Sequoia National Park
But as signature gathering wraps up for the Stop Special Interests Now effort, I had caught wind of a new effort taking place (right now) behind closed doors in the State Capitol to try and thwart this important ballot measure. When you read this, you may not choose to believe it. Because this power-play is so audacious that it will make your head spin.
As you know, since the beginning of time, California has had two statewide elections every even numbered year – the “election year” as it is called. Of course this is augmented periodically by special elections as well. When an initiative is qualified for the ballot, it appears on the ballot in the next statewide election. This means that if the Stop Special Interests Now campaign turns in their signatures relatively soon, and they turn in enough, the initiative would appear on the upcoming June statewide ballot.
Or would it?
The State Constitution specifically provides in Article II, Section 8(c) that, “The Secretary of State shall then submit the measure at the next general election held at least 131 days after it qualifies or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election. The Governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.”
Apparently there are some who are advocating the tossing of over a hundred years of election tradition out the window, and to pass a law that would amend the elections code and state that the June primary is neither a “general election” nor a “special statewide election” – and thus in doing so hope to actually prevent (presumably henceforth) any ballot measure from being placed on the June ballot. Pretty audacious, don’t you think?
Calbuzz has picked up rumblings that California union leaders, their consultants and loyal Democratic retainers are quietly planning to jam a bill through the Legislature before the end of the session that would push onto the November ballot any initiatives that have or would otherwise qualify for the June election.
The idea is to guarantee that measures like “paycheck protection,” which would ban use of automatically deducted union dues for political purposes; “reforms” that would slash public-employee pensions to 60%; a requirement for secret ballots to determine union representation; or mandatory state spending limits all would face a November – that is, a larger and more Democratic – electorate, rather than a smaller, more conservative June electorate (when Republicans may have a competitive presidential primary and Democrats won’t.)
We stipulate that we have no on-the-record sources. What we have is pieced together from speculation circulating about such a maneuver, or sources aware of some of the closed-door discussions now under way among labor leaders and perhaps a legislator or two. Also from a close reading of the California Constitution and Elections Code.
The Legislature begins its sprint to adjournment with hundreds of bills still pending, with lawmakers maneuvering for positions to campaign on in much-changed districts next year, with lobbyists for moneyed interests packing Capitol hallways, and with dozens of fundraising events on tap to extract campaign cash from those interests.
It’s a yeasty mélange for the final two weeks, to say the least.
We know what the big conflicts – which all involve money – are likely to be. The biggest may be over a bill that would impose rate regulation on the multibillion-dollar health insurance industry, a full-employment act for lobbyists if there ever was one.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and consumer activists want Assembly Bill 52 to, they say, protect Californians from being gouged.
But the industry has some heavyweight allies, including state and local government agencies that purchase health insurance for their employees and perhaps Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, which questions its potential costs.
AB 52 was one of the more than two dozen measures labeled “job killers” by the California Chamber of Commerce. But as the session winds down, three-quarters of them have died, leaving AB 52 and six others still alive.
One high-profile “job killer” that stalled was Senate Bill 432, which would have required hotels to use fitted bedsheets.
The union-backed bill was sidetracked last week in the Assembly Appropriations Committee for reasons that had nothing to do with its merits and everything to do with a nasty squabble over another high-profile bill that would disincorporate the city of Vernon, a tiny industrial enclave near downtown Los Angeles.
Before leaving this spring for a 12-month military deployment in Afghanistan, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell told me he had put together a “three-part plan” to make it possible for him to become a candidate for re-election next year.
Option A — the one that creates the least stress and hassle for Gorell — is now available, thanks to an act of the Legislature.
Here was the problem: Gorell will not return from active duty until after the early March deadline for candidates to file for office in 2012 has passed. Under current law, only the candidate can submit the completed paperwork to county elections officials. Had that law not changed, Gorell would have been forced to either use his one personal leave to return to California to file the paperwork, or would have had to fly a notary public notarized in California to Afghanistan to he could have his signature on the papers notarized.
Effective Jan. 1, there will be an easier option, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this summer. The law allows perspective candidates who are are deployed on active military service outside the state to grant limited power of attorney to another party to file their candidate papers.
Enjoy your afternoon!