Will California voters see two ballot measures doing the same thing?
By the time California voters consider the list of statewide ballot propositions on Nov. 3, the confusing events of the last few days in Sacramento could be a thing of the past. It’s also possible there will be lasting political scars.
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The private disagreements went public on Friday, with the threat of a legal fight pitting two prominent California Democrats against each other, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Padilla tried last week to resolve a problem that arose out of 11th-hour state Capitol negotiations over the fate of a ballot measure on property taxes. Rendon threatened to file a lawsuit. Now, it’s unclear whether voters will see one or two propositions on the same topic.
One policy, two ballot measures: How did this happen?
A major change was made to California election law in 2014, allowing the backers of an initiative that qualified for the ballot to withdraw their measure if they’d rather strike a deal with the Legislature in hopes of making better public policy. The law was used in 2016 to force legislative action boosting California’s minimum wage and again in 2018 to enact a far-reaching consumer privacy statute.
This time, in the days leading up to Thursday’s ballot measure deadline, an effort emerged to swap an initiative backed by the California Assn. of Realtors with a proposal written by the Legislature.
The Realtors’ plan would broadly give homeowners older than 55 a lower property tax burden when they purchase a new home. And it would close a property tax loophole for some adult children who inherit a home from their parents.
Among other changes, the legislative version expands the property tax incentive to include victims of wildfires. It would direct much of the new property taxes collected from closing the parent-child loophole toward local firefighting efforts. Realtors and the California Professional Firefighters both embraced the legislative alternative, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11.
Swapping out ballot measures meant both the legislative approval of ACA 11 and cancellation of the original initiative needed to happen by the end of the day on Thursday. But it didn’t, because Rendon chose not to convene the Assembly until Friday.
(A spokesperson for Rendon says the Assembly was waiting for all the bills related to the state budget, though the state Senate took action on both the budget and ACA 11 on Thursday.)
The Realtors didn’t exactly make friends with Assembly Democrats this past spring, helping a GOP assemblyman’s reelection chances by spending money to boost a former Democratic lawmaker who faced sexual harassment allegations, over the party’s preferred candidate.
As the ballot deadline approached on Thursday, there was no formal word on Rendon’s support. Late that afternoon, he issued a statement that seemed to embrace ACA 11, but the Realtors clearly weren’t convinced. So they told state elections officials the withdrawal of their ballot measure (which cost some $10 million to qualify) was conditional on Assembly passage of ACA 11 on Friday. The secretary of state’s chief counsel wrote back saying, in essence, the request sounded OK.
But on Friday, the Assembly speaker insisted the secretary of state could not accept the conditional offer to remove the original measure.
“At this point, you have no legal authority to remove Initiative #1864 from the November ballot,” Rendon wrote to Padilla late Friday, referring to the Realtors’ proposal. “Our house will consider its legal options for challenging any removal of Initiative #1864 from the ballot, if that should occur.”
So what happens next? The Senate and Gov. Gavin Newsom could take action Monday to finalize the Nov. 3 ballot. Then it’s a matter of whether Padilla swaps out the two property tax measures and if he does, whether Rendon — in what would be a shocking break with other Democratic leaders — goes to court.
California’s coronavirus budget
Newsom could sign the key provisions of the state’s new $202.1-billion state budget on Monday, with California’s new fiscal year beginning on July 1.
The big picture of the spending plan is simple: $13 billion in less spending, $4.4 billion in new revenues from canceling some business tax breaks and a reliance on cash reserves and more optimistic economic forecasts for erasing much of the rest of the deficit problem.
Few in Sacramento expect that the budget work has ended, however. Key tax revenue data are expected in a couple of weeks, and the budget could be significantly revised when (or if) new federal coronavirus assistance funds come from Washington.
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National lightning round
— The White House says President Trump wasn’t briefed on intelligence about a reported Russian offer of bounty payments to kill U.S. soldiers. If so, that shows negligence, some Republicans say.
— The president tweeted approvingly Sunday of a video showing one of his supporters chanting “white power,” a racist slogan associated with white supremacists.
— Just shy of 2020 voter deadlines, the federal agency that handles citizenship is bankrupt and thousands of green card holders can’t become citizens.
— Evangelical voters backed Trump with an eye on shaping the Supreme Court for decades. Recent rulings could undermine that support.
— The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by Texas Democrats to allow all the state’s registered voters to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— A federal judge is giving Trump ally Roger Stone an additional two weeks before he must begin serving his federal prison sentence.
— The House of Representatives voted Friday to make Washington, D.C., a state, the first time in history the proposal has passed a chamber of Congress.
Essential California politics
— California voters will be asked in November whether to erase Proposition 209, which banned the use of race and gender as consideration for government contracts and in college admissions.
— California’s unemployment agency faced a barrage of bipartisan criticism from lawmakers last week over continuing delays in approving jobless claims, with calls for an audit and for Newsom to step in with corrective action.
— Two months after Newsom pledged money to help as many as 150,000 immigrants without legal status who have lost work or wages during the coronavirus crisis, fewer than half that number have received the $500 payments and the program is nearing its original end date.
— Nearly 50,000 Los Angeles families hurt by the economic and health fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could get help from a $100-million rent relief program passed by the City Council last week.
— The arrest of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar marks the biggest domino to fall in a multiyear federal investigation of corruption and alleged pay-to-play practices at City Hall. If convicted, Huizar could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
— Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for states to allow sports betting, political squabbles between rival gambling interests have left California stalemated on the issue, with the latest effort fizzling in the Legislature.
— An Assembly employee tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the state Capitol, according to an email sent to legislative staffers.
A quick programming note: The Essential Politics newsletter will be off Friday and Monday in observance of Independence Day.
The view from Sacramento
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