Citizens United ballot measure: Who’s for it, who’s against it and what it could really do

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California voters will get to weigh in on the flood of money in politics this November through a ballot proposition that supporters say sends a strong message and detractors say does nothing much at all.

Proposition 59 is part of the uphill fight against the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United decision, which said money spent to influence voters that isn’t funneled through a candidate’s campaign is free speech, and the federal government cannot prohibit corporations and labor unions from spending money that way.

Since the decision, elections have become dramatically more expensive, with hundreds of millions being spent to influence elections at all levels by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.

The measure asks Californians if they want their members of Congress to work on a constitutional amendment to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision. …

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Ballot Measure: Docking Pay of Suspended CA Lawmakers

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO — California voters will decide in June whether to allow state lawmakers to revoke their colleagues’ pay following the Legislature’s 2014 ethics crisis that saw three senators put on leave as they faced felony allegations.

Proposition 50 is the only statewide measure on California’s June 7 ballot, but has drawn little attention and reaped no cash in support or opposition — in stark contrast to high-profile primary races this election cycle.

The proposal asks voters to amend the state constitution to give two-thirds of a chamber’s members the power to suspend their peers with or without pay. Its passage would signify voters approve of recent suspensions made under rules lawmakers wrote for themselves. …

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Great Idea: Put Price Tag on Ballot Measures

Would you commit to buy a car, a house or even a jacket without knowing the price? Unless you are a member of the 1 percent, chances are, you want to know what it will cost you before you make a purchase.

But what about ballot measures that can cost every citizen hundreds or even thousands of dollars? At the state level, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has the responsibility to provide a “fiscal impact” analysis – that is, information to voters as to the costs to taxpayers of passing a proposition.

But this isn’t currently required at the local level. And those backing attractive sounding, but costly, measures like it that way. They prefer to keep the public in the dark. If a county measure promises to create new parks in every neighborhood, it may sound great, but taxpayers should know what it will cost them before they cast a vote.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do takes the oath of office from his wife, Cheri Pham, as he stands with his daughters, Ilene Do, center, and Rhiannon Do, during the start of the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday in Santa Ana. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Slug: doswearingin.0204.jag, Day: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 (2/3/15), Time: 9:45:15 AM, Location: Santa Ana, California - Andrew Do - JEFF GRITCHEN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do deserves credit for proposing a measure that would require a cost analysis by the county’s Auditor Controller for all county initiatives, and his colleagues deserve praise for agreeing to place it on the June ballot for voter approval.

The big question is why every local tax raising entity is not required to provide a non-partisan cost analysis for their sponsored ballot measures as well as those placed on the ballot through the initiative process.

Skeptics say that requiring a cost analysis might deter voters from approving a worthy measure, for example one relating to public safety. This argument was dismissed by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who pointed out that voters are much more likely to vote no on an ill-defined ballot measure if they are not told what it will cost.

In our country we are going through a political process where the public is expressing its support for plain speaking. There is resentment toward members of the political class who equivocate and use insider terms that many find confusing.

So let’s be blunt. A significant number of local ballot measures are designed to provide an advantage to those inside government, including politicians, bureaucrats and other employees and/or special interests. Requiring a non-partisan analysis would provide voters, who will be stuck with the bill, another tool to evaluate a ballot measure. They can then do a cost/benefit analysis, the same as they would do before making a major family or business spending commitment.

So while Supervisor Do should be thanked for promoting openness in government, why  are there so few of our local representatives throughout the state taking a similar stand for full disclosure to voters of the full cost of measures they are asked to approve?

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Over Half-Billion Likely to be Spent on November Ballot Measures

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image2562817Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on legislative lobbying efforts made headlines this week but the total amount will likely pale next to what is expected to be spent this year on that other form of California lawmaking — the initiative process.

Coverage of the lobbying reports disclosed that $312.7 million was spent on lobbying the legislature in 2015, a double-digit increase from just two years earlier.

But according to initiative guru, Rick Claussen, of the consulting firm Redwood Pacific, which specializes in initiative campaigns, a crowded November ballot could produce spending of nearly half-a-billion dollars.

Claussen offered some best guess rounded figures that could be spent for and against a number of the high profile initiatives headed for the ballot.

MediCal Protection measure                                              $50 million
Referendum on Plastic Bags                                               $10 million
Revenue Bond Vote Requirement                                     $30 million
Condom Requirement for Adult Films                             $5 million
State School Bond                                                                 $7 million
Drug Pricing Mandates                                                        $65 million
Minimum Wage Increase (two initiatives filed)             $30 million
Property Tax Increase                                                          $50 million
Prop. 30 Extension (different versions filed)                  $60 million
New Plastic Bag Fee for Environment                              $5 million
Tobacco Tax                                                                           $100 million
Legislative Transparency                                                    $5 million
Marijuana Measure                                                              $35 million

$452,000,000 to persuade voters on policy decisions appearing on the ballot!

