Commission -- The Industrial Welfare Commission is created and
charged by legislation with investigating wages and working conditions,
hours and the general welfare "of the working women and children of California."
· Immigration and
Housing Commission -- A state commission on immigration and housing is
created to prevent, in the words of Hiram Johnson, the kinds of
"dreadful conditions of poverty" that could be found in the
immigrant ghettos of East Coast cities. The commission also examines
farm-labor camps and promotes housing standards for migratory workers.
· AlienLand Act -- Aliens ineligible for U.S. citizenship are banned from
owning land in California. The ban is aimed at the
Japanese, who cannot naturalize as U.S. citizens under federal laws
of the time. (The Chinese had been excluded from immigration by Congress
since 1882.) Japanese ranchers, the first to plant rice in the SacramentoValley, begin transferring holdings
to their American-born children to get around the state law. The Alien Land
Act is on the books 39 years, overturned by the state Supreme Court in
1952, the same year the federal government ends its practice of denying
naturalization by race.
· Cross-Filing -
Under a "crossing-filing" system developed by Johnson
Progressives to weaken political parties, a candidate can run for his or
her own party's nomination as well as for the nominations of other parties.
Californians must vote within their own registered parties, but candidates
can file for all party nominations. The system is in place more than 40
· Minimum Wage for
Women and Children - Voters authorize legislators to set a minimum wage
for women and children and to pass laws to "provide for the comfort,
health, safety and general welfare of any and all employees."
Proponents argue a minimum wage will discourage working women from turning
to prostitution to maintain their economic self-sufficiency.
(Constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature, approved 56.2
percent.) In a series of later constitutional revisions, voters in 1970
officially include all employees, not just women and children, in the
Constitution's minimum-wage protections (although minimum-wage laws at the
time were covering men, too).
· Per-capita or
Poll Taxes -- A constitutional amendment placed on the ballot by
initiative prohibits poll or per-capita taxes for any purpose. The
California State Federation of Labor argues that California, "the richest state
per-capita in the Union," doesn't need to pay for its schools with a
"head tax" dating from feudal times, when barons were taxed based
on the number of serfs they owned. Fifty-two percent of voters agree with
the Federation of Labor, but the issue remains alive for 32 years. In 1920
voters adopt a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature
ordering an annual tax of at least $4 on "every alien male" over
21 and under 60, "except paupers, idiots and
insane persons." Proceeds are earmarked for schools. Winning 82
percent approval but quickly struck down by the courts, the 1920 measure
remains one of the most popular California ballot proposals of the
century. In 1924, voters endorse a tax of at least $5 on every male over 21
and under 50, again as a legislative constitutional amendment to finance
schools. But the Legislature refrains from levying it and in 1946 puts a constitutional
amendment on the ballot to abolish the per-capita tax for good. Seventy-one
percent of voters agree.
· Tax Exemption
for Universities -- Nonprofit colleges and universities are exempted
from property taxation. (Constitutional amendment, proposed by the
Legislature, approved by 53 percent of voters.) A 100-acre cap on their
tax-exempt property is expanded in 1962 to include all lands used for
· Water for
Workers -- All employers are required to provide workers with drinking
water, an outgrowth of rioting in Wheatland in Yuba County the year before.
Among vile conditions in Wheatland's farm-labor camps, workers in the
fields were denied water or permission to rent their own water wagons.
· Vehicle Act of
1915 -- The Department of Motor Vehicles is created to take over the
rapidly escalating job of registering vehicles, a task previously handled
by the state treasurer and earlier by the secretary of state. Vehicle
registrations have climbed to 191,000 from 17,015 just 10 years earlier.
(The first permanent license plates were issued in 1914.)
State Offices - The reformist Legislature votes to make all 120
legislative seats and the state's 11 constitutional offices (including
governor and lieutenant governor) nonpartisan. This statewide sweep
advocated by Hiram Johnson and the Progressives still is considered
"the most extreme measure of its kind ever enacted in an American
state." Using their four-year-old referendum power, voters reject the
statewide nonpartisan law on the ballot later that year.
· Sentencing --
The indeterminate-sentencing law puts authority over sentencing in the
hands of local parole boards. Sentences previously were set by the courts.
Compensation -- Voters narrowly, by a tally of 50.6 percent, authorize
legislators "to create and enforce a complete system of workmen's
compensation, by appropriate legislation, and in that behalf to create and
enforce a liability on the part of any or all persons to compensate any or
all of their workmen for injury or disability, and their dependents for
death incurred or sustained by the said workmen in the course of their
employment, irrespective of the fault of any party." (Proposition 23
is a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature.)
Syndicalism -- Amid a popular fear of subversives in the aftermath of
the first World War, the Legislature adopts a law defining "criminal
syndicalism" as "any doctrine or precept advocating… unlawful
acts of force and violence…as a means of
accomplishing a change in industrial ownership or control, or effecting any
political change." Some 128 persons, mostly members of the Industrial
Workers of the World (IWW), are sent to prison under the law in the next
few years - largely to discourage the IWW from organizing migrant farm
workers. The U.S. Supreme Court declares the law unconstitutional in 1968.
· Child Labor - The
Child Labor Law is enacted to regulate employment, hours, kinds and
conditions of labor by children. Those under 18 cannot work more than 48
hours in a week. Among other restrictions, youngsters under 16 are
prohibited from working on dangerous machinery such as circular saws,
carding machines, printing presses and steam boilers or around dangerous
acids. Those at least 16 years old may be employed more than 48 hours a
week in farm or domestic labor.
· Agriculture --
The state Department of Agriculture is created to oversee the protection
and promotion of the state's agriculture.
· Kindergarten --
Kindergarten is added to the public school system. (Elementary schooling
had been made compulsory in 1874.)
· Department of
Education - The state Department of Education is created to centralize
many of the state's education activities by developing the curriculum for
elementary and secondary schools, preparing an official list of approved
textbooks and administering the various teachers' colleges in the state.
However, this law perpetuates a conflicting organizational structure for carrying
out education policies in California that continues today - an elected
state superintendent of public instruction and an appointed state Board of
· Gasoline Tax
-- California enacts its first excise tax - the gasoline tax. Two cents per
gallon will be collected to build and maintain local streets and state
highways. An unpopular tax based on horsepower is replaced with a flat
registration fee of $3 per vehicle.
· Municipal Courts
-- Local voters get authority to establish municipal courts in cities of
40,000 or more. These new courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes
and civil cases involving up to $1,000 within city boundaries.
(Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature, approved by 63.9
percent of voters.) There are 90 municipal court districts in the state and
one superior court per county by 1998, the year 64.5 percent of voters
approve a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature to permit
municipal and superior courts to merge with the approval of county judges.
· Seats in the
Senate -- An initiative constitutional amendment designed to block the
growing influence of populous Los Angeles County apportions seats in the
state Senate at no more than one per county. (Approved by 54.6 percent of voters.)
