Court of Appeals rules that CA Legislature violated Political Reform Act over High Speed Rail
Sacramento — Today Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association won a major victory on behalf of taxpayers as well as the integrity of the ballot process. In a 23-page published decision the Court of Appeal ruled that the California Legislature violated the Political Reform Act an initiative approved by the voters in 1974 when it dictated the contents of what is supposed to be objective material in the ballot pamphlet.
“No longer can the California Legislature use the ballot pamphlet as biased advertising for its own pet ballot measures” said Jon Coupal President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. At issue in the legal action was the High Speed Train Bond Act of 2008 a measure sponsored and placed on the ballot by the Legislature. Rather than complying with the voter-prescribed process of having the Attorney General prepare the ballot label title and official summary the Legislature hijacked the process and dictated the language that would appear in the ballot pamphlet. HJTA had alleged that the material was little more than a sales job on behalf of the bond.
Coupal added “the Court’s ruling is a stinging rebuke of the California Legislature for manipulating voters by substituting the proponent’s advocacy for what is supposed to be a neutral summary by an impartial third party. Voters know that the arguments in the ballot pamphlet are advocacy but they assume ÛÒ wrongly in this case ÛÒ that the ballot label title and official summary are objective. We are very pleased that the Court’s ruling demands that in the future only an objective party can prepare those portions of the ballot material which are currently recognized as being ‘official.'”
While the Court’s ruling does not reverse the election on the High Speed Rail bonds it does insure that the California Legislature cannot manipulate the process in the future.
Tim Bittle HJTA’s Director of Legal Affairs who argued the case before the Court stated “we have no doubt that had the voters been presented with a truly impartial ballot description the HSR bond would have gone down in defeat.” (The HSR bond barely passed with a 52.5-47.5 % vote). “But this ruling slams on the brakes to the future manipulation of the voters by what up until now had been an increasing practice by the California Legislature.”
Jon Coupal added “the timing of the ruling is important for taxpayers as the Governor and the Legislature are planning to place massive tax increases on the ballot in June. This ruling will help assure that the material presented to the voters as ‘official’ is indeed objective and not merely advertising for tax increases.”
The ruling also has the potential for affecting the two measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature relating to a Water Bond and Budgeting Reform Measure.
To read the full text of the Court’s ruling visit: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/archive/C060441.PDF.