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California End the Two-Thirds Requirement Amendment, Lakoff Version (2010)

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A California End the Two-Thirds Requirement Amendment (Lakoff Version) (09-0037, 10-0015) was filed for, but ultimately did not appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California.

The goal of the Lakoff proposals was to repeal two existing supermajority requirements then existing in the California Constitution. One supermajority requirement mandated that in order to pass the state's budget, a 2/3rds supermajority vote in the California State Legislature was required. The second supermajority requirement in the state constitution said that for the state legislature to raise taxes, a 2/3rds vote of the state legislature is required. Lakoff's proposal would have ended both supermajority requirements, if it had qualified for the ballot and been approved by the state's voters.

Specifically, Lakoff's proposal would have repealed the language in Section 12 of Article IV and Section 3 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution that says that in order to raise taxes or pass a budget, a two-thirds supermajority vote is required in the California State Legislature.

Although Lakoff's proposal did not make the ballot, Proposition 26, which repealed the supermajority requirement for enacting a budget, did qualify for the ballot and was approved by the state's voters. (Proposition 26 left in place the state's supermajority requirement for raising taxes.)

On September 23, 2009, George Lakoff filed a request with the Office of the California Attorney General for an official ballot title on an act he called the "California Democracy Act." On March 23, 2010, Lakoff filed a revised version of the proposal with election officials.[1]

The Lakoff proposition was cleared for circulation, and had an April 12, 2010 signature deadline; however, Lakoff withdrew it and submitted a proposal with very minor differences in April 2010.[2]

A similar measure, Proposition 56, was defeated in 2004. 65.7% of voters said "no."

Details

Ballot title: Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget or Raise Taxes from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary: Changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the state budget, and to raise taxes, from two-thirds to a simple majority.

Estimated fiscal impact: Unknown state fiscal impacts from lowering the legislative vote requirement for spending and tax increases. In some cases, the content of the annual state budget could change and/or state tax revenues could increase. Fiscal impact would depend on the composition and actions of future Legislatures

Supporters

  • George Lakoff, the official sponsor. Lakoff refers to the proposed initiative as the "California Democracy Act." In Lakoff's eyes, the change he wants should not be described as making it easier for Democrats in the state legislature to impose higher taxes on Californians. Rather, Lakoff wants voters to regard the change as having to do with "revenue" and democracy. According to Lakoff, "This isn't about taxes. It's about democracy." Lakoff wants journalists and advocates to use words like "democracy" and "revenue" instead of words like "tax hikes" and "higher taxes," because he believes that the way voters think is significantly influenced by "cognitive frames."[3]
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Irvine Law School, believes that removing the 2/3rds requirement would solve part of California's budget problems: "If a statewide initiative to eliminate the two-thirds majority requirement can pass, that will solve a lot of the problem."[4]
  • The Senior Editorial Board of the Daily Californian, a student newspaper. They encourage their readers to sign the petition to put the measure on the ballot, and say, "Rather than focusing on the potential of increased taxes, residents must realize that our state is broken. Devastating cuts have pushed the state's critical programs, including our public universities, to a breaking point."[5]
  • Tim Holt, who writes with enthusiasm that just as an earlier generation of students took on the Vietnam War and "travelled to the American South to aid the civil rights movement," today's generation of California students will be fanning out across California when they go home for Christmas break in order to collect signatures on the Lakoff petition so they can "free the Legislature from its two-thirds vote requirement on budget and revenue matters." If the budget is freed from these constraints, Holt writes, this new generation of students will not have to suffer from "a 32 percent fee increase over the next year and a half and by scaled-back course offerings."[6]

Opponents

  • Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, who says, "The two-thirds requirement in the State Constitution is the last protection California taxpayers have against those who would spend us into oblivion."[7]
  • Steve Williams, the opinion page editor for the Victor Valley Daily Press, who says, "If the measure to change the two-thirds rule does make it to the ballot, California voters should be prepared to guard their wallets, their jobs and their future."[7]

Ballot title?