· Bank and
Corporate Taxes -- A constitutional amendment offered by the
Legislature establishes a tax on the net income of banks and other
financial, manufacturing and business corporations to replace a state bank
tax overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Approved by 73.1 percent of
· State Park Bond
-- Voters authorize a state park bond act of $6 million adopted unanimously
by the Legislature in 1927 to create a comprehensive system of natural
parks aimed at preserving beaches, redwood forests and other areas "of
outstanding interest throughout the state." Declares Senate President
pro Tempore Arthur H. Breed in his supporting ballot argument: "What
is the use of spending millions on our splendid highway system if the roads
lead us to the blackened stumps of what once were mighty forests, and along
a shoreline fenced off from the public with signs: 'Private Property - Keep
Out!'? By approving the state park bonds the voters will make a farsighted
investment of constantly increasing value for all of California."
(Approved by 73.8 percent of voters.)
· Aid to the
Disabled -- A constitutional amendment offered by lawmakers empowers
the Legislature to grant aid to physically disabled persons. Previously,
state assistance was confined to indigent deaf and blind persons. The
measure was sponsored by the California Society for Crippled Children and
approved by 76.3 percent of voters. A companion amendment proposed by the
Legislature permits aid to needy blind persons with the argument this would
assist them in becoming self-supporting rather than relying on charity.
With 82.5 percent approval, it is one of the most popular state measures
· Water Policy
-- Voters lay a legal cornerstone for water policy in their arid state,
stating that water rights are subject to a requirement that water be used
in a "reasonable" and "beneficial" manner. This for the
first time establishes the legal principal of water conservation.
(Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature, approved by 77.2
percent of voters.)
· Highway Patrol --
The California Highway Patrol is created to enforce traffic laws on county
and state highways. Previously this had been done county by county.
· Pensions to
State Workers -- Voters authorize the Legislature to provide pensions
to state employees, based on minimum years of service and age, using funds
contributed by the employees. "Without a retirement system, aged and
disabled employees are retained in active service while they 'go through
the motions,'" suggested Assemblyman Ray Williamson in ballot
arguments. (Constitutional amendment, proposed by the Legislature, approved
by 51.6 percent of voters.)
· Oil Drilling -
Voters uphold a referendum on a 1929 state law that prohibits any new
permits for oil drilling on state tidelands. Proponents argue in the ballot
pamphlet, "If you believe that the beaches should be preserved for the
people of the state vote YES." (Approved by 59.3 percent of voters.)
· Sales Taxes --
California, with enactment of the Retail Sales Act, prepares to collect
sales taxes to meet its obligation to fund schools in the bleak years of
the Great Depression. An income tax also is passed, but vetoed by Governor
James Rolph Jr.
· Taxes on
Alcoholic Beverages -- In anticipation of the repeal of Prohibition,
the first state tax on alcohol -- at 2 cents per gallon -- is enacted on
beer and wine. In 1935 the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act puts an
80-cent-per-gallon tax on distilled spirits. · Other Taxes -- Proposition
1, regulating taxation of banks and insurance companies, also empowers the
Legislature to levy any taxes not prohibited by the state Constitution.
(Constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature, approved by 62
percent of voters.)
Safety Standards -- Following a devastating earthquake in Long Beach,
the Legislature approves the Field Act to raise standards that remain today
for constructing schools and community colleges.
· Horseracing -
A constitutional amendment placed on the ballot by the Legislature is
adopted by 62.9 percent of voters to legalize horseracing. Racing quickly
becomes a popular spectator sport.
· Central Valley
Project - The Legislature authorizes construction of a state Central
Valley Project, to consist of Shasta Dam on the upper Sacramento River near
Redding, Friant Dam on the upper San Joaquin
River near Fresno, and other dams and canals. Fifty-two percent of voters
in a referendum uphold the Legislature's action in a December special
election that attracts a light turnout of less than 900,000. (More than 2
million had come to the polls a year earlier.) In 1935 the financially
strapped state, unable to sell bonds for a state Central Valley Project,
surrenders the plan to the federal government, which authorizes
construction as the federal Central Valley Project.
Relief Bonds - Reeling under the Great Depression, 71 percent of voters
approve $24 million in relief bonds proposed by the Legislature to aid the
unemployed, adding to the $20 million in relief bonds voters had approved a
year earlier. They're told the new money, together with federal funds, will
create a $70 million pot to ensure "the employment of every
able-bodied citizen during the coming winter." The money is to be
administered by a relief commission that includes the state's social
· Civil Service
-- An initiative constitutional amendment prohibits appointments and
promotions in state civil service other than by merit, to be determined by
competitive examination. (Approved by 76.1 percent of voters.)
· State Income Tax
-- California begins taxing personal income, which will become the single
largest source of state revenue.
· Food Taxes --
The sales tax on food is repealed.
Control -- The Dickey Water Pollution Act, the first of the modern
clean-water laws, creates a State Water Pollution Control Board.
· Old-age Security
and Family Welfare -- California enacts an Old Age Security program as
the counterpart to the federal Social Security Act of 1935. The maximum aid
under the state-federal effort in California is $35 per month. The federal
act also establishes an Aid for Dependent Children program, precursor to
today's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families jointly funded by the state
and federal governments.
· Vehicle Code
- The Vehicle Code of California is established to supersede city and
county ordinances. Motorists were being fined for violating driving laws
that varied locally as they crossed county lines.
· Prisons for
Women -- Voters authorize the Legislature to establish prisons for
female felons, but permit women prisoners to be punished and treated
differently than men even if similarly convicted. (Constitutional amendment
offered by the Legislature, approved by 50.2 percent of voters.)
Welfare - Voters give the Legislature planning powers over relief and
authorize it to enlarge the scope of relief administration. The Legislature
is permitted to revise "laws relating to relief of hardship and
destitution, whether resulting from unemployment or otherwise."
Proposition 7 permits relief to be administered either directly by the
state or through the counties, and the counties to be reimbursed by the
state. (Constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature, approved by
58.3 percent of voters.)
· Liens on
Property of Impoverished Elderly - Voters release all liens taken by
counties as security for aid granted to the aged. It had been the practice
to secure the property of elderly persons on assistance and forbid them to
sell without county approval. As a practical matter, however, these
holdings were small because those on aid were impoverished. (Constitutional
amendment offered by the Legislature, approved by 64 percent of voters.)
· Prisons --
The Prison Reorganization Act creates the
Department of Corrections to oversee the state's prison system and also
establishes the Board of Trustees of the California Institution for Women,
the Correctional Industrial Commission and the Board of Corrections, which
develops local jail standards.
Segregation and Integration -- A state law permitting local school
districts to practice racial segregation is repealed. In 1972, voters
endorse an initiative stating no student can be required to attend a
particular school because of race, creed or color and requiring school
districts to develop plans to remedy racial imbalances.
