Weekly Recap – Election News and Trends December 23, 2013

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Below is a recap of last week’s election law news and hot topics. The big trends this week are new initiatives that we may see in 2014 and campaign reform as the 2013 tax year comes to an end.

Initiative seeks to expand Calif. Legislature by Herald and News

December 20, 2013 – An initiative has been approved for circulation that would increase the current State legislature from 120 members to 12,000 members.

John Cox, a San Diego County real estate mogul, hates the way the California Legislature operates, so he wants to make it bigger. Much bigger. Cox heads the Rescue California Foundation, which on Thursday was cleared by the state to circulate petitions for a proposed ballot measure that would expand the Legislature from 120 members to 12,000 members, each elected from neighborhood legislative districts of 5,000 (for Assembly) to 10,000 (for Senate) residents.

State Legislature To Consider Doing Away With Special Elections by KPBS

December 18, 2013 – California Senator Darrell Steinberg, in collaboration with retired California Senator Gary Hart, is working on a constitutional amendment that would allow the Governor to appoint people to empty state legislative seats mid-term, rather than calling a special election.  Basically, this would eliminate special elections for state seats, which historically have a low voter turnout.

The San Diego region saw its fair share of special elections for state legislature seats this year. Now a retired California lawmaker is proposing an alternative: empty seats would be filled by the governor, not voters. The state legislature could take up the issue next month.

Split California into six states? VC Draper plans ballot initiative by Silicon Valley Business Journal

December 20, 2013 – Venture capitalist-scion Tim Draper is planning an initiative that would split California into six states, based on five reasons:

“1) He wants California’s population to have a better Senator-per-person count in Washington; 2) Increased competition between new states will lower costs for services; 3) A fresh start for each mini-state; 4) Improved local decision making; 5) Individuals “can move between states more freely.”

Venture capitalist-scion Tim Draper, whose investment wins include Skype and Overture, says he plans a ballot initiative to split California into six states. “Why?” You might ask. Is it a gag? Is it secessionist fever dreaming? Is it a well-played PR stunt? Are the Drapers drumming up attention for a reality series? Is Tim Draper thinking four steps ahead of us and is the Six Californias scheme just an opening gambit? All of the above?

Special interest groups look to shape 2014 California ballot by Los Angeles Times

December 7, 2013 – Because California initiatives generally take about 1 year to get on the ballot due to timing restrictions on submitting the ballot to the state attorney general for title and summary, circulating the petition, reviewing signatures and qualifying prior to an election’s deadline, several special interest groups are pushing to get initiatives qualified for circulation in time to make the November 2014 ballot.

While much of the country is gearing up for the holidays, political forces in Sacramento are girding for battle. Already, special interests are lined up with plans that could shape next year’s general election ballot. They are considering propositions to increase medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public employee pensions, among other ideas.

There’s No Way to Follow the Money by The Atlantic

December 16, 2013 – Current campaign finance regulations have loopholes that allow for money to be repeatedly passed between organizations with little regulation.

Christmas comes early for campaign watchdogs—or late, depending on your perspective. Thanks to a lag in IRS reporting rules, the tax returns of independent groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 election are just now coming due. Considered together with a recent campaign-finance investigation in California, these filings hint at an orgy of self-dealing and “dark money” shenanigans unprecedented in American politics.

Initiative proposed to shed light on dark money from nonprofits by Los Angeles Times

December 12, 2013 – An initiative has been submitted to the California attorney general’s office for ballot title and summary which would require the disclosure of the identity of any donor of $50,000 or more to a nonprofit to be used to identify a candidate for state office, but does not expressly advocate for or against that candidate.

Two months after the state levied record penalties in a “dark money” case, an initiative has been proposed to shed light on donors to nonprofit groups that try to influence California elections and legislation.

Jerry Brown, urged to run for president, won’t rule out 2016 bid by Fox 5 San Diego

December 17, 2013 – Governor Jerry Brown is being urged to run for US President in 2016.

If he weren’t the nation’s oldest governor, a ripe 75, Jerry Brown would automatically be counted among serious Democratic candidates for president in 2016. He boasts a household name, an impressive list of accomplishments in the country’s most populous state — a state some once deemed ungovernable — glowing national media coverage and a deep familiarity with the pitfalls and rigors of a White House bid, having run three times before.

Political change roils Inland Empire by Capitol Weekly

December 18, 2013 – People have been migrating from the LA area to Riverside and San Bernardino County in high numbers in search of more affordable housing, which is changing the demographics and potentially the partisan voter base for these areas.

California Republicans face tossups in areas of the state that for years were considered strongholds and easy wins for GOP contenders. The reason: demographics.

“What that they say about history, you know, if you don’t remember it you’re doomed to repeat it,” Rod Pacheco, a former Riverside County district attorney and former member of the state Assembly, where he served as as Republican leader. “The Inland Empire is going through a history lesson.”

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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