A controversial campaign to reform California’s public pensions faces an uncertain future after the state attorney general chose what the measure’s backers consider to be unfriendly language for their proposed ballot initiative.
Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose and the driving force behind the proposal, told Reuters on Tuesday he will confer with supporters on whether to press ahead with trying to get the overhaul before voters later this year, and he might sue over Attorney General Kamala Harris’ wording for the ballot. A decision should be made by the end of January, Reed said.
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A California judge has ruled in favor of validating thousands of signatures on a pro-family petition challenging that state’s new transgender law.
The controversial law gives transgender students special rights, letting them use bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite gender.
California’s secretary of state had tried to block the signatures from being counted in a referendum because they were not accepted by the court on time.
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More than 35,000 people willingly signed on to an effort by STOP to put city plans for a new Kings arena to a public vote but now, almost a month since those names were turned in to the city clerk, pro-arena groups are taking issue with what version of the petition voters signed.
“Voters are not getting the same pieces of information,” Chris Lehane, consultant with The4000, said Monday. ”Some dates are all over the place. Others don’t include consistent language in the notice of intent. That’s the reason why they’re pursuing this.”
With a letter hand-delivered to the county registrar late Friday, The4000 is claiming that there are at least five versions of the petition circulated by STOP.
The path to a new downtown arena isn’t set in stone yet, with one of the biggest obstacles remaining being a campaign to put the arena on the ballot. That campaign is being pushed by Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, otherwise known as STOP.
STOP submitted about 35,000 signatures to the county a couple weeks ago for validation and they need about 22,000 to get the measure approved.
However, new reports have surfaced today that indicate those signatures may be invalid.
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Californians could be faced in November with a proposal to dramatically alter the pension and benefit system for public employees. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has submitted a statewide ballot initiative that would allow government agencies to negotiate changes to current employees’ future retirement benefits, reversing the long-standing principle that once a public employee is hired, his or her retirement benefits cannot be reduced.
There is little doubt about the historical veracity of one statement in the text of a vetoed California law that would have required at least some signatures for ballot initiatives to be gathered by volunteers instead of paid workers:
“The voters amended the California Constitution to reserve for themselves the power of the initiative because financially powerful interests, including railroad companies, exercised a corrupting influence over state politics.”
The ballot initiative process in California has been popular with citizens since its inception in 1911. However, the state legislature, especially its current Democratic super-majority, has had a far less sunny view of the prospect of the people trumping legislative power through the initiative.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), author in recent years of numerous bills to undercut the power of the initiative, recently proposed a new tactic in formulating legislation: using “crowdsourcing” techniques. This would enable citizens to use a wiki-style website to propose ideas for a bill, and Gatto’s first such crowdsourced bill would deal with probate taxes.
An attorney who specializes in election law said timing, not signature validity, may prove to be the toughest obstacle to a ballot measure seeking to require public approval of any subsidies for a new downtown Sacramento arena.
Tom Hiltachk, of Bell McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP in Sacramento, said the wild card is if approvals for the arena go through in the spring, as both city and Sacramento Kings officials have said was the plan.
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Sheer math suggests the number of signatures submitted for a 2014 ballot measure on the Sacramento Kings arena may have a narrow margin to succeed.
According to the city clerk’s office Friday, there were more than 34,000 signatures in support of the measure submitted to the Sacramento County registrar’s office, along with more than 15,000 signature withdrawal forms. Typically, not all signatures submitted hold up as valid; some people who signed either won’t be registered voters, or won’t be registered in the city of Sacramento. Some duplicates or signatures that can’t be verified because of illegibility are also possible.
In Sacramento, California, a planned basketball arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings is the flashpoint of citizen action. Two citizen groups, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal are opposed to the fact that the arena would be largely financed through a taxpayer subsidy totaling $258 million.
The two groups have gathered 40,000 signatures, almost double the number required to place the issue of the subsidy on next June’s ballot. The groups are expecting to have enough valid signatures to qualify the referendum despite opposition groups claiming they have 15,226 “rescissions” from citizens who reportedly want their signatures removed from the petition opposing the subsidy, though no signatures have yet been validated.
After months of controversy and door-to-door politicking, opponents of the public subsidy for Sacramento’s proposed NBA arena say they will submit as many as 40,000 signatures to city elections officials today in their quest to get the issue placed before voters on June’s ballot.
It will be several more weeks, however, before Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and a spinoff group, Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, learn whether their signature-gathering campaigns were successful. The groups need only 22,000 valid signatures but realize that many of the signatures they’ve gathered, as is typical, will be proven invalid.
Direct democracy, and specifically the initiative process, is advancing around the world.
Except in the U.S. and in California.
Ireland’s constitutional convention has voted overwhelming to introduce a new initiative process that would include both petitions to the government (what some Californians persist in calling, misleadingly, the “indirect initiative” even though it is a direct appeal to lawmakers) and petitions that would trigger popular votes.
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While much of the country is gearing up for the holidays, political forces in Sacramento are girding for battle.
Already, special interests are lined up with plans that could shape next year’s general election ballot. They are considering propositions to increase medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public employee pensions, among other ideas.
Each of the proposals could spawn campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars. Decisions about whether to proceed will be made in the next couple of weeks as de facto deadlines loom.
California has a rich tradition of citizens taking control through the initiative process. Nothing should be done to diminish that.
However, the Public Policy Institute of California has released an interesting report on possible reforms of the process. The 20-page report released in October concludes with three proposals:
• Connect the legislative and initiative processes. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed by the institute supported the idea of having initiative sponsors meet with legislators to seek compromises before an issue is placed on the ballot.
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While much of the rest of the country is ramping up for the holiday season, political forces in Sacramento are girding for political battle.
Though the 2014 election is nearly a full year away, a series of de facto deadlines are fast approaching that will shape the makeup of next November’s ballot.
Initiatives to raise medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public-employee pensions are among the ballot measures being considered. Each of those proposals, if they go forward, could induce campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars. Decisions about whether to proceed will be made within the next couple of weeks.