· Air Pollution
- The Air Pollution Control Act allows counties to establish districts to
· Daylight Savings
Time - Overcoming previous voter rejections, an initiative wins
enactment to institute Daylight Savings Time by advancing the clock an hour
on the last Sunday in April through the last Sunday in September. It's
approved by 54.6 percent of voters. In 1962, 72.2 percent of voters readily
agree to the Legislature's proposal to save daylight for another month,
until the last Sunday in October.
Housing Projects - Voters narrowly approve, by 50.8 percent, an
initiative constitutional amendment requiring local voter approval of
public low-rent housing projects.
Services - The Office of Emergency Services is established in the state
Office of Civil Defense to help coordinate the state's response to its
major disasters, including earthquakes, fires and floods.
· Restitution to
Japanese Californians - The Legislature agrees to make restitution to
Japanese Californians for losses imposed by denying immigrants ineligible
for citizenship a right to hold real estate in California. The state Supreme Court
overturns the Alien Land Act in 1952, the same year Congress ends
race-based immigration to the United States. In 1998 legislation is
adopted to finance education about the internment of Japanese-Americans
during World War II. California during the war hysteria had
terminated all state employees of Japanese ancestry. The Legislature later
formally apologized to Japanese-Americans for their treatment during the
· Subversives -
Voters prohibit persons to hold public office or public employment who
advocate overthrow of the federal or state government by unlawful means or
advocate support of a foreign government at war against the United States. (Constitutional amendment
offered by the Legislature in 1952, approved by 68.1 percent of voters.)
· Loyalty Oaths
- A constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature requires public
officeholders and public employees - including employees of the University
of California -- to take an oath that they neither advocate nor are members
of any group advocating overthrow of government by force, that they have
not belonged to such a group in the preceding five years and that they will
not become members during their time in office and employment. (Approved by
69.6 percent of voters.)
Restrictions on Chinese - Voters repeal provisions of the state
Constitution, as it was adopted in 1879, that direct the Legislature to
impose "conditions on residence of certain aliens and to provide for
their removal from the state." The California Constitution prohibited
Chinese employment by corporations and on public works unless as
punishment. It ordered lawmakers to restrict Chinese residents to certain
portions of cities and forbid entry of more into the state. (Constitutional
amendment offered by Legislature, approved by 77.3 percent of voters.)
· Brown Act -
The Brown Act requires meetings of governing boards of cities, counties,
school districts and other local agencies to be "open and
public." The law's preamble states, "The people, in delegating
authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is
good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know." A
1967 law requires that notices of the regular meetings of state bodies be
provided to anyone who requests them.
Beverages - Voters establish a Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
to administer liquor licensing laws, and make offenses involving moral
turpitude an additional ground for denial or revocation of liquor licenses.
(Constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature, approved by 66.3
percent of voters.)
Property -- Voters abolish a provision of the state Constitution dating
to 1879 that permits only non-citizens "of the white race or of
African descent" to have the same rights as citizens for
"acquisition, possession, enjoyment, transmission and
inheritance" of personal property. This was designed to leave out
Japanese, Filipino, Korean and other Asian Americans. The Legislature placed
this constitutional amendment on the ballot without dissent; it was
approved by 71.9 percent of voters.
· Local Sales
Taxes -- Local governments are authorized to vote to collect a 1
percent sales tax. By 1967, all cities and counties are imposing the tax.
· Bars and Saloons
-- Voters repeal a requirement dating from the end of Prohibition in
1933 that alcoholic beverages could be served publicly only in eating
places, paving the way for the restoration of bars and, opponents loudly
complained, "hard-liquor saloons." (Constitutional amendment,
offered by the Legislature, approved by 50.6 percent of voters.)
Staff - The electorate with the support of the League of Women Voters
agrees to end a limit that dates to 1924 on expenses for legislative staff
of $300 per day per house. The Legislature, skirting a direct confrontation
with the limit, for years had a created a special "interim"
committee to pay for staff. (Constitutional amendment offered by the
Legislature, approved by 62.3 percent of voters.)
· Fair Employment
Practices Act -- Years ahead of the similar protections guaranteed by
the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Legislature at the urging of
Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown enacts a Fair Employment Practices
Act in 1959 to prohibit race discrimination by employers and labor unions.
The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination by those engaged
in business activities, including real estate brokers. The Legislature
follows up with laws to prohibit job and/or housing discrimination based on
marital status (1976), pregnancy (1978), and sexual orientation (1999) and
to prohibit sexual harassment on the job (1982).
· Cigarette Taxes
- The Legislature adopts Pat Brown's proposal to impose a state tax on
packs of cigarettes.
· Consumers --
A state Office of Consumer's Counsel is created to act against false or
misleading practices in labeling and packaging,
and against deceptive carrying charges on purchases by installment credit.
· State Water
Project -- The Burns-Porter Act orders construction of the State Water
Project, to consist of Oroville Dam on the Feather River, the California Aqueduct from
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California, and other dams and canals.
The following year, a narrow 51.5 percent majority of voters authorizes the
$1.75 billion bond act that will finance the project. At the time it's the
largest bond issue ever approved by a state. Support in more populous Southern California outweighs opposition in the
north. Declares Governor Brown of the California Aqueduct: "We are
going to build a river 500 miles long… to correct an accident of people and
· Public Higher
Education -- The Donahoe Higher Education Act
enacts much of the Master Plan for Higher Education, creating a structure
and overarching policies for California's three systems of
post-secondary education: the University of California, the CaliforniaStateColleges and the CaliforniaCommunity Colleges. It promises room for
"all who have the capacity and willingness to profit by a college
Devices -- The Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Act, the first law of
its kind in the country, requires installation of smog-control devices on
vehicles. Federal laws by the late 1960s were requiring reduced auto emissions,
but California's standards were stricter than those of the federal Clean
Air Act of 1967. Later versions and amendments to the federal act toughened
those standards and gave California's smoggy metropolitan areas deadlines
Planning - The Highway Transportation Agency is established,
consolidating several transportation-related agencies. This is followed in
1972 by the Legislature's creation of the California Department of
Transportation, popularly known as Caltrans, to
handle all aspects of California's vast transportation network. The
California Transportation Commission is created in 1977 to guide
construction policies and projects.
· Higher Education
Bonds - Two-thirds of voters authorize $270 million in construction
bonds, to be followed in quick succession by other successful
higher-education bond issues, for junior colleges, the California State
Colleges, the University of California and other building needs. Argue
proponents: "During the next four years, California's junior colleges,
state colleges and universities will face the greatest growth in enrollment
that has ever confronted any system of higher education." Opponents
vainly call the bonds a blank check. At the same time they were saying yes
to higher-education construction, Californians also were approving hundreds
of millions of dollars in bond acts for public schools.
· Rumford Fair
Housing Act -- The Legislature and Governor Brown enact the Rumford
Fair Housing Act to declare racial discrimination in housing against public
policy. Owners of apartment buildings and publicly assisted housing are
prohibited from engaging in racial discrimination in rents or sales.
