A ballot initiative that would have encouraged San Francisco Unified School District to move to a system of neighborhood schools lost by a razor-thin margin after Thursday’s final ballot count, but supporters vowed to continue their fight next year, when four school board members are up for re-election. “It will be a wedge issue in the coming school board election, we will make sure of it,” said Chris Miller, chair of San Francisco Students First, the group that put the measure on the ballot. “It will be our goal to make sure that every incumbent running next year is not re-elected.”

Read the story from the San Francisco Examiner

In an important decision for initiative rights, the California Supreme Court today unanimously told the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the proponents of initiatives in California have a legal right to defend their voter-enacted measures against legal challenges:

…the justices sided with Proposition 8 sponsors, who’ve argued they should be able to appeal a federal judge’s decision last year striking down the same-sex marriage ban because the governor and attorney general have refused to defend the voter-approved law. The state Supreme Court overwhelmingly agreed that Proposition 8 backers can go it alone in trying to preserve the gay marriage ban.

Measure O, a ballot initiative to increase sales tax by .5 percent within Oakdale City limits, has passed in the preliminary election results. Just over 56 percent of voters approved the sales tax increase, which will add one half cent to every $1 purchase made in Oakdale. This tax will go into effect on April 1, 2012 and will end March 31, 2015. Revenue from the tax will go directly to Oakdale’s general fund.

Read the story from the Oakdale Leader

Debate over the controversial issue of health care rate regulation came roaring back midweek. That’s when Consumer Watchdog, the Los Angeles advocacy group that makes health plans bristle, announced it has filed a proposed ballot initiative with the California Attorney General that would regulate health care premiums.

Read the story from the Sacramento Business Journal

A pair of Stanford University law professors spent months this year writing ballot language to narrow, ever so slightly, California’s three strikes sentencing law. The result is the “Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012,” which is now under legal review by the state attorney general’s office. It aims to remove courts’ authority to sentence convicts to 25 years to life in prison when their crimes have been neither violent nor serious.

Read the story from ABC 7

A pair of pension reform initiatives filed Wednesday could shake up the Capitol landscape and jolt reluctant Democrats and labor leaders into acting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to overhaul pensions. Initially lukewarm if not hostile to Brown’s plan, Democrats and public employee unions got a glimpse of the alternative — measures that would require a lot more sacrifices from government workers than Brown’s week-old proposal.

Read the story from San Jose Mercury News

It seems public employee pension reform is one of the hot topics so far this year. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker his budget repair bill with significant pension reforms. The changes split the state and the law was passed amid protests outside the state capitol. Following passage of the bill, citizens weighed in at the ballot box against a handful of politicians around the state in citizen-initiated recall elections.

In Ohio, Governor John Kasich’s pension reform bill that passed earlier this year will face public scrutiny in a statewide referendum vote next week. This is the same vote we mentioned last week on the blog, the one presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsed, then didn’t endorse, and then endorsed again.

Advocates of public employee pension reform are currently collecting petition signatures for three ballot initiatives that would significantly overhaul public pensions. One measure would increase the minimum retirement age for public employees to 65 (58 for public safety officers). Advocates of the measure must collect 807,615 signatures by Feb. 3 for the measure to qualify for a future ballot.

Read the story from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Organizers of the SAFE California campaign say they believe voters are ready to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Campaign to collect signatures to place an anti-death penalty initiative on the 2012 ballot was launched across the state, including here in San Diego, today. The initiative is aimed not so much toward saving lives, as redirecting millions spent on death penalty cases to solving more crimes.

Read the story from KPBS

An allegation that the Palo Alto City Council violated state law when it placed a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot to repeal binding interest arbitration for its public safety unions will not be resolved until voters have had their say. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1319, filed an unfair labor practice complaint in September with the state Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, claiming that the city was required to “meet and confer” with it before authorizing Measure D. The city says the decision wasn’t subject to the rule, and even if it was, the union had opportunities to provide input.

Read the story from San Jose Mercury News

The 100th Anniversary Celebration of California’s Initiative & Referendum held in Sacramento on October 10 was a great success. Citizens in Charge Foundation, our partner organization, was joined by over 100 Californians to commemorate the centennial and transpartisan dialogue ensued throughout the day-long forum and early evening reception hosted by The Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco.

A group of conservative activists are targeting illegal immigrants and the benefits they receive in a new ballot initiative. Dubbed the California Taxpayer Protection Act of 2012, the proposal submitted to Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday would impose limits on the amount of financial aid and Medi-Cal benefits undocumented immigrants could receive in the Golden State.

Read the story from KMJN Radio

On Monday, October 10, 2011 Citizens in Charge Foundation (our partner organization) will join with Californians from all over the state to celebrate the 100th Anniversary Celebration of California’s Initiative & Referendum Process. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVP to is required for registration.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he plans to place on the November 2012 ballot a funding guarantee for prison realignment, the state’s shift of responsibility for certain offenders to local government. The framing of the measure, however - and of any tax increase initiative that might accompany it - remains unclear.

ZocaloCalifornians’ initiative, referendum and recall process is as hot a topic for debate as ever. That’s apt, for this year marks the process’s 100th anniversary.

On October 10, 1911, Californians went to the polls to enact these democratic checks on government after Governor Hiram Johnson persuaded legislators to put them on the ballot. On October 10, 2011, I’ll be in Sacramento at an event sponsored by Citizens in Charge Foundation to celebrate the centennial.