PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: Initiatives

California lawmaker pushes ballot measures on budget, constitution

The supermajority held by Democrats in the California Legislature appears to have emboldened lawmakers to think big this session, with several talking about changing the state Constitution now that Republican votes are no longer needed to put measures on the ballot.

So far members have proposed 13 ballot measures.

The latest come from State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who this week introduced two ballot measures including Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, which would initiate an independent review of the California Constitution with the aim of coming up with recommendations for improvements.

DeSaulnier also has introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 6, which would prohibit submitting future initiatives to the voters that add to state costs unless they also include a new source of revenue to cover those costs. Both of his proposals would need a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot, something more likely this year than in past years.

"Through independent review of our state Constitution and greater fiscal accountability in the initiative process, these measures will provide solutions to the deficiencies that have plagued our state’s budget and Constitution," DeSaulnier said in a statement.

In proposing creation of the Constitutional Revision Commission, he cited a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California that showed voter support for reforms that make state government more effective.

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GOP may scale back its goals

Berman-Sherman House race sets spending record

Lawmaker revives bill to ease firing of teachers in sex abuse cases

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Poll: Enthusiasm for ballot measures motivated state voters

California’s initiative process is viewed with befuddlement around the country and blamed for many of the ills that plague state government. But this year’s election reaffirmed that voters here love their direct democracy.

The 10 initiatives and one referendum on the November ballot did more to drive Golden State voters to the polls than the presidential contest, which was never much of a contest in Democratic California, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The survey found that 48% of Californians were more motivated to vote by one of the ballot measures than by the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Just 39% of voters said they were most enthusiastic about casting their vote for president.

Among the measures, Proposition 30 was viewed by voters as the most important measure one on the ballot. A quarter of those surveyed said Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to temporarily boost taxes on sales and upper incomes was their primary reason for going to the polls.

"It dealt with two issues – schools and taxes – that are always at the front of voters minds," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Proposition 30 passed with more than 54% of the vote in last week’s election, boosted by support from Democrats, who favored the measure 4-1, the survey found.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences /Los Angeles Times survey of 1,520 registered voters was conducted from Nov. 7-12. The survey was done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm, in conjunction with the GOP firm American Viewpoint.

ALSO:

Prop. 30 win gives Brown a major boost

Cal State University seeking new fees next fall

Assembly speaker confident he has a two-thirds majority

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Jerry Brown, California Democrats appear to be big winners in election

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6-billion-a-year tax initiative to rescue California schools and the state's finances appeared to squeak by with a victory early Wednesday, and Democrats' grip on Sacramento tightened as the party crept toward winning a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Tuesday's election also brought an end to the three-decade-long congressional career of Rep. Howard Berman, who early Wednesday morning conceded defeat in his political slugfest against fellow Democrat Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.

The bitter contest between Sherman and Berman, awash in more than $13 million in campaign spending by the candidates and independent political groups, was triggered when California's newly drawn political boundaries put the two incumbents in the same district.

"I congratulate Brad. ... I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition," Berman said in a concise concession statement early Wednesday.

FULL RESULTS: California races

In a similar high-profile mash-up between Democrats, Rep. Janice Hahn of San Pedro was cruising to an easy win against Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach in a newly drawn district that includes many minority, working-class communities, election results showed.

Among other closely watched races for California House seats, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park) narrowly defeated state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) in Ventura County, and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) bested former Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, according to results with all voter precincts reporting in those districts.

California's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, won an easy reelection victory over nonprofit executive Elizabeth Emken, her underfunded, little-known Republican challenger.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

The governor woke up Wednesday as one of the biggest apparent victors in Tuesday’s election, however.

Facing well-funded opposition, Brown campaigned heavily for Proposition 30 as a way to restore fiscal sanity to Sacramento and to stave off deep cuts to public schools and universities. The initiative calls for a quarter-cent increase to sales taxes for four years and a seven-year tax hike on California’s highest earners.

Californians have not approved a statewide tax increase since 2004.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a competing measure bankrolled by millionaire civil rights lawyer Molly Munger -- Proposition 38 – which would have increased income taxes for most Californians to raise funds primarily for schools and early childhood education.

In one of the highest-profile state ballot measures, labor unions appeared to defeat Proposition 32, which would have reduced their political influence by barring unions from using paycheck deductions for political purposes.

Californians also soured on a measure to abolish the death penalty -– Proposition 34 -- which was trailing badly with most of the voter precincts reporting Wednesday morning.