· Revising the
Constitution -- The Legislature appoints a Constitutional Revision
Commission, made up of 60 leaders in a variety of fields, to recommend
revisions in the 80,000-word state Constitution, which by 1963 has been
amended more than 350 times. The Legislature places these reforms on
ballots as constitutional amendments between 1966 and 1980. Most are
approved and the Constitution is cut by two-thirds.
· Repeal of
Rumford Act - A constitutional amendment to effectively repeal the
Rumford Fair Housing Act qualifies for the ballot by initiative as
Proposition 14. Approved by 65.4 percent of the vote, it prohibits the
state from "denying, limiting or abridging the right of any person to
decline to sell, lease or rent residential real property to any person as
he chooses." The state Supreme Court strikes down Proposition 14 as
unconstitutional in 1966. The decision is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court
the following year.
· Free Television
- Voters by a
two-thirds tally adopt an initiative prohibiting charges to the public for
television programs transmitted to home TV sets.
-- State legislation is signed by Governor Brown to implement the
federal Medicaid program. Medi-Cal becomes
effective on March 1, 1966, to provide health coverage to 1.3 million needy
Californians with funding shared by the state and federal governments.
Prior to Medi-Cal, many medically needy persons
and those on public assistance relied on charitable institutions,
especially county hospitals. In 1978, minors who apply for limited coverage
can receive, without parental consent, services related to alcohol and drug
abuse, venereal disease, sexual assault, pregnancy and family planning.
· Revising Senate
Districts -- Responding to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1964
requiring one person's vote to be worth as much as another's in the
election of legislators, the Legislature approves an apportionment law that
equalizes populations within state Senate districts within a deviation of
15 percent. In the next year's elections, state Senate dominance passes to
· BCDC -- The
Legislature establishes the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development
Commission to create a conservation plan and regulate development in a
100-foot-wide band around the bay's shoreline, offering a model for
creation of other regional regulatory agencies.
· Williamson Act -
The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, popularly known as the
Williamson Act, permits agricultural landowners to contract with local
agencies to keep their property in agricultural use for renewable periods
of 10 years. This conserves farmland and allows owners to avoid higher
property-tax assessments based on the land's value for development.
· Lake Tahoe -
California lawmakers propose a bi-state agency to coordinate development in
the region of Lake Tahoe, straddling the California-Nevada border. The
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is approved by the California Legislature in
1967, the Nevada Legislature in 1968, Congress in 1969 and President Nixon
· Preschool --
The State Preschool program becomes the state's version of Head Start, the
federal early-education program for children of low-income families enacted
during the federal war on poverty. State Preschool classrooms for 3- to
5-year-olds from low-income families must be free, educational, and involve
parents in policy decisions.
Legislature -- Voters create a full-time Legislature, adopting
proposals offered by a Constitutional Revision Commission. Proposition 1A
permits the Legislature to raise salaries for the office but caps increases
at 5 percent per year. The number of signatures required to qualify an
initiative statute for the ballot is reduced from 8 percent to 5 percent of
the votes cast at the last election for governor. Prior to Proposition 1A,
the Legislature had been a part-time body since the birth of the state in
1850. General sessions had been held every other year; in-between years
were spent on the budget. (Constitutional amendment placed on the ballot by
the Legislature, approved by 73.5 percent of voters.)
· Abortion -
Governor Ronald Reagan, acting six years before the U.S. Supreme Court's
Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortions in America, puts his signature
on the Therapeutic Abortion Act to permit a woman to have an abortion in
the first 20 weeks of pregnancy if a physicians' committee finds her life
or health is threatened, or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
· Clean Water --
The Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act is adopted as one of the
nation's strongest anti-pollution laws and becomes a model for the federal
Clean Water Act of 1972.
· Mental Health
-- California moves to de-institutionalize the mentally ill with the
Community Mental Health Services Act of 1969, considered a model at the
time. Its two components are the Lanterman-Petris-Short
Act, establishing standards for involuntary commitments to state mental
hospitals and requiring commitments to be carried out in stages, and the
Short-Doyle Act, governing the development of community-based treatment
programs. These community programs, initially funded 90 percent by the
state and 10 percent by counties, are intended to replace confinement in
state mental institutions. In 1991 the state transfers funding
responsibilities for them to counties under a fiscal realignment.
· No-fault Divorce
- California becomes the first state to pass a no-fault divorce law,
meaning neither spouse must prove the fault of the other to gain a divorce.
A spouse can obtain a divorce without the consent of the other and no
grounds are necessary. Financial support is based on needs and resources
rather than linked to fault.
Impact Reports -- Reacting to an oil spill in the Santa Barbara
Channel, lawmakers with Governor Reagan's signature enact the California
Environmental Quality Act to require environmental impact reports before
any project is undertaken that "could have a significant effect on the
· State Budget
Deadlines -- Voters agree to require the governor to propose a new
state budget each year by January 10 instead of January 30 for the fiscal
year beginning July 1. Proposition 3 also sets a constitutional deadline of
June 15 for passage of the budget by the Legislature. Although the deadline
often would be missed, Proposition 3 is designed to end "flirting with
the possibility of chaos, which could result from the starting of a new
fiscal year without a budget," proponents argue. Offered by the
Legislature, it is approved by 54.9 percent of voters. Legislative
procedures are fine-tuned in further constitutional revisions two years
· Board of Regents
-- Meetings of the University of California Board of Regents will be
public under a constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature and
approved by 67.4 percent of voters. The Legislature successfully proposes
additional constitutional amendments in 1972 to require state Senate
confirmation of gubernatorial appointees to the Board of Regents and in
1974 to require regents to reflect California's economic, cultural and
social diversity, including its minorities and women. The 1974 measure also
requires the governor to consult an advisory committee in selecting
regents, and reduces their terms from 16 years to 12.
Withholding - Governor Reagan signs a budget-balancing measure to
withhold state income taxes from workers' paychecks and route the revenues
to the treasury. This ends California's status as the lone state among the
38 with income taxes that has no withholding.
in Granting Credit -- The Legislature adopts the first of a series of
laws to permit women to have credit accounts in their own names whether
married or single and to prohibit lenders and credit sellers from
discriminating by gender or marital status. A 1977 law prohibits
discrimination by mortgage lenders based on gender, marital status, race,
religion and similar factors.
Universities - Legislation renames the "California State
Colleges" the "California State University and Colleges" to
reflect their growing stature in American higher education.
