LOCAL PolitiCal

Sacramento preps for next year's battles

SACRAMENTO -- While much of the rest of the country is ramping up for the holiday season, political forces in Sacramento are girding for political battle.

Though the 2014 election is nearly a full year away, a series of de facto deadlines are fast approaching that will shape the makeup of next November’s ballot.

Initiatives to raise medical malpractice awards, hike tobacco taxes and give local governments the right to scale back public-employee pensions are among the ballot measures being considered. Each of those proposals, if they go forward, could induce campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars. Decisions about whether to proceed will be made within the next couple of weeks.

A coalition of doctors, hospitals and insurers is preparing to oppose a measure that would raise the caps on medical malpractice awards -- limits that have not been changed in nearly four decades. The campaign has hired Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman, a veteran of major initiative fights, to beat back the measure if it goes ahead.

Initiatives require hundreds of thousands of signed petitions to qualify for the ballot. Campaigns must typically begin that expensive process in mid-December if a measure is to meet the deadlines for the following November ballot.

One referendum has already qualified for the ballot -- a proposed repeal of a new Central Valley casino project approved by Gov. Brown earlier this year. A vote is also scheduled on a $12-billion water bond, but the governor and lawmakers have said they want to shrink the proposal before it goes before voters, which would take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Another measure to cap state spending, also placed on the ballot by lawmakers, is scheduled to come before voters, but legislative Democrats and Brown have expressed interest in replacing it with a different proposal to establish a rainy-day fund to help level out state revenue spikes and dips.

Measures placed on the ballot by lawmakers are not subject to many of the deadlines as initiatives requiring signed petitions. Those measures can be voted on as late as June and still make the November ballot.

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anthony.york@latimes.com

@anthonyyorklat

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