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Proposal Would Increase Threshold for Recall, but Not for This Election

From Staff and Wire Reports

A proposed amendment to the state Constitution would change the way California handles recall elections, increasing the number of signatures that recall-seeking petitioners must obtain, and automatically replacing a recalled governor with the lieutenant governor.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 20 was introduced by Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles); Senate Majority Leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Assembly Judiciary Committee chairwoman Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) are listed as coauthors.

The proposed amendment would not apply to the current recall election. It would eliminate the replacement election that has created a field of 135 candidates; instead, the lieutenant governor would take the governor’s place if a recall election was successful.

The proposed amendment would allow the recall election date to be set by the chief justice of the California Supreme Court.

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In addition, the amendment would make it harder to secure enough petitions to put a recall question on the ballot. Current law determines the number of signatures based on a percentage of the number of votes cast in the last election -- 12% of votes for statewide offices and 20% for district offices.

The amendment would keep the same percentages but base the thresholds on the total number of registered voters in the state or relevant district -- not the number of people who cast ballots in the last election.

“I think it will engender a very substantive debate,” Ridley-Thomas said. “There’s just an incredible amount of confusion this time around.”

The proposed amendment would require a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and the Senate to be placed on the ballot for voters’ consideration, where it would need a simple majority to pass.

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Ted Costa, the original drafter of the petition that started the current recall, said Tuesday: “Realistically, their bill is just going to die and go away. Three months from now, I don’t know that people are going to be as interested in this subject as they are now.”

Hearing for Prop. 54 Lawsuit Moved Up

At the request of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, a judge in Sacramento has moved up the date of a hearing to consider a complaint against backers of Proposition 54 on the Oct. 7 ballot.

The FPPC sued Ward Connerly and his American Civil Rights Coalition last week, demanding that they be forced to disclose the sources of funding for Proposition 54, which would restrict the information that the government can collect about race and ethnicity.

A hearing in the case was initially scheduled for Sept. 26. The FPPC said Tuesday that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Cecil had moved it to Sept. 19. Attorneys for the state had argued that the matter needed to be settled as soon as possible so that the public could learn who was behind the initiative before voting.

Clerical Error Changes Davis Committee

To the surprise of Gov. Gray Davis’ lawyers and campaign team, the governor’s campaign committee was morphed into an anti-recall committee this week. By late Tuesday afternoon, aides to the governor had chalked the move up to an unintentional administrative error.

The Gov. Gray Davis Committee, Davis’ war chest during his run for office, appeared on the secretary of state’s Web site Monday night as a committee dedicated to defeating the recall. Caren Daniels-Meade, chief of the secretary’s political reform division, said the Davis team had filed paperwork in late August indicating it wished to change the purpose of the committee.

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The move stumped campaign finance experts. Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said because contributions to the governor’s old campaign committee are not restricted, the reorganization did not offer any fund-raising advantages.

James Harrison, a lawyer who represents the governor’s campaign committee, said the change was made by mistake when a worker confused the committee’s paperwork with that of the governor’s anti-recall fund, Californians Against the Costly Recall of the Governor.

Labor Unions Launch Anti-Recall Efforts

Two labor unions are embarking on an independent campaign effort to get as many as 750,000 Latino voters to cast ballots Oct. 7 -- against the recall and for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in his effort to replace Gov. Gray Davis, a union executive said Tuesday.

The unions intend to spend $500,000 on the effort this week and as much as $2.5 million total, said Jack Gribbon, California political director for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. The campaign will be in addition to the $2.5-million effort announced last month by the California Labor Federation.

Gribbon said his union has transferred $500,000 to the independent committee, the Community Civic Participation Project.

The Service Employees International Union also will help fund the effort.

By law, independent expenditure efforts cannot be coordinated with the campaigns of candidates they are supporting. In this instance, Richie Ross, Bustamante’s chief campaign strategist, also is a consultant for the hotel workers.

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“It doesn’t sound very independent to me,” said Sean Walsh, a spokesman for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Gribbon said Ross was not involved in the independent effort.

Buffett Downplays His Role in Campaign

Multibillionaire investor Warren E. Buffett minimized his role in California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign Tuesday, saying he is only one of 18 economic advisors to the Hollywood actor.

“He’s serious about taking in everybody’s views, and mine is just one of 18,” Buffett, speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said about Schwarzenegger, a Republican. “He’s kind of a policy wonk.”

Buffett faced questions over how seriously Schwarzenegger is taking his advice.

As the head of Schwarzenegger’s Economic Recovery Council with former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Buffett suggested last month that California’s property taxes are too low. Schwarzenegger quickly rejected that unpopular advice.

Schwarzenegger even joked that if Buffett made the suggestion again, he would make the 73-year-old Buffett do 500 sit-ups.

Buffett said he’s taking that threat to heart.

“I couldn’t do 500 sit-ups between now and the election,” Buffett joked.


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