California Proposition 80, Regulation of Electric Service Providers (2005)
The measure, had it passed, would have subjected electric service providers to regulation by the California Public Utilities Commission, restricted electricity customers' ability to switch from private utilities to other providers, and required all retail electric sellers to increase renewable energy resource procurement by 2010.
Opponents of Proposition 80 sought to have it removed from the ballot before the vote and filed a lawsuit, Independent Energy Producers Association v. McPherson, to accomplish that objective. The California Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs and struck Proposition 80 from the ballot. However, the California Supreme Court overturned the appellate court decision and ordered that voters be allowed to vote on Proposition 80. Independent Energy Producers Association v. McPherson said that when issues are raised about whether an initiative is constitutional, "...deferring judicial resolution until after the election -- when there will be more time for full briefing and deliberation -- often will be the wiser course." This legal opinion has subsequently been cited at least 8 times in cases where ballot measure opponents attempt to have ballot measures removed from the ballot pre-vote.
Text of measure
The ballot title was:
The question on the ballot was:
- "Should the state expand its regulation of the electric industry?"
The official summary provided to describe Proposition 80 said:
- Subjects electric service providers, as defined, to control and regulation by California Public Utilities Commission.
- Imposes restrictions on electricity customers’ ability to switch from private utilities to other electric providers.
- Provides that registration by electric service providers with Commission constitutes providers’ consent to regulation.
- Requires all retail electric sellers, instead of just private utilities, to increase renewable energy resource procurement by at least 1% each year, with 20% of retail sales procured from renewable energy by 2010, instead of current requirement of 2017.
- Imposes duties on Commission, Legislature and electrical providers.
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:
- Potential annual state administrative costs ranging from negligible up to around $4 million for regulatory activities of the California Public Utilities Commission, paid for by fee revenues.
- Unknown net impact on state and local government costs and revenues due to the measure’s uncertain impact on retail electricity rates.
The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 80 were signed by:
- Robert Finkelstein, executive director of the Utility Reform Network (TURN)
- Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California
- Nan Brasmer, president of the California Alliance of Retired Americans
- Mike Mowrey, international vice-president, 9th District International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO
- Henry "Hank" Lacayo, state president, Congress of California Seniors
- Steve Blackledge, policy director, California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG)
Arguments in favor
Supporters of Proposition 80 made these arguments in its favor in the state's official voter guide:
- "Five years ago, California was devastated by an electricity crisis. Enron and other energy traders held Californians hostage, extorting tens of billions of dollars from us. They manipulated the electricity market, driving up wholesale prices 1000%. Californians faced rolling blackouts and untold economic damage. Audiotapes released by the U.S. Justice Department revealed Enron energy traders boasting of 'making buckets of money' by creating power shortages. One trader laughed about 'all the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California,' while another ordered a power plant worker to 'just go ahead and shut her down.'"
- "California’s failed experiment in electric deregulation cost our people and businesses billions of dollars."
- "We learned many lessons from that disaster. The state has taken some positive steps to clean up the mess—but not nearly enough. Amazingly, legislation to require sufficient supplies of electricity was vetoed by the Governor last year."
- Proposition 80 "provides critical reforms to make sure our deregulation nightmare never returns."
- It "provides the stability necessary to ensure long-term investment in new, clean electricity supplies."
- "It speeds up the shift to renewable energy, and gives first priority to energy efficiency programs."
- "It prevents small ratepayers from being forced onto potentially expensive time-of-use rates without their consent—especially important in hot climates."
- "Proposition 80 was carefully drafted by the state’s foremost consumer advocates and legal experts. It allows for amendments by the Legislature consistent with its purposes, to adjust to changing times."
The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 80 were signed by:
- Les Nelson, president, California Solar Energy Industries Association
- Karl Gawell, Executive Director, Geothermal Energy Association
- James Sweeney, co-director of the Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment Program at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
- Dorothy Rothrock, co-chair, Californians for Reliable Electricity
- Tony Valenzuela, association vice-president, Facilities, Development and Operations at San Jose State University
Opponents of Proposition 80 made these arguments against it in the state's official voter guide:
- "Proposition 80 is a high-risk approach that could hurt consumers, the environment and the state’s economy."
- "This deeply flawed measure will undermine the security of state energy supplies, undercut the availability of affordable electricity and undercut the construction of environmentally-friendly renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal resources."
- "It will sharply restrict consumer choice about who we buy our electricity from and how much we pay for services. It could well lead us down the road toward another serious energy crisis. That’s because Proposition 80 is the wrong way to make energy policy for California."
- "Reinventing California’s energy system through the initiative process, without public hearings is too great a risk to take. Instead, this critical issue should be addressed carefully through public hearings that involve all affected parties, including the state Utility and Energy Commissions, consumer groups, and small business associations."
- "Because Proposition 80 takes away energy choices and price competition, energy cost savings will be limited or lost for many of California’s vital institutions such as community colleges, the University of California and the State University systems, local school districts, hospitals, and city and county governments. Taxpayers, students, teachers, and patients will ultimately pay for these higher energy costs."
- "Just when California needs more jobs and investments in our infrastructure to help our economy, Proposition 80 sends the wrong signal of uncertainty and risk. Proposition 80 takes away an energy choice that often attracts high paying jobs and new investment."
- "Proposition 80 would make it extremely difficult to improve the State’s standards for generating electricity from renewable sources, which could seriously undermine adoption of wind, solar, and geothermal technologies. Growth of California’s green businesses could be placed at risk."
Yes on 80
Some donors to the "Yes on 80" group included:
No on 80
Some donors to the "No on 80" committee included:
- Constellation Energy: $1.2 million
- Other utility companies, including Sempra, Mirant Corporation and Centerpoint Energy.
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
As an initiated state statute, 373,816 valid signatures were required for ballot qualification purposes. Supporters of the initiative paid Kimball Petition Management $4,839,466 to qualify the measure for the ballot.
- Official California Voter Guide to Proposition 80
- PDF of the mailed November 8, 2005 voter guide for Propositions 73-80
- Proposition 80 on the Smart Voter Guide
- Analysis of Proposition 80 from the Institute of Governmental Studies
- Guide to Proposition 80 from the California Voter Foundation
- Summary of donors to and against 80 from Cal-Access
- Donors for and against Proposition 80 from Follow The Money
- Official election results