"Colleges" is dropped from the name of the system in 1981. ·
Welfare Reforms - The Welfare Reform Act of 1971 implements a work
requirement for Aid to Families with Dependent Children as insisted upon by
Governor Reagan. It also puts into law an annual cost-of-living increase in
benefits for welfare families and the aged, blind and disabled tied to a
"California Necessities Index," the inflation measure still used
· Coastal Act -- The
Coastal Zone Conservation Act, a citizens' initiative, prohibits
development 1,000 yards inland from California's mean high tide without a
permit from a regional or state coastal commission. It creates a temporary
California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission and six regional
commissions to develop a statewide plan for coastal protection. Proponents
of Proposition 20, approved by a 55.2 percent vote, argue that coastal
planning is fragmented among 45 cities, 15 counties and dozens of
government agencies. Responding to a directive to implement the initiative,
the Legislature in 1976 opens up public access to the coastline and
establishes the California Coastal Commission to oversee coastal
· Unsafe School
Buildings -- Proposition 9 lowers from a two-thirds
to a simple majority vote the approval required for local bonds to finance
repairs of unsafe school buildings. (Constitutional amendment offered by
the Legislature, approved by 54.5 percent of voters.)
· Privacy --
Privacy is added to the state Constitution as an inalienable right. Among
other things, this protection likely would provide a right to abortion
separate from the federal privacy protections identified by the U.S.
Supreme Court in its Roe vs. Wade decision. (Proposition 11, offered by the
Legislature, approved by 62.9 percent of voters.)
· Death Penalty --
Responding to a 1972 state Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty is
unconstitutional, voters the same year restore capital punishment with an
initiative stating it does not constitute cruel or unusual punishment. This
constitutional amendment is one of the earliest anti-crime measures put on
a California ballot. It's approved by 67.5 percent of voters.
· Waste Management
- Legislation creates the California Waste Management Board to oversee
the safe disposal of California's growing waste. In 1989 the program is
revamped and a new board, with the same name, charged with developing plans
for reducing disposable waste through reuse and recycling. Goals are set
for cutting waste in California's communities by 25 percent by 1995 and 50
percent by 2000. In 1989 the state has 35 municipal curbside recycling
programs; by 1995 it has nearly 500.
· School Funding -
In an effort to respond to court decisions requiring an equitable basis
for financing the state's school districts, the Legislature removes
authority from locally elected school boards to raise their property taxes
district by district. In 1976, the state Supreme Court in the landmark
Serrano vs. Priest decision determines the state must supplement school
districts' property-tax funds, tied to wealth within districts, to ensure
equal funding for schoolchildren statewide.
Harvesting - The Z'berg-Nejedly Forest
Practices Act of 1973 requires state approval of timber-harvesting plans
with the goal of preserving forests.
Action -- Governor Reagan signs legislation giving the State Personal
Board responsibility for evaluating progress toward affirmative-action
goals in state civil service. The board's first annual report of its
efforts in 1974 calls for achieving "a state work force with each
ethnic group and women represented by occupation, responsibility and salary
level in proportion to its representation in the labor market."
Following up, a 1977 law states, "Each agency and department [in state
government] shall establish goals and timetables designed to overcome any
identified under-utilization of minorities and women in their respective
organizations." · Community Property - The Dymally
Community Property Act gives both spouses equal management and control of
community property in marriage, divorce and death. Wives were granted a
legal right to control their own earnings in 1951. Husbands beginning in 1901
were required to get a wife's consent before selling her personal items or
· Political Reform
Act - Voters approve the Political Reform Act to require public
disclosure and reporting of contributions and campaign spending for state
and local offices and ballot measures. Public officials are prohibited from
participating in government decisions affecting their own financial
interests, and must disclose their assets and income. Lobbyists must
register with the state. The Fair Political Practices Commission is created
to oversee the act. Proposition 9, an initiative, is approved by 69.8
percent of voters.
· Gender Equity in
Schools -- The Legislature and Governor Reagan agree to require the
contributions of women to be included in social studies courses in grades
kindergarten through 12. It is the first of nearly two dozen laws over the
next 25 years aimed at encouraging gender equity in education, from sports
programs to vocational counseling. California's Sex Equity in Education Act
of 1982 bars sex discrimination in all education institutions that receive
Proceedings -- Seventy-nine percent of voters adopt a constitutional
amendment offered by the Legislature to make legislative proceedings public
except where prohibited by law or by a two-thirds vote of each house of the
· Consenting Adults - The Legislature, with a
tie-breaking vote cast by Lieutenant Governor MervynDymally, adopts legislation by Assemblyman Willie
Brown to eliminate criminal penalties for adultery and other sexual acts
between consenting adults over the age of 18. Governor Edmund G.
"Jerry" Brown Jr. signs it.
· Marijuana --
The Legislature, with the new governor's signature, reduces the penalty for
possessing less than an ounce of marijuana to a maximum fine of $100. In
1996 voters approve a citizens' initiative, Proposition 215, to legalize
use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Labor Relations -- The Agricultural Labor Relations Act, personally
negotiated by Jerry Brown, creates a five-member board appointed by the
governor with quasi-judicial powers to oversee union-organizing elections
among farm laborers.
Commission -- Amid a worldwide energy crisis, the Legislature and
Governor Brown create the California Energy Commission, which sets energy
consumption limits for new household appliances and ultimately adopts the
nation's toughest energy-conservation standards for new homes and
Malpractice - Responding to escalating damage awards in
medical-malpractice cases and a corresponding rise in physicians' insurance
premiums, California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act imposes a cap
of $250,000 on awards for pain and suffering in medical-malpractice cases.
· Managed Health
Care -- The Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act is adopted to
regulate managed health-care plans. The act establishes requirements for
licensing and operating health plans in such areas as financial viability,
covered services, continuity and accessibility of services, quality
assurance, and grievance procedures. It gives the state Department of
Corporations powers to enforce standards of the act.
· Nuclear Energy --
The Legislature prohibits the California Energy Commission from permitting
construction of more nuclear power plants until the federal government
approves "a documented technology for the disposal of high-level
nuclear waste." The Energy Commission subsequently refuses to permit
continued development of the proposed Sundesert
nuclear power plant in San Diego.
· Death Penalty
-- After the state Supreme Court in 1976 again finds the California death
penalty unconstitutional, the Legislature passes a capital-punishment law
over Governor Jerry Brown's veto that conforms with
federal guidelines. In 1978, voters approve an initiative to expand the
crimes subject to punishment by death. · Determinate Sentencing - The
state's 60-year-old policy of indefinite sentences is replaced with a
determinate-sentencing law that imposes sentences for crimes that are based
on fixed ranges, with minimums and maximums.
Energy -- Governor Brown and the Legislature enact the nation's largest
tax-incentive program for encouraging development of solar energy. The
following year, the state sets a goal of meeting 10 percent of its
electrical needs with wind power by the year 2000.
Violence - The Domestic Violence Center Act finances shelters for
battered women with an increase in fees for marriage licenses.
Disabilities - The Lanterman Developmental
Disabilities Services Act changes the way services are provided to persons
with developmental disabilities by establishing an entitlement to these
services, creating a system of regional centers to provide and coordinate
them and forming a State Council on Developmental Disabilities to advocate
for California's developmentally disabled.
