Lower court found ballot title “misleading” but failed to take corrective action
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association today filed a writ of mandate directly to the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District seeking reversal of a trial court decision handed down on Tuesday that failed to correct false and misleading ballot material submitted by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Proposition 15, the largest property tax hike in state history.
“The courts should act as a check and balance, ensuring that the Attorney General is doing his job in presenting a ‘true and impartial statement’ to voters. While the judge agreed with us that his description of Prop 15 is ‘somewhat misleading,’ she did not take corrective action. Our only remedy is seeking an appeal to ensure voters are told the truth—Prop 15 is a tax increase we will all pay for,” said Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “While the Elections Code requires an impartial statement to voters, the appellate court, in previous rulings, has allowed the Attorney General to have ‘broad discretion’ over his or her writing of a ballot title and summary. This legal standard has been repeatedly abused by the Attorney General, who has been sued on 6 of the 12 titles and summaries he drafted this year alone. Our lawsuit seeks to not only ensure voters understand the true impact of Prop 15, but also remedy this previous ruling by the appellate court that has given the Attorney General unfettered ability to deceive voters.”
As noted when the action was originally filed last week, there is virtual unanimity among pundits, media and editorial boards that Becerra has abused his discretion in the preparation of ballot measure materials. Even the Los Angeles Times, not known for its conservative views, advocated in an editorial on Tuesday that the AG should have the job of preparing the ballot material taken away and given to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.
HJTA’s disagreement with the trial court is threefold. First, the trial court found that the “title” of the ballot label was “somewhat misleading.” This should be enough to require correction under the Elections Code. Second, the finding that property taxes are based on ‘purchase price’ plus annual inflation adjustment is true and thus exclusion of that requirement for annual adjustment renders the AG’s summary false. Third, the finding that we were correct that property valued under $3 million might be reassessed under Proposition 15 means that the LAO’s summary stating otherwise must be corrected.”
California voters are entitled by law to “a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure in such language that the ballot title and summary shall neither be an argument, nor be likely to create prejudice, for or against the proposed measure.” HJTA’s Writ of Mandate calls on the Appellate Court to correct Attorney General Becerra’s obvious bias to ensure voters are not deprived of the accurate information they need to make an informed decision on Proposition 15, which would result in the largest property tax increase in California history.