Initiative infighting

Aug 30, 2011

A century after California instituted ballot initiatives as a device to circumvent a Legislature bought and paid for by special interests -- i.e., the railroads -- a Democratic move is afoot to push all initiatives to the November ballot -- a shift that could cripple measures aimed at Democrats.


From Anthony York in the LA Times: "It's something we're thinking about," Steinberg said. "There ought to be the opportunity for the highest voter turnout possible for major initiatives."

"Fall elections typically draw more voters to the polls than springtime primaries. In June 2012, for example, a smaller and more conservative electorate is expected as Republicans pick a presidential nominee. Democrats are more likely to flock to the polls in November, when President Obama presumably will be up for reelection."

Steinberg said he was unsure whether an initiative bill would be introduced before Sept. 9, when the Legislature is scheduled to break for the year."


The Bee's Dan Walters takes a look at the same issue: "Whether Brown would sign it, however, is problematic, since he's already indicated an aversion to partisan changes in election laws by vetoing the measure that restricted how signature-gatherers are paid. And it would overturn a legal interpretation 40 years ago by Jerry Brown when he was secretary of state."


"The state constitution says that initiative measures to enact new laws and referenda to overturn laws passed by the Legislature are to be placed before voters at a "general election," unless a special election is called."


"For 60 years that meant the November election held every two years, but after the Legislature voted in 1971 to place its own bond measures before primary voters, the secretary of state's office decided that qualified initiatives should also go on primary ballots. And Brown himself took political advantage of that interpretation by sponsoring a political reform initiative on the June 1974 primary election ballot as he was running for governor."


The attempt by Assembly Speaker John Perez to abolish the City of Vernon's official status and fold it into Los Angeles County -- a high-profile poitical fight that has consumed the Capitol for eight months -- went down to defeat in the Legislature after the Senate rejected it. The OC Register's Brian Joseph tells the tale.


"One day into the final two weeks of the legislative session, lawmakers and their staffs are bracing for gridlock in Sacramento as the State Senate rejected the Assembly speaker’s top legislative priority Monday."


"Legislators and Capitol staffers are concerned that Assembly Speaker John A. Perez will take some sort of punitive action against them in response to the defeat of his Assembly Bill 46, which sought to disincorporate the Los Angeles County city of Vernon. A tiny city, but plagued by corruption, Vernon is home to fewer than 100 residents but roughly 1,800 businesses. The speaker made it his top priority this year to dissolve the city."


"The Senate, however, had other ideas. Amid concerns that disincorporating the city would affect businesses and jobs, senators of both parties spoke loudly against Perez’s bill, saying it was a drastic step that would needlessly hurt the economy. The bill died on a 13-17 vote, with a whopping 10 senators abstaining."


Et tu, Wal-Mart? It turns out that the huge retailer, which has been leading the charge against Amazon for failing to collect online California sales taxes, doesn't collect them either in some cases. Hmmmmm.


From the LAT's Marc Lifsher: "The site, based in Brisbane near San Francisco International Airport, offers hundreds of products from a third-party retailer, CSN Stores in Boston, that are sold without collecting taxes when state residents buy them."

"Wal-Mart insists that it's not its responsibility to require companies that sell products through its site's Marketplace Retailers program to collect California sales tax, even though the billing and the credit card transactions take place on"

"But state Board of Equalization board member Betty Yee said she believes that Wal-Mart does have an obligation under the California law that took effect July 1 to collect the taxes."


And from our "Here We Go Again" file, OC Supervisor John Morlach, who was the canary in the coal mine 17 years ago when Orange County went bankrupt, warns that the county could  go bankrupt again. 

"The county’s net assets are $4,794,221,000. The net investment in capital assets is $3,097,843,000. The restricted resources are $1,384,586,000, thanks to our relationships with the state and the federal governments,” Moorlach wrote in an Aug. 26 guest editorial. “That leaves unrestricted net assets available to the county of $311,792,000, or just a little less than that of Irvine and Newport Beach combined. ”


“The net investment in capital assets doesn’t even cover this debt,” Moorlach wrote of the county."


"Moorlach was appointed Orange County’s Treasurer-Tax Collector in 1995 after Robert Citron resigned from the post following Orange County’s bankruptcy, the largest municipal bond portfolio loss and bankruptcy in U.S. history. He served as the county’s treasurer for nearly 12 years before running for county supervisor. “The county of Orange, which went bankrupt in 1994, is a bankruptcy candidate again,” Moorlach wrote."


Those much-vaunted fiscal conservatives should look to their vaunt...


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