FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 testing facility in Valencia, Calif. Newsom on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, apologized for what he called "a bad mistake" in attending a birthday party that broke the very rules that he has been preaching to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom has been called a lot of unflattering things since he ordered widespread coronavirus restrictions in the state: a dictator, a hypocrite, a tyrant and worse. Now, a Southern California man wants voters to restrict his authority during health emergencies.

A ballot proposal cleared Thursday to begin collecting thousands of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot would, if approved, prohibit state and local officials from “issuing enforceable orders, regulations or ordinances to address public health emergencies resulting from epidemics, infectious disease outbreaks and similar conditions.”

For now it appears a long-shot to qualify, even at a time of broad unrest over COVID-19 restrictions that have upended daily life for millions.

Steve Clark, a software engineer who is behind the proposal, estimated the committee behind it would need $2.5 million to gather the required 623,212 signatures by May 2021.

It's starting at zero, but he hopes the proposal will draw donations from business that have been shut down or restricted under Newsom's orders, or a wealthy supporter steps forward.

“I don’t want to be restricted,” Clark said, referring to government coronavirus orders. “The challenge we face is collecting enough signatures.”

Clark knows the disappointment of falling short in politics. He is an alimony reform advocate and said he has failed before to qualify initiatives for the ballot on that issue.

His nonprofit organization, California Alimony Reform, says on its website that government has “clearly overstepped its constitutional authority,” including in directives to wear face coverings.

“While this initiative measure is somewhat out of scope from our stated mission, it does drive awareness of our organization and helps to protect our personal freedoms,” the statement said.

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