The California Assembly last week approved creating a citizens commission to recommend whether the state's voter initiative process should be changed.

The Assembly's action came on the heels of Senate approval of a constitutional amendment that would ban the use of initiatives to qualify bond acts and other measures that include long-term debt.

Some legislators are concerned that the initiative process is being abused by powerful and well funded special interest groups.

The Assembly's resolution to create a commission says some recent initiatives were written to benefit sponsors or to offset competing ballot measures.

In addition, it notes some initiatives are "extremely complex regulatory schemes or wholesale proposals for the overhaul of entire areas of state law."

The initiative process allows California citizens to place proposed laws on the ballot through petition drives.

The process was added to the state constitution in 1911 to help the electorate diffuse the power of special interests and monopolies.

Some legislators complain that the process has spawned a well-heeled initiative industry of lawyers, campaign consultants, and paid petition circulators.

But so-called good government groups and taxpayer associations believe in the sanctity of the initiative process as a tool for deciding major public policy issues, such as those affecting property taxes and auto insurance rates.

They oppose tampering with the system, especially because, they argue, it gives frustrated voters an outlet if the Legislature fails to act on important issues.

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