Weekly Recap – Election News and Trends January 13, 2014

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Below is a recap of last week’s election law news and hot topics. The hot trend right now, which should continue for the next couple months, is the qualification of state initiatives for circulation. With only 150 days for circulation, state initiatives are streaming in to the Secretary of State’s office in order to have sufficient time to qualify for the November 2014 ballot:

Press Release: Healthcare Pricing Initiative Enters Circulation by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

January 6, 2014 – A new initiative has been approved for circulation that would prohibit hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the estimated cost of goods and services provided to patients.

SACRAMENTO – Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced the proponents of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for their measure. The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions. When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponents and to the Secretary of State, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures. The Secretary of State then provides calendar deadlines to the proponents and to county elections officials.

Press Release: Term Limits Initiative Enters Circulation by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

January 6, 2014 – A new initiative has been approved for circulation that would establish 4-year terms for county assessors, district attorneys and sheriffs, with these officers being barred from serving more than three terms.

SACRAMENTO – Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced the proponent of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures. The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions. When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponent and to the Secretary of State, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures.

Mayors cleared to get pension reform signatures by Times-Standard State News

January 8, 2014 – A new initiative has been approved for circulation that would allow California cities to renegotiate public workers’ future pensions and retirement benefits.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and three other California mayors were cleared Tuesday to start gathering signatures to get their proposed statewide pension reform initiative on voter ballots in November. The move comes a day after Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a summary for the initiative, which would allow cities across the state to renegotiate public workers’ future pension and retirement benefits, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bit.ly/1fdbpXv).

Transgender rights referendum reaches next step by U-T San Diego

January 8, 2013 – Initial sampling of signatures submitted for a referendum on the transgender rights bill show enough valid signatures to proceed to the next step – a full review of all 619,244 signatures submitted.  The secretary of state’s office anticipates that this process will take approximately a month to complete.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Opponents of a new California law that spells out the rights of transgender students in public schools have cleared the next hurdle in their effort to repeal the law at the ballot box, state elections officials said Wednesday.

…and in state and campaign finances:

Brown’s Election-Year Surplus Aims at California Voters by Bloomberg L.P.

January 9, 2014 – Governor Jerry Brown’s budget seeks to satisfying his democratic constituents by increasing general-fund spending by 8.5 percent, with an increase in spending for schools, welfare and health care for the poor, while paying down $11 billing in previous deficits and setting aside $1.6 billion in reserves.

California Governor Jerry Brown, offering an election-year budget stuffed with the biggest surplus in more than a decade, has a simple message for his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature.

“A lot of Democrats want it to be Christmas,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “And Jerry Brown is telling them it’s still Lent.”

Dems target ‘stealth cash’ rules by Capitol Weekly

January 9, 2014 – Legislation is being proposed this year that would provide greater authority to the FPPC to regulate campaign finance by authorizing it to perform pre-election audits, examine campaign’ books before disclosure documents are filed and seek pre-election injunctions, among other things.

An effort to beef up campaign disclosure rules prompted by the dramatic, multimillion-dollar infusion of stealth cash into the November 2012 elections could be on the governor’s desk by the end of the month – in time for this year’s races.

“The measure comes largely in response to an $11 million flood of Republican-linked money, funneled through nonprofits, that went into the November 2012 elections some three weeks before Election Day.”

…and some interesting election litigation is concluding:

Anaheim relents, will hold election on council districts by Los Angeles Times

January 7, 2014 – The City of Anaheim settled a nearly 2 year lawsuit by agreeing to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot asking city voters whether to establish electoral districts, and whether to increase the number of council members from 4 to 6.  If approved, these changes would take effect in the 2016 City Council elections.

The city of Anaheim will ask voters to decide in November whether to create electoral districts in order to settle a voting rights lawsuit that claimed Latinos were politically disadvantaged in the city’s at-large elections. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2012 on behalf of three residents who accused the city of violating the California Voting Rights Act. It came at a time when turbulent protests over the police shootings of two Latino men had roiled the city and exposed deep divisions between the city’s affluent communities and its less-prosperous Latino neighborhoods.

Opening statements made in Sen. Rod Wright’s voter fraud trial by Los Angeles Times

January 9, 2014 – Prosecutors made opening statements in a case against State Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who owns a modest five-unit Inglewood apartment complex that he has owned since 1977, which he has claimed as his address since 2007 when he ran for office and from which he votes, and a single-family home in Baldwin Hills that he purchased in 2000 that the prosecution alleges is his true home.

State Sen. Roderick D. Wright (D-Inglewood) deliberately misled voters and broke the law when he took steps to run for an Inglewood-area seat several years ago, a Los Angeles County prosecutor said Thursday during opening statements in Wright’s perjury and voter fraud trial.

…and new public policy and ethics issues:

Inglewood Flouts the Law: Locked Doors, Elevators Keep Citizens from Council Meeting by CityWatch

January 7, 2014 – Members of the public were allegedly denied access to a scheduled City Council meeting in Inglewood.

The City Council Meeting slated for 10 a.m. today was held in a city hall behind locked doors and with elevators accessible only to city employees with an RFID card.

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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