Other law-and-order measures were greeting more warmly. Voters favored Proposition 36, which would change the three-strikes sentencing law so offenders whose third strikes were minor, nonviolent crimes could no longer be given 25 years to life in prison.

Voters also supported Proposition 35, which promoted increased punishment for sex trafficking of a minor. Both led by wide margins with most ballots counted.

With most ballots tallied across California, initiatives to label genetically engineered foods and change state law to create a new car insurance discount appeared headed for defeat.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the Democrats' strong showing in legislative races. Democrats appear on the verge of winning a two-thirds majority in the state Senate and Assembly, enough to approve tax measures without Republican support.

In Los Angeles County, veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey became the county's first female and first African American district attorney after defeating Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson. Jackson conceded early Wednesday morning.

Lacey, 55, touted herself as the only candidate with the experience to run the office. She had the support of her boss, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is retiring after three terms.

Los Angeles County voters also approved a local measure requiring adult film actors to wear condoms. With most precincts reporting, a measure to fund transportation projects by extending a countywide sales-tax increase for an additional 30 years remained just shy of the two-thirds vote required for approval.

Some races remained too close to call, including the San Diego congressional race between Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) and Democrat Scott Peters, a San Diego environmental attorney. In the Coachella Valley, Democratic emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz was leading Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) with just under two-thirds of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning.

ALSO:

Munger’s Proposition 38 fails, according to AP

Prop. 40, on state Senate districts, passes, per AP

Proposition 36 on three-strikes law passes, AP says

-- Phil Willon

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses supporters of Proposition 30 and 32 at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento Tuesday. Source: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

The nonconformists behind Proposition 37

Photo: David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps sits at his company's booth in front of some of his organic soaps and other body products at the Food Marketing Institute trade show in Chicago. Credit: Brian Kersey / Associated PressBallot measure campaigns attract all sorts. The most colorful group in this year’s election, though, might just be the crusaders for Proposition 37, which would require labels on genetically modified foods.

They are fighting some of the biggest food and bioengineering firms in the world. The likes of Monsanto, DuPont and Kraft have poured millions of dollars battling the measure. The opponents to the measure argue it is based on junk science and would result in endless litigation and higher food prices.

The big corporate money on the pro side? Much of it comes from one company, which is hardly big and hardly corporate. It is called Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All-One-God Faith Inc. Based in California, of course. Where else would such a company find a home?

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

These are the people who make the peppermint and other flavored liquid soaps with all the tiny text crammed onto the label. Perhaps you used it for some of the advertised 18 uses -- brushing teeth, shaving, deodorant, and so on -- on camping trips in your youth. If you squint hard enough you can read some of the inspiration the late Dr. Bronner sought to impart with all those microscopic words. Such as: “Love is like a willful bird, do you want it? It flies away! Yet, when you least expect its bliss it turns around and it’s here to stay!”

A company spokesman called the L.A. Times last week, hoping to get a reporter to include CEO David Bronner’s perspective in a story about all the money going into ballot initiatives. But when the reporter called Bronner, he wasn’t immediately available. The spokesman explained in an email: Bronner was doing his court-ordered community service.

In June, according to the Washington Post, Bronner “locked himself in a metal cage…outside the White House with a stash of hemp plants and equipment, hoping to make enough hemp oil to spread on a piece of French bread.”

INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map

The story goes on. “Park police and Secret Service agents joined D.C. police and fire officials, who worked for a couple of hours to open the cage. Bronner had designed the trailer so it could not easily be broken into or towed away by police.”

Back in California, it seems the quirky Yes on 37 campaign was downright restrained compared to what might have been.

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Accusations fly over alleged FBI probe of campaign against Prop. 37

Yes on Proposition 37 campaign launches TV ads

What would Proposition 37 really cost or tell voters?

 -- Evan Halper in Sacramento

Photo: David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps sits at his company's booth in front of some of his organic soaps and other body products at the Food Marketing Institute trade show in Chicago. Credit: Brian Kersey / Associated Press

Mass mail-in vote could mean delays in the count

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

With a record 9.2 million ballots mailed out for today's election, California officials expect delays in deciding the outcomes of races, especially close ones.

Following a trend set in the June primary, this is predicted to be the second time more Californians vote by mail than in person at the poll. Because the signatures on every one of those paper ballots must be checked by hand against voter registration cards, that means days and possibly weeks until all votes are counted.

Matching signatures is slow work, made even slower because would-be voters' handwriting can change over time or they write their name differently from when they registered. The rejection rate for mailed in ballots in the June primary ran as high as 10% in Kern County, but statewide averaged 2%, county data collected by the Secretary of State's office show.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

"We're into accuracy, not speed, in California," Nicole Winger, deputy communications director for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said Tuesday. "It will be a couple of weeks for any really tight races."