· Property-tax Cut
- Voters adopt Proposition 13, an initiative promoted by Howard Jarvis
and Paul Gann to slash property taxes by more than half. It rolls
real-estate assessments back to 1975 market values, sets property taxes at
1 percent of those values and caps assessment increases at no more than 2
percent yearly until property is sold or undergoes new construction. Nearly
identical properties eventually will be taxed differently, depending on
when they are bought and sold, an approach ultimately upheld by the U.S.
Supreme Court. Proposition 13, a constitutional amendment approved by 64.8
percent of voters, also requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for
tax increases, and two-thirds approval by local voters for increases in
local special taxes. The Legislature and Jerry Brown respond by channeling the
state's multibillion-dollar surplus to cities, counties, special districts
and schools, which had depended primarily on property taxes for revenue, to
help offset losses. As future economic downturns squeeze the treasury, the
state's funding emphasis remains on schools and local governments grow
increasingly strapped. Meanwhile, voters approve a series of constitutional
refinements in Proposition 13 proposed by the Legislature. Homeowners can
transfer their residences to heirs without triggering reassessments (1986), those over 55 can transfer their locked-in assessment
values to new homes of equal or lesser market value in the same county
(1988) or to homes in other counties with those counties' approval (1993).
· Pregnant Workers
- Women are protected from discrimination in the workplace based on
pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
· Spending Limit --
Proposition 4, an initiative by Proposition 13 co-author Gann, limits state
and local government spending to increases in population and inflation and
requires any excess to be returned to taxpayers. It also requires the state
to reimburse local governments for costs of carrying out state
requirements, or mandates. (This constitutional amendment is approved by
74.3 percent of voters.) The limit is nearly forgotten until state revenues
surge past the ceiling in 1987, bringing Californians a $1 billion
Christmas rebate of up to $136 per taxpayer. But the spending ceiling is
modified when voters in 1990 approve Proposition 111, proposed by the
Legislature with Governor George Deukmejian's
support, with the aim of allowing budgets to accommodate transportation
construction and other growing needs. Proposition 111 also doubles the
state's gasoline tax to pay for street and highway improvements.
· School Busing
-- A constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature is adopted by
68.6 percent of voters with the successful goal of ending court-ordered
busing in Los Angeles. It limits mandatory busing to achieve integration to
the narrower requirements of the federal Constitution, not the broader
Violence -- The Domestic Violence Prevention Act gives courts authority
to grant temporary restraining orders in domestic-violence cases.
Legislation for the first time makes it a crime, punishable as either a
felony or misdemeanor, to rape one's spouse. Law-enforcement agencies in
1984 are required to develop written policies governing their responses to
calls of domestic abuse.
· Peripheral Canal
-- The Legislature, with Jerry Brown's signature, authorizes construction
of a canal around the periphery of San Francisco Bay to connect the
Sacramento River with the California Aqueduct, rather than continuing to
draw water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The Peripheral
Canal is killed by voter referendum in 1982, rejected by 62.7 percent of
· Freedom of the
Press - A constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature prohibits
citations of contempt against newsmen and women for refusing to disclose
their sources of information.
· Cleanup of Toxic
Wastes - A year after Congress creates the Superfund program,
California establishes its own fund to clean up sites contaminated by toxic
wastes. State and federal officials by 1994 identify 265 "high
priority" cleanup sites in California.
· Smog Checks
-- Pressured by federal sanctions, the Legislature adopts an anti-smog law
requiring car owners to have their vehicles inspected every other year for
compliance with emissions standards.
· Rights for Crime
Victims - The Victim's Bill of Rights grants crime victims a
constitutional right to restitution, expands relevant evidence permitted in
criminal cases and gives victims and their families a right to express
their views at sentencing hearings. Proposition 8, an initiative, is
approved by 56.4 percent of voters.
Inheritance Taxes - Voters embrace two initiatives to repeal state gift
and inheritance taxes. The inheritance tax, dating from 1893, ranges up to
24 percent. Proposition 6 receives more votes at 64.4 percent than
Proposition 5 at 61.8 percent, so it takes effect.
Indexing - Nearly 64 percent of voters approve Proposition 7, an
initiative to fully index state income-tax brackets to inflation so cost-of-living
pay increases don't move workers into higher brackets. A state law
beginning in 1982 was to index brackets to inflation above 3 percent.
Inflation in 1982 was projected at 12.8 percent; the extra break was worth
· School Reforms
-- The Hart-Hughes Educational Reform Act of 1983 enacts a longer school
day, a longer school year, higher teacher salaries, and new requirements
for graduation from high school.
· State Lottery
-- A citizens' initiative sponsored by suppliers of lottery gaming
equipment is approved by voters to create a state lottery that earmarks 34
percent of proceeds for schools and 50 percent for prizes. Proposition 37
is approved by 57.9 percent of voters.
· Prisons -
Nearly 58 percent of voters approve a $300 million bond issue to build and
repair prisons at the urging of Governor Deukmejian,
who notes in a ballot argument: "In the last decade, California has
enacted more public-protection legislation than at any other time in the
state's history." There were 12 prisons in California in 1984,
designed to hold some 27,000 inmates but filled with 39,000. As
tough-on-crime laws put more criminals behind prison walls, the figure was
projected to grow to 52,000 by 1987, prompting voters to approve $500
million in prison bonds in 1986 and another $817 million in 1988. At the
end of the century, California had 33 prisons filled with 162,000 convicts.
Fees -- The Legislature imposes a first-ever enrollment fee of $50 per
semester on full-time students at the California Community Colleges at the
insistence of Governor Deukmejian. The fee raises
$66 million in 1984-85, its first year. In 1999-00 the fee stood at $11 per
Endangered Species Act - Following the lead of the federal government, California
establishes procedures for listing California plants and animals as
threatened or endangered and taking steps to foster their protection and
· Cutting the
Legislature's Budget - Proposition 24 reduces the Legislature's budget by 30 percent,
requires audits of legislative spending and makes membership on state
Senate and Assembly committees proportional to partisan representation in
each house. The courts find the initiative an unconstitutional infringement
on the Legislature's right to conduct its operations. Voters approved it by
· Welfare to Work - The Legislature with
Governor Deukmejian's signature enacts Greater
Avenues for Independence, or GAIN, a landmark program
designed to train and coach welfare parents to move into jobs. For the
first time, child-care funding is guaranteed for parents required to go to
work; the work requirement is waived if funding is unavailable. Intended to
save money over the long term, the program finds unexpectedly high numbers
of welfare parents need tutoring in basic reading skills.
