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Judge rules state used misleading language in summary of ballot measure to repeal California gas tax

GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, in red tie, with Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, left, and Charles Munger Jr., far right, in 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, in red tie, with Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, left, and Charles Munger Jr., far right, in 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that the state-written title and summary of an initiative to repeal the recent gas-tax increases were misleading and should be rewritten by the state attorney general’s office.

The ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, scheduled to be finalized at a court hearing on Friday, was welcomed by the initiative’s lead proponent, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach).

“This preliminary ruling is a major victory for Californians,” Allen, a candidate for governor, said in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to repealing Jerry Brown’s hugely unpopular gas tax. I look forward to the final ruling on Friday, and ensuring that the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative receives the straightforward ballot title and summary that it deserves.”  

Judge Frawley agreed with Allen’s legal claims that the title and summary drafted by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office is “confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure.”

The judge said the initiative would repeal taxes and fees approved by the Legislature this year, but the title and summary issued by the state makes it sound like it would eliminate transportation funding without using the words “taxes and “fees” in the title.

He ordered state officials to come to Friday’s hearing prepared to discuss alternate language for the ballot measure.

“To avoid misleading the voters and creating prejudice against the measure, the Attorney General must prepare a 'true and impartial statement’ that reasonably informs voters of the character and real purpose of the proposed initiative in clear and understandable language,” the ruling says. “The existing circulating title and summary fails this test.”

If the judge finalizes the order after hearing arguments Friday, Allen can use the new title and summary to circulate a petition. Allen needs to collect  365,000 signatures from registered voters in 150 days to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

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