The minimum wage debate has lead to a ballot measure in San Diego. Photo credit: Americanprogressaction.org
Photo credit: Americanprogressaction.org

Councilman Todd Gloria, whose proposal to raise the minimum wage in the city was stalled by a petition drive, proposed a series of changes Thursday  in the referendum process.

In a memo to his replacement as council president, Sherri Lightner, Gloria asked for his ideas to be aired before the new Charter Review Committee sometime early this year.

His proposed changes would, if approved, change local regulations and state law.

In San Diego, Gloria wants more timely disclosure of the financial backers of referendum efforts, and to allow representatives of proponents and opponents to view the signature verification and counting process at the county Registrar of Voters. He’s also asking for a review of applicable City Charter and municipal code sections to make sure they’re clear and consistent.

His statewide proposals involve regulating how information is presented on petitions, ensuring the accuracy of statements made by signature gatherers, disclosing and limiting the financing of paid signature gatherers, and raising the percentage of voter signatures required to qualify for a ballot.

Currently, referendum supporters need to collect valid signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters in a given jurisdiction. In San Diego, that’s a little more than 33,200.

Last year, the City Council approved an incremental increase in the minimum wage in San Diego to $11.50 an hour, but business interests collected enough signatures to force a public vote on the issue, probably in June 2016.

Supporters of the wage hike contended that paid signature gatherers lied to the public.

In his memo to Lightner, Gloria wrote that “corporate interests went to extreme lengths through a well-funded referendum effort to keep hard-working San Diegans in poverty. Tactics used included telling potential signers outrageous lies like the petition was to increase the minimum wage, and paying out-of-town signature gatherers up to $12 per signature.”

Opponents of the wage increase, who said it would place businesses at a disadvantage with competitors outside the city, have denied the claims.

The Charter Review Committee will hold its initial meeting next week and will begin examining a governing document that’s been described as obsolete. Lightner chairs the panel.

For the state proposals, the city retains lobbyists who represent its interests in Sacramento.

—City News Service

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