· Bottle Bill - Legislation imposes
redeemable deposits on cans and bottles of soft drinks and beer to promote
recycling, and requires distributors to encourage the practice. The goal of
the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, or
"bottle bill," is an 80 percent recycling rate for aluminum,
glass, plastic and bimetal cans and bottles. After peaking in the earlier
1990s, California's recycling rates by 1998 are
80 percent for aluminum cans, 63 percent for glass bottles, 57 percent for
plastic bottles, and 13 percent for bimetal cans. Legislation in 1998 adds
deposits to containers for water and for fruit, coffee and tea drinks with the
goal of increasing recycling to 12 billion cans and bottles annually, up
from 10 billion.
· Seatbelts -
Legislation takes effect to require use of seatbelts by motorists and their
passengers. Violators can be cited for failing to use seatbelts, but only
if stopped for another traffic offense. Beginning in 1993, officers are
permitted to stop motorists solely for seatbelt violations. (Seat
restraints have been required for children between birth and four years of
age since 1981.)
· Toxics -- Proposition 65, an
initiative approved by 62.6 percent of voters, restricts
toxic discharges into drinking water and requires businesses to post
warnings when exposing persons to cancer-causing chemicals or reproductive
toxins. It requires the state to publish a list of such chemicals. After
its passage, posted warnings begin to appear in business establishments
noting that alcoholic beverages are linked to birth defects.
· Local General
Voters adopt an initiative statute to require two-thirds approval of a governing
body and majority approval of voters for increases in local general taxes.
The law doesn't apply to charter cities. Proposition 62 is approved by 58
percent of voters.
· South Africa -
The Legislature sends Governor Deukmejian a
measure to protest South African apartheid by ordering the sale of some $11
billion in state investments in companies that do business in the racially
segregated country. Reversing his earlier opposition to the concept, the
governor signs it. 1987
· Smoking -- The Legislature votes to
ban smoking on in-state flights. In 1993, smoking is prohibited in public
buildings. Governor Pete Wilson in 1994 signs one of the nation's toughest
anti-smoking laws to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces, with some
limited exemptions. Voters the same year defeat an initiative backed by
tobacco giant Philip Morris to ease the restrictions.
Proposition 73, a citizens' initiative, limits campaign contributions to
$1,000 per individual contributor, $2,500 per political committee and
$5,000 per political party to candidates for public office. Although much
of Proposition 73 was struck down by federal courts, it continues to
contain the only campaign contribution limits in effect in state elections
in California. The limits apply in special elections for legislative
office. Proposition 68, a rival 1988 campaign funding initiative that
established partial public funding of campaigns, also passed but its
provisions were thrown out by the state Supreme Court because Proposition
73 got more votes. In 1996, Proposition 208, also an initiative to limit
campaign contributions, won passage but was blocked in federal court
pending the outcome of challenges. (Proposition 73 was approved 58.1
percent; Proposition 68, 52.8 percent; Proposition 208, 61.2 percent.)
· School Spending -- Proposition 98, a citizens'
initiative, narrowly passes to guarantee that 40 percent of the state
budget will be allocated for schools each year. (Approved by 50.7 percent
· Regulation of
Proposition 103, a citizens' initiative, creates an elected state insurance
commissioner and rolls back rates by 20 percent on auto insurance premiums.
It guarantees good drivers will receive lower rates than bad drivers and
requires any increases in insurance rates to be approved by the
commissioner. Its provisions were upheld by the state Supreme Court,
although the court determined the rollback could be less than 20 percent in
some cases. (Approved by 51.1 percent of voters.)
· Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome - The Legislature and Governor Deukmejian
make it a felony for a person to donate blood who knows that he or she has
AIDS or tests positive for the AIDS virus. A pilot project is created to
train and assist foster parents who are caring for babies born with AIDS.
· Cigarette Taxes -- Proposition 99, an
initiative approved by 58.2 percent of voters, raises the cigarette tax by
25 cents per pack to finance health programs and an anti-smoking campaign.
· Guns - Outraged by a gunman's
killing of five Asian refugee children and his wounding of 29 other
youngsters and a teacher with a rapid-fire AK-47 in a Stockton schoolyard,
the Legislature outlaws military-type assault rifles. A "zero
tolerance" law in 1995 requires students who carry guns or pull knives
at public schools to be expelled. In the wake of another deadly round of
school shootings in 1999, Governor Gray Davis signs bills to strengthen the
definition of prohibited assault weapons, ban importation or sale of large-capacity
ammunition magazines, and require handguns to have safety devices and to
pass safety tests. Buyers are limited to the purchase of one gun per month,
with the aim of curtailing bulk purchases for resale on the streets. Minors
are barred from gun shows unless accompanied by guardians. Weapons at the
shows must be labeled with the owner's name, signature and driver's license
· Term Limits -- Proposition 140, a
citizens' initiative, limits lifetime tenure in the Assembly to three terms
of two years and in the Senate to two four-year terms after the 1990
elections. (Senators who are halfway through their four-year terms in 1990
are permitted only one additional term.) State constitutional officers are
limited to two terms of four years each. Proposed 140 reduces
legislative spending by about 38 percent and imposes a cap on increases.
The measure is upheld in the federal courts. (Approved by 52.2 percent of
· Oil Spills -
The Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention
and Response Act addresses an environmental problem that has dogged
California throughout the century by providing a comprehensive strategy for
preventing and responding to damage from oil spills.
· Pay for State
- Voters agree to prohibit elected officials from accepting speaking fees,
and establish a California Citizens Compensation Commission appointed by
the governor to set salaries and benefits for legislators and state
constitutional officers. (Proposition 112, offered by the Legislature, is approved by 62.5 percent of voters.)
· Snack Tax - Struggling to balance the
state budget in the face of a multibillion-dollar deficit, the Legislature
and Governor Pete Wilson expand the sales tax to include snack food and
bottled water. In 1992 voters adopt an initiative to prohibit taxes on food
products for home consumption and define "food products" to
include candy, snack foods and bottled water. (Proposition 163 is approved
by 66.6 percent of voters.)
· Cal EPA -- Governor Wilson creates the
California Environmental Protection Agency, with cabinet status, to
coordinate environmental regulatory programs. A Department of Pesticide
Regulation is put under its jurisdiction.
· Family Leave - The Family Rights Act
requires California employers with 50 or more workers to grant requests by
employees for unpaid leaves of up to four months to care for family
members. A federal version is enacted two years later.
· Charter School
Act -- California becomes the second state after Minnesota to allow
charter schools, designed to foster innovation by avoiding the constraints
of most school-district rules and regulations. One hundred charter schools
are permitted initially; in 1998 the number is expanded to 250, with
another 100 allowed each year.
· Helmets --
Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets as of this year, and youngsters
under 18 must wear helmets when riding bicycles beginning in 1994.
· Trade - The
state Trade and Commerce Agency is established through consolidation of the
Commerce Department, California World Trade Commission and California Film
Commission to bolster state economic-development programs.
· Death Penalty
- Capital punishment will be carried out by lethal injection and no longer
by lethal gas.
Immigrants - Legislation requires Californians to prove they're in the
country legally before getting their drivers' licenses or help from the
state Employment Development Department in finding jobs.
