Court asks state official why she put Brown’s tax item atop ballot

SACRAMENTO — A state appellate court has asked Secretary of State Debra Bowen to explain why she allowed Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative to be placed above all other propositions on the November ballot.

Judge Vance W. Raye gave Bowen until July 30 to explain her actions to the court in writing or undo the ballot order she set Monday for the 11 measures. Brown’s tax proposal, Proposition 30, was placed first among all initiatives.

Raye’s ruling came in a case originally brought by Molly Munger, who is backing a tax measure that competes with Brown’s.

A lower court judge on Monday rejected Munger’s claim that election workers in Los Angeles County gave Brown’s measure preferential treatment. Munger then dropped her challenge, but the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., which had intervened on her behalf, appealed.

In its filing with the appellate court, the Jarvis group argues that the Legislature’s passage of a bill giving priority in the ballot sequence to proposed constitutional amendments such as Brown’s was illegal.

Raye will hear that case later this month.