Weekly Recap – Election News and Trends January 6, 2014

by Best Best & Krieger LLP

Below is a recap of last week’s election law news and hot topics to start off the new year! With this being an election year in both the California and Federal legislature, politicians are shaping their policies towards agendas to use in re-election campaigns.

Election-year politics shape congressional agenda by CBS 8 News

January 5, 2014 – In congress, Republicans are focusing on the Affordable Care Act while Democrats intend to press an increase in the federal minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits.

Congress returns to work Monday with election-year politics certain to shape an already limited agenda. Republicans intend to focus on every facet of President Barack Obama’s health care law. They see a political boost in its problem-plagued rollout as the GOP looks to maintain its House majority and seize control of the Democratic-led Senate.

California lawmakers return for election-year session by KFSN-TV ABC 30

January 6, 2014 – In the California legislature the big election year topic centers on the State’s budget, with a focus on whether to impose new or increase existing taxes, building the budget reserve, dealing with the long-term debt and focusing on programs cut during the recession.

California lawmakers are returning to the Capitol this week for a pivotal election-year session. Expect fights over billions of dollars in new tax revenue and leadership changes in both parties. Democrats will work to protect the supermajorities that give them command of state politics, as a federal corruption investigation hangs over one of their own in the Senate.

Different election, same playbook: Why 2014 will look a lot like 2012 by NBC Politics NBC News

January 1, 2014 – The 2014 election may focus on the same issue as 2012 – whether or not voters support the Affordable Care Act and the party that is for or against it.

In 2012, the electoral battle lines were clear: Democrats painted the race as a struggle between a dynamic incumbent and a lesser GOP foe, while Republicans made it a referendum on the president and his health care law. It’s a playbook that both parties are reaching into for the 2014 midterm election, with Republicans and Democrats both looking to expand their influence on Capitol Hill.

…And with the new year brings a few new highly political and sensitive state initiatives:

As Colorado, Washington legalize recreational pot, California mulls its options by Fresno Bee

December 27, 2013 – A recent Field poll showed that 55 percent of voters support legal marijuana use beyond medical use, and four pot legalization ballot initiatives are currently proposed for the November 2014 ballot.

On New Year’s Day in Colorado, state-licensed marijuana stores will begin selling pot purely for pleasurable consumption. Colorado, already home to the nation’s most regulated medical marijuana industry, expects to open its first two dozen stores selling recreational cannabis users up to an ounce of pot each. Another 400 applications are pending for retail marijuana shops, commercial cultivators or pot product producers.

Judge Flushes ‘Bathroom Bill’ Election Trick by WND TV

January 2, 2014 – Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner issued a tentative ruling last week which would allow hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of a referendum, filed on a Saturday, to be counted despite counties not accepting or processing the signatures until after the constitutional deadline, which fell on Sunday.  The referendum seeks to repeal AB 1266, which requires all California public schools to allow students who identify themselves as transgender to choose the bathrooms and locker rooms they want to use.

A Sacramento judge has squashed a maneuver by the California government to suppress a referendum effort by those aiming to overturn, by popular vote later this year, the state’s controversial transsexual-rights “bathroom” law.

…As well as some interesting public policy and ethics issues:

Pleasant Hill mayoral vote dispute rolls on by Contra Costa Times

December 30, 2013 – Two residents have filed complaints with the City of Pleasant Hill alleging that 3 councilmembers violated the Brown Act in blocking a councilmember’s nomination for mayor.

A second resident has filed a complaint with the city alleging that three councilmen conspired to “rig the election” and deny former Vice Mayor Jack Weir the mayor’s seat. Dorothy Englund’s complaint follows City Attorney Janet Coleson’s refusal to investigate the Dec. 2 mayoral selection, during which councilmen Michael Harris, Ken Carlson and Tim Flaherty thwarted Weir’s bid for the top post. Coleson has said she doesn’t believe there is any evidence the men violated California’s open meeting law.

Silva flier spurs legal questions by Recordnet

December 29, 2013 – Stockton political flier which features the police chief is under investigation for violating a state statute which prohibits a uniformed local agency officer or employee to participate in political activities.

City Attorney John Luebberke will conduct a legal review to determine whether Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva violated state laws last week when he distributed a flier that included a photograph of Police Chief Eric Jones, authorities said. The four-page flier is rife with punctuation and spelling errors, but those may be the least of the mayor’s concerns after city officials raised legal questions about its contents.

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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