Not on the list: the gun control measure which should see lots of money raised on both sides; the governor’s proposal for sentencing reform; potential death penalty reform measures — one to eliminate the death penalty, the other to carry out the penalty more swiftly; political finance reform; and an attempt to end high-speed-rail by diverting rail funds to water projects. All these and more could make the ballot and ring up the initiative campaigns cash register even higher. Indeed, perhaps 20 measures might appear on the November ballot, moving the spending totals close to or well over that half-billion dollar mark.

Funding for initiatives topping the amount spent on a year of legislative lobbying should not come as a surprise to anyone closely following California politics. As academics such as Bruce Cain and others have pointed out, California has, in essence, two electorates. The electorate filtered though legislative elections and the electorate that votes directly on ballot measures.

The two lawmaking approaches yield different outcomes on issues because of the nature of the voting population in the legislative districts as compared to the statewide voting bloc. Initiatives appeal to statewide voters that often express a different opinion than legislators.

Money spent to influence legislators is a big story. More money will be spent to influence citizen-lawmakers.

Then again, there are many more decision makers when it comes to initiatives.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

2016 Ballot Measures: This Means War

Did anyone notice the guerrilla war that broke out last week?

No, it wasn’t a coup d’etat in some tropical backwater. In fact, the first shots were fired on the website of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

The Ballot Wars have begun again, more or less on schedule.

To no-one’s surprise, the California Teacher’s Association last month proposed a ballot initiative to re-enact the Proposition 30 income tax hikes for another 12 years (albeit with a twist to exempt the new revenues from the Proposition 2 rainy day reserve). The CTA measure continues to deposit the new taxes into the state’s General Fund, and most of the money will be spent on public schools.

Voters approved the original version of this proposal as Proposition 30 in 2012, by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Somewhat to the surprise of the political cognoscenti, a coalition of California hospitals and the hospital workers union soon thereafter proposed an initiative that would go one better: increase income taxes even higher for even longer, and distribute the money to schools and to health care programs.

Uh-oh. Two measures on the same ballot competing for the same pot of dough? Mobilizing opposition and confusing voters? Facing a threat to their hegemony, the teachers union declared, “This means war!”

Actually, that’s my rough translation of their actions last week. Lawyers for CTA submitted three ballot measure proposals that directly attack California hospitals, hitting executive pay, tax exempt status, and government reimbursements.

If this was a naval engagement, these ballot proposals were three shots across the bow of the Good Ship CaliforniaHospital.

The next move in this engagement is on the health care side. But wait … there’s more.

Earlier this year a group of southern California nonprofit charities launched a bid to raise statewide property taxes by billions to pay for a variety of health care, early education and economic development programs. Though not itself a split roll property tax, the increases would certainly occupy the political space for any current or future property tax hikes. The split roll is another favorite pony in the CTA’s stable.

If I was a sponsor of the “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act,” I’d be on the lookout for a fusillade from the teachers’ advance guard.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Ballot Title Won’t Deter Pension Reform

pensionCostly government pension deals are devastating our public services – and this simple initiative gives voters the ability to stop sweetheart and unsustainable pension deals that politicians concoct behind closed doors with government union bosses. That’s why the politicians and union bosses oppose this initiative – and why they continue to try to mislead the public on what the initiative does. Despite their attempts to mislead, we are very confident the voters will understand the plain English requirements of this measure and overwhelmingly pass it in November 2016.

The next step in the campaign will be to commission a legal review the ballot measure “Title and Summary” concocted by state politicians. Once that review is completed, we will kick-off their signature drive to qualify the measure. 

The “Plain English” Requirements of the Pension Reform Initiative: 

1) Require voter approval of any defined benefit pensions for new government employees

2) Require voter approval of any increase in pensions for existing government employees

3) Prohibit any taxpayer subsidy of government retirement benefits in excess of 50% of the cost – unless voters expressly approve a higher contribution

4) Prohibit politicians and government agencies from delaying, impeding, or challenging any voter-approved state and local ballot measures regarding government compensation and benefits.

Chuck Reed, a former Mayor of San Jose, is a Democrat. Carl DeMaio, a former Councilmember of San Diego, is a Republican

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Kamala Harris seeks to block ‘kill the gays’ ballot measure

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a court Wednesday to intervene and allow her to block an incendiary planned ballot measure authorizing the killing of gays and lesbians.

Calling the proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act” patently unconstitutional and utterly reprehensible, Harris filed a request with the Superior Court in Sacramento seeking to be relieved of her ministerial duty to prepare a title and summary for the measure before it advances to the signature-gathering stage. Harris argues that readying it for circulation would waste state resources, generate unnecessary divisions and mislead the public.

“This is not about whether we like something or not, or whether we simply find it offensive or troubling,” Harris said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “In this case, we are talking about a proposal that literally is calling for violence. It’s calling for vigilantism. It’s calling for the public to be able to shoot in the head a member of the LGBT community. …

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