More than 65% of votes cast in the June primary came in through the mail or were dropped off at polls on election day. No matter what the postmark, no mailed ballots are accepted after polls close.

To meet the challenge of hand-processing more than half of today's expected 12 million votes, county election officials were allowed to begin opening and validating mailed ballots last week. They have an additional 28 days from now to complete the task and post their results to the secretary of state.

Though polls close at 8 p.m., counties are not required to post their first round of results until 10 p.m. Winger said some of the more remote of the state's 24,000 polling places need the time. For instance, ballots collected on Catalina Island are sent in by helicopter.

Voters can check to see whether their mail-in ballot was received at this state site: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/

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California sets record for voter registration

Gov. Jerry Brown makes retail pitch for Proposition 30

Gov. Jerry Brown joins Sacramento union leaders for Proposition 30 pitch

--Paige St. John in Sacramento

Photo: Ryan Ching, a clerk, loads and sorts vote-by-mail ballots into a sorting machine at the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk. Creidt: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Arizona group plans appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in funding case

Arizona lawyers

The Arizona nonprofit behind a controversial $11-million donation plans to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch bid to avoid turning over records to California's campaign finance watchdog.

The California Supreme Court ordered the nonprofit to comply with an audit by 4 p.m. Sunday. Lawyers for the nonprofit asked for an extension, saying it was impossible from "a logistical perspective."

That request was denied by the state justices, and the nonprofit's lawyers filed another letter outlining its plan to continue appealing the case.

In the letter, San Francisco attorney Thad Davis said the case raises "novel and pressing issues" that need a full vetting before the nonprofit can be forced to turn over records.

Davis wrote that the case "raises critical First Amendment issues regarding the ability of an organization to freely associate and speak on vital election-related matters without reprisal by government officials opposed to their view."

State authorities accused the nonprofit of trying to drag out the legal proceedings.

“It is outrageous that they are purposely and continuously trying to bypass the rules,” said California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. “This is an effort to obstruct the process and run out the clock.”

The Arizona nonprofit, Americans for Responsible Leadership, gave the $11 million to the conservative Small Business Action Committee, which is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax-hike campaign and pushing a separate ballot measure to curb unions' political influence.

The Fair Practices Political Commission is trying to audit the nonprofit to see if it is improperly shielding its donors identities.

Federal law allows nonprofits to keep the identities of their donors confidential. But California regulations say donors must be identified if they give to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.

ALSO:

Arizona nonprofit must turn over records, judge orders

Arizona nonprofit won't be audited for now, appeals court rules

California Supreme Court orders Arizona nonprofit to turn over records

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Jason Torchinsky, an attorney for Americans for Responsible Leadership, argues against a campaign finance audit on Wednesday in Superior Court in Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California Supreme Court orders Arizona nonprofit to turn over records

Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye

In an extraordinarily swift decision, the California Supreme Court unanimously ordered an Arizona nonprofit to turn over records to the state's campaign finance watchdog on Sunday.

The Fair Practices Political Commission has been conducting an unprecedented court battle for the records in its attempt to unmask the donors behind an $11-million contribution to two California campaigns this year. The commission wants the records to determine whether the nonprofit has improperly shielded the identity of its contributors.

Federal law allows nonprofits to keep the identities of their donors confidential. But California regulations say donors must be identified if they give to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.

The Arizona nonprofit, Americans for Responsible Leadership, gave the $11 million to the conservative Small Business Action Committee, which is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax-hike campaign and pushing a separate ballot measure to curb unions' political influence. 

The donation has become one of the most controversial issues in this campaign, and Brown has repeatedly criticized the nonprofit during stump speeches. 

There was no immediate response from the Arizona group on Sunday. 

Americans for Responsible Leadership has accused the governor and Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the FPPC and a Brown appointee, of unfairly targeting the group for an audit. In a court filing, lawyers for the group said Ravel was conducting a "one-woman media onslaught, rabblerousing and prejudging, including 'tweeting' her incendiary view."

State authorities have been pushing for a quick audit before election day on Tuesday.

"This information is, by its very nature, only relevant before the election," the state's filing says.

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Arizona nonprofit must turn over records, judge orders

Arizona nonprofit appeals order in campaign finance case

Arizona nonprofit won't be audited for now, appeals court rules

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye during a California Supreme Court session last year. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Prop. 32 supporters link unions to UC Davis pepper-spraying

A little more than a week before election day, proponents of Proposition 32 are ratcheting up their rhetoric, linking union and corporate interests to a series of high-profile controversies, including the pepper-spraying of students at UC Davis.

