Ban On Corporate And Union Contributions To Candidates Qualified For The November Ballot

In December, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that she has certified the first initiative for the November 6, 2012, presidential election ballot.  Among other things, this initiative would ban corporations, labor unions and public employee labor unions from making contributions to any candidate, candidate controlled committee, or any other committee including a political party committee, if those funds will be used to make contributions to any candidate or candidate controlled committee.  The initiative defines “corporation” as “every corporation organized under the laws of this state, or any other state of the United States, or the District of Columbia, or under an act of the Congress of the United States.”  

Chief Justice Rose Bird’s Last Legacy?

The initiative is the first ballot measure to qualify pursuant to SB 202, Chapter 558, Statutes of 2011.  That legislation requires that all ballot measures approved after July 1, 2011, only appear on November general election ballots.  Beginning in 1972, the Secretary of State has placed qualified initiative measures on the ballot for primary elections.   Chief Justice Rose Bird in her dissent from Brosnahan v. Eu,  31 Cal.3d 1 (1982) questioned the constitutionality of this procedure:

An additional issue, not raised by the parties here, apparently has never been resolved by this court.  The Constitution requires that initiative and referendum measures be submitted to the voters “at the next general election ” after the measures qualify, or at a special election called by the Governor.  (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8, subd. (c) and § 9, subd. (c), italics added.)  The Elections Code defines a general election as “the election held throughout the state on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in each even-numbered year.” ( Elec. Code, § 20.)   A special election is an election the timing of which is not otherwise prescribed by law. ( Elec. Code, § 27.)  The election scheduled for June of 1982 is a regularly scheduled “direct primary” (see Elec. Code, § 23)–not a special election or a general election.  Thus, the constitutionality of submitting an initiative to the voters at a June primary election would appear to be an open question.

Thereafter, the legislature amended the definition of “general election”.  AB 1466 (Statham) Chapter 405, Statutes of 1993.  Last year’s bill to limit initiative measures to the November ballot was supported by two labor organizations and opposed by several business and trade associations.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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