Primary - California's last-in-the-nation presidential primary will be
moved from June to March in the 1996 elections under one-time legislation.
A later law makes the change permanent.
· Three Strikes --
Two virtually identical versions of a "Three Strikes" law are
adopted by the Legislature and by voter initiative to require sentences of
25 years to life in prison upon conviction of a third felony if the
previous two were serious or violent. It's the toughest sentencing law in
Immigrants -- Proposition 187, a citizens' initiative approved by 59.2
percent of voters, denies public health services, social services and
education to immigrants in the country illegally. Its central provisions
are overturned by a federal judge and Governor Gray Davis in 1999 does not
pursue an appeal.
Judges --Voters endorse a constitutional amendment offered by the
Legislature to permit greater public oversight in disciplining corrupt,
biased or incompetent judges. The Commission on Judicial Performance is
given authority to remove or censure judges and its disciplinary hearings
will be open to the public. (Approved by 63.7 percent of voters.)
Reduction - The Legislature and Governor Wilson enact the Class Size
Reduction Program with the goal of limiting public-school classes from
kindergarten through third grade to no more than 20 students. The state
provides $530 million in grants to school districts to pay for portable
classrooms and other costs associated with creating more classrooms.
· Open Primary -
An initiative creates an open or "blanket" primary system in
which a person registered with any party, or with no party, can vote to
nominate a candidate of any party. (Proposition 198 is approved by 59.5
percent of voters.)
Action - By a vote of 54.5 percent, Californians approve Proposition
209, a citizens' initiative to amend the state Constitution to prohibit
discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity or gender
in public education, employment and contracting. The previous year, the
Board of Regents voted to end racial, ethnic and gender considerations in
admissions and hiring at the University of California over the objections
of the UC president, the chancellors of the nine campuses, and faculty and
student organizations. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 lets stand an
appellate court ruling that Proposition 209 is constitutional.
· Human Eggs -
Responding to a scandal at UC Irvine, the Legislature makes it a felony to
transfer human embryos, eggs or sperm without the donor's written consent.
Districts - Proposition 218 requires voter approval of tax increases by
special districts, such as those devoted to fire fighting or mosquito
abatement, in the future and retroactively. (Constitutional amendment
proposed by initiative, approved by 56.5 percent of voters.)
· Cal WORKs -- Eleven years after California's GAIN
program, the federal government in 1996 adopts welfare changes that require
California to match more welfare parents with jobs and impose five-year
limits on cash grants. California responds in 1997 with Cal WORKs (California Work Opportunities and Responsibility
for Kids). It sets time limits on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF), the successor to Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and puts
an up-front emphasis on moving welfare applicants into the workplace. It
expands child-care and transportation services for those seeking and
securing jobs. Spurred by these changes and a rebounding economy, family
welfare rolls fall by 13 percent between June 1997 and June 1998.
Bridges - Governor Wilson signs legislation to finance the replacement
of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge's eastern span, supported by
60-year-old Douglas fir pilings, and to retrofit its western span to better
withstand earthquakes. Six other state-owned toll bridges will be
strengthened against earthquakes. A $1 surcharge is added to Bay Area
bridges (except the separately operated Golden Gate) to help pay the $2.6
billion cost. · Posting Campaign Contributions on the Internet -
Legislation orders the secretary of state to develop an Internet filing and
disclosure system for contributions to state campaigns.
· Library of California- Culminating 10 years of
preparation across the state, a Library of California is created to share
resources among 8,000 libraries run by counties, schools, universities,
private foundations and other systems. The $5 million effort is hailed as
potentially one of the world's great intellectual repositories.
· HeadwatersForest- Legislation provides $245
million to match $250 million in federal money for public purchase of the HeadwatersForest in HumboldtCounty, the world's largest stand of
privately owned ancient redwoods. The Gray Davis administration closes the
deal with Pacific Lumber Co. minutes before a March 1999 deadline.
Education -- Proposition 227 curtails the use of public-school
instruction in the native tongues of non-English-speaking students. (A
citizens' initiative, it is approved by 60.9 percent of voters.)
· Indian Gambling
- Nearly 63 percent of voters approve Proposition 5, a statutory initiative
to set state conditions on Indian gambling on tribal lands as permitted by
the federal government. In 1999, the California Supreme Court overturns
Proposition 5, contending it would allow casino-style activities such as
21, blackjack and slot-machine video games prohibited by the state
Constitution. Governor Davis and California tribes respond by negotiating
a proposed constitutional amendment, placed on the March 2000 ballot by the
Legislature, to permit tribes to negotiate compacts with the governor, with
ratification by the Legislature, for slot machines, lotteries and
percentage card games.
· Cigarette Taxes
-- Proposition 10, an initiative narrowly endorsed by 50.5 percent of
voters, raises the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to finance early
Reforms - Governor Davis sponsors and signs legislation to create a
state accountability system for public schools based on academic
performance, providing $96 million in assistance for more than 400 schools
but penalizing schools that fail to make reasonable progress. Another $96
million is earmarked for rewarding schools that significantly improve
student performance. High school students by 2003-04 must pass an exit exam
to graduate. Exemplary teachers are encouraged to assist others in
developing teaching strategies. A multifaceted reading-improvement
initiative includes institutes in reading instruction and a statewide media
· Reforms in
Managed Care -- A series of measures tightens requirements governing
managed health care and establishes a Department of Managed Care in the
state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. An Office of Patient
Advocate is created to assist plan enrollees.
· Child Support
- A state Department of Child Support Services is created to manage
counties' child-support enforcement offices. This reorganization is
designed to improve California's record of collecting child
support from delinquent parents, particularly those with children living in
poverty. · Domestic Partnerships and Gay Rights -- Domestic partnerships
are recognized as household relationships, with some legal effects, between
same-sex adults of any age and between persons of opposite sexes over age
62. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is outlawed in housing,
workplaces and educational institutions.
The Senate Office of
Research gratefully acknowledges the assistance of curator Vito Sgromo and educational interpreter Barbara Baker of the
California State Capitol Museum, whose willingness to share research on the
history of California laws and the museum's albums of historic photos
The office also
wishes to thank State Librarian Kevin Starr, the staff of the California
Research Bureau, and history Professor Martin Schiesl
of CaliforniaStateUniversity, Los Angeles, for their helpful comments
and recommendations. Many Senate staff also reviewed this work and provided
important additions and suggestions.
designed and formatted this pamphlet.
were particularly helpful:
California: An Interpretive History by
James J. Rawls and Walton Bean (McGraw-Hill, 1998).
Politics and Public
Policies in California by John H. Culver and Lorie
L. Shelley (McGraw-Hill, 1997).
A Study of California
Ballot Measures, 1884 to 1993, Compiled by Tony Miller, Acting California
Secretary of State, January 1994. (Available from the Elections Division of
the Secretary of State's Office.)