According to Lakoff, the Office of the Attorney General of California changed the ballot title of the measure to say "changes the vote requirement to pass a budget and to raise taxes." Lakoff believes that this way of describing his initiative is misleading:

"Now, that’s misleading for the following reason. You can raise revenue without raising a tax rate at all, say, by plugging loopholes. If you say 'raise taxes,' most people think it means raise taxes on them significantly. But if the majority runs the state, then the majority can decide whether or not taxes should be raised on them, or whether taxes should be raised at all, or lowered, or whether loopholes should be plugged to raise revenue, or whether revenue should be raised by selling oil to oil companies rather than just giving it away. There are many ways to raise revenue. That’s what our initiative said. And it also didn’t say whether you should raise it or lower it; it just said let the majority in the state run the state."[8]

Polls

A Field Poll survey of 1,005 California voters was conducted between September 18-October 5, 2009. This poll showed that a minority of California's voters support this proposed initiative.[9][10]

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided
Sept 18-Oct 5 Field 43% 52% 5%

Previous attempts to qualify

Some state legislators tried to get a similar measure on the May 19, 2009 ballot as part of a package they believed would fix the state's budget problems, but were unsuccessful.[11]

After the budget negotiations were over, Mark Leno, a State Senator, said he would hold a series of meetings with labor and business interests to raise money to gather signatures to get a ballot measure to eliminate the 2/3rds budget requirement on the 2010 ballot.[12]

On February 18, 2009, Maurice Read filed two proposed amendments that would end the 2/3rds requirement with election officials. Both of his proposed amendments were certified for circulation with a deadline of July 30, 2009. No signatures were filed by the July 30 deadline on those amendments.[13][14]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

Initiated constitutional amendments require 694,354 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Lakoff

For the Lakoff proposal to qualify for the November 2, 2010 ballot, 694,354 valid signatures would have had to be collected by April 12, 2010.[15]

In early March, indications emerged that the Lakoff proposal's petition drive was faltering. Lakoff believed that the liberal donors and activists he has worked with for years, along with campus activists, would provide a ready pool of volunteer signature gatherers so that he would not have to raise the $2 million it typically costs to qualify a measure for the ballot, but volunteers did not sign up to collect signatures to the extent that would be required to mount a serious effort.[15]

Debra Bowen ruled that electronic signatures would not be accepted on this (or any other) petition, pending a judicial review that will not come in time to help Lakoff's effort.[15] And, powerful Democratic Party officials have not signed on to assist with the effort.[16]

See also

External links

References

  1. Sacramento Bee, "Measure to lower tax vote is withdrawn, will be rewritten," April 7, 2010
  2. New York Times, "George Lakoff Tries to Reframe Sacramento’s Conversation," January 4, 2010
  3. University of California-Berkeley, "How to solve California's fiscal crisis? First, don't think of an elephant," November 12, 2009
  4. Time, "California's Budget Crisis: Is There a Way Out?," July 2, 2009
  5. Daily Californian, "Make Some Change," December 1, 2009
  6. San Francisco Chronicle, "Students seek clout beyond campuses," December 20, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 Victor Valley Daily Press, "Ever-predatory Democrats ask voters to OK easier taxation," September 28, 2009
  8. Democracy Now, "Amidst California Fiscal Crisis and Political Gridlock, Scholar and Activist George Lakoff Proposes Ballot Measure to End 2/3 Rule in State Legislature," November 18, 2009
  9. Field Poll Online, "Polling on the Next 10 Questions," October 14, 2009
  10. San Francisco Chronicle, "Field Poll: Support for Constitutuion Changes," October 14, 2009
  11. Los Angeles Times, "The Next Special Election: April? May? June?," February 9, 2009
  12. SF Weekly, "Leno Says He'll Have Measure on Ballot to Kill 2/3 Threshold for State Budget Votes By 2010," February 19, 2009
  13. Maurice Reed, "End The Two-Thirds Requirement Act," Version 08-0022
  14. Maurice Reed, "End The Two-Thirds Requirement Act," Version 08-0023
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 San Francisco Chronicle, "Linguist's budget remedy faces political reality," March 3, 2010
  16. New America Media, "Californians Demand: 'Educate the State'," March 5, 2010