The ballot measure would make major changes to California's campaign finance system, including banning the practice of political contribution by payroll deduction – the primary method labor unions use to raise political cash.

On Monday, the Yes on 32 campaign released a Web-only ad that features images of the pepper-sprayed protesters –- in addition to the burning homes of San Bruno and a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher accused of abusing his students. Set to a foreboding score, the ad then flashes a message: “Money in politics affects all of us.”

Some of the ties, however, are tenuous.

The images of a police officer spraying seated students in their faces is the backdrop for the claim that “Sacramento politicians” spend more on public employee pensions than higher education. “Can we blame our kids for protesting tuition hikes,” the spot asks.

Footage of the aftermath of the San Bruno gas explosion is used for the charge that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. gave more than $2 million in campaign contributions to “avoid regulations.” The company has yet to be fined for the 2010 catastrophe and the state Public Utility Commission has taken heat for how it selected a mediator. Lawmakers, however, pursued legislative action.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills that improved maintenance and oversight of the pipelines, required automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensured that gas companies pressure-test transmission lines.

Finally, the ad says that California teachers unions spent millions to influence lawmakers to protect teachers like former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on children. L.A. Unified School District chose to pay Berndt $40,000 to retire rather than take him through a lengthy and costly dismissal process.

This year, lawmakers rejected legislation that would have sped the dismissal process for teachers who engaged in offenses involving sex, drugs or violence. Teachers unions opposed the bill, saying it was an attack on due process rights.

The Web ad comes as polls show Proposition 32 losing. A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters showed the measure trailing, with 39% supporting and 46% opposing.

Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for the labor-backed opposition campaign, dismissed the ad.

“The Yes on 32 campaign lost any semblance of credibility long ago,” he said, “so an over-the-top, ugly and exploitative video like this in the throes of a losing campaign is unfortunately par for the course.”

ALSO:

Unions raise nearly $10 million to fight Prop. 32

Good-government groups says Prop. 32 is deceptive

Bid to curb union spending gets big Democratic backer

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

Contributions top $100 million in ballot measure fights

Fundraising in the fight over a November ballot measure that would curb organized labor's political influence has topped $100 million.

Business interests are now outpacing unions in political donations, with the most recent infusion coming from Republican rainmaker Charles Munger Jr., who gave more than $13 million to a committee dedicated to passing the measure, Proposition 32, and opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30. According to state records, $10 million of that is a loan.

In all, Munger has given roughly $35 million to the group, dubbed the Small Business Action Committee. The group has raised more than $42 million.

Proposition 32 would make major changes to California's campaign finance system, including banning the practice of political contribution by payroll deduction -- the primary method labor unions use to raise political cash. Unions have declared defeating the initiative their top priority this year.

The labor-backed opposition campaign has raised nearly $63 million, state records show.

A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters shows Proposition 32 trailing, with 39% supporting and 46% opposing.

“It’s really tough to see how this initiative wins,” said Dave Kanevsky of the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, which conducted the survey in conjunction with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm.

He said proponents had failed to win over their natural GOP allies and match the intensity of labor unions.

“Republicans don’t like this as much as Democrats are against it,” Kanevsky said.

ALSO:

Unions raise nearly $10 million to fight Prop. 32

Good-government groups says Prop. 32 is deceptive

Bid to curb union spending gets big Democratic backer

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

twitter.com/mjmishak

California voters say they don't ignore anything on the ballot

Voting

Being listed at the bottom of the ballot may not be an automatic death sentence for candidates and initiatives, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Eighty-eight percent of registered voters said they vote on every race and issue on the ballot, from president to local elections. 

Just 5% said they would vote only for president, and 4% said they would pay attention only to national races.

The results are similar to a September poll, which found that 86% of registered voters planned to make decisions on every question on the ballot.

Political strategists are routinely concerned that low billing on the ballot makes candidates and initiatives less likely to pass. Earlier this year, millionaire civil rights lawyer Molly Munger sued the state because Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure was going to be placed above hers on Nov. 6. She lost the case.

“There may be a marginal advantage from being listed early rather than late,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “But it doesn’t make a huge difference.”

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll surveyed 1,504 registered voters by telephone from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and American Viewpoint, a Republican organization. 

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Brown's tax measure can be first on ballot, judge rules

Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative tops list of ballot measures

With an economy of words, California legislators state their ballot business

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Voters casting ballots in Venice in 2010. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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