(PR) Taxpayer Victory in HJTA v. Bowen

Court of Appeal Rules Brown and Legislature Violated Constitution in Effort To Manipulate Election Process

Sacramento — In a lawsuit challenging legislation purporting to give Governor Brown's Proposition 30 priority on the top of the November ballot, the Court of Appeal has issued a ruling in a far more significant legal issue — what is the meaning of a "budget related bill?"

Last July, HJTA filed a legal action challenging the constitutionality of AB 1499, the controversial legislation gave Brown's initiative the highest available number (Prop 30) on the November ballot. Assembly Bill 1499 seeks to repeal long-standing statutory law regarding how ballot measures appear on the ballot. While the Court of Appeal immediately indicated it would hear this original action, it never issued a stay meaning that Proposition 30 — the $50 billion tax increase just passed by the voters — retained its favored position.

However, a second issue in the case has huge significance for the budget process. In 2010, California voters passed Proposition 25 which, they were told would help break the recurring budget deadlocks by requiring only a simple majority vote to pass a budget, down from the two-thirds requirement that had been the law since 1933. Seeking to use the language of Proposition 25, the legislature slapped a token $1,000 appropriation on to AB 1499 and then subsequently argued that the bill only needed a simple majority vote. (Without this scheme, AB 1499 would not have become effective until January 1, 2013, way too late to give Governor Brown the political advantage he was seeking).

"We are pleased the court has confirmed that the Legislature cannot simply add content to an empty 'spot bill' as a means to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement," said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

The court found:

"The narrow, but potentially recurring and important, question we address in these writ proceedings is whether the California Constitution, as amended by the voters in 2010, allows the Legislature to identify blank bills with an assigned number but no substance (so-called "spot bills"1) in the budget bill, pass the budget, and thereafter add content to the placeholder and approve it by a majority vote as urgency legislation. (Cal. Const., art. IV, § 12, subds. (d) & (e).) We conclude that spot bills which remain empty of content at the time the budget is passed are not bills that can be identified within the meaning of article IV, section 12, subdivision (e)(2) of the California Constitution and enacted as urgency legislation by a mere majority vote." (emphasis added).

This is the second lawsuit won by HJTA against Secretary of State Bowen and the Legislature for manipulating the ballot in a manner contrary to law and the broader public interest of election integrity.

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