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California No Political Deductions from Public Employee Paychecks (2010)

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A Ban on Political Deductions from Public Employee Paychecks Act (09-0054), or the Citizen Power Initiative, an initiated constitutional amendment, did not qualify for the November 2, 2010 ballot in California. Supporters announced in late April that they were no longer actively attempting to collect signatures to qualify the measure.[1]

Mark Bucher, Dawn Wildman, Allan Mansoor, Lawrence Sand and Mark Meckler filed a letter with the California Attorney General on October 12 requesting a ballot title.

The proposed initiative was cleared for circulation with a petition drive deadline of May 3, 2010.

The Citizen Power Initiative was modeled on a law enacted in Idaho which prohibited the government from automatically collecting union dues if any portion of those dues were used for political purposes. Idaho's public employee unions challenged the law, and in February 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the statute in the Ysura decision.[2][3]

Text of measure

Ballot title

Makes Illegal the Use of Public Employee Wage Deductions for Political Activities. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.[4]

Official summary

Amends the California Constitution to make it illegal to deduct from wages or earnings of a public employee any amount that will be used for political activities as defined. Prohibits any membership organization that receives public employee wage deductions from using those funds for any political activities, but does not apply to deductions for charitable organizations, health, life or disability insurance, or other purposes directly benefiting the public employee. Authorizes the Legislature and Fair Political Practices Commission to adopt related laws and regulations.[4]

Fiscal impact

The Estimated fiscal impact for the initiative was:

Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees.[4]




The measure's sponsors were organized into a group called "Unplug The Machine."

Other supporters included:

  • Scott Baugh, chair of the Orange County Republican Party, supported the measure and called on Republicans to unify behind it.[5]
  • Carly Fiorina, a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, endorsed the "Citizen Power Initiative" in early February, saying, "Today, public employees unions do far more than simply advocate for fair pay or safe working conditions or equal rights from their employers. They have become the costly backbone of special interest politics in this state and the nation."[6]
  • Chip Hanlon, the CEO of Red County, who said that in his view, nothing is more important to California's future: "The need for starving the public employee unions is clear, and if we could pass Citizen Power we could dramatically alter the landscape the political playing field by decimating the funding source of perhaps the most pernicious influence on our state’s finances—the public employee unions.[7]

Arguments in favor

The group's website said:

  • "The public employee unions run this state, and are running it right into the ground. Everyone in politics knows it, and increasingly everyone else is figuring it out. Conventional wisdom is that the unions are too powerful to take on."
  • The goal of the proposed measure " simple. It gets the government out of the business of funding political campaigns."
  • Thirty years ago, then Governor Jerry Brown created public employee unions in California, now the most powerful special interest by far in California. How powerful? Ask any politician – nothing happens in Sacramento without their permission. They get their power because the government collects their political war chests right off the top of public employee salaries."
  • "The government collects dues for the unions, and the unions give as much as 1/3 right back to the politicians who gave them that right in the first place. It’s a sweet deal for the politicians and the unions."
  • "How much money is involved? Let’s look at round numbers for just one union – the California Teachers Association. There are 340,000 teachers, who pay approximately $1000 per year in union dues. $300 per year, per teacher, goes toward politics. That’s $100 million per year, right of the top of teachers’ salaries, collected by the government, given to the CTA and its affiliates, and then funneled right back into the political campaigns of the politicians who do their bidding, which usually means voting for more spending and higher taxes on you and me."
  • "It's time to take this state back."

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated constitutional amendment, supporters will need to collect 694,354 valid signatures. The signature collection deadline was May 3, 2010.

Lew Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee said in late April that efforts to raise money for a paid signature collection effort had fallen short, citing Meg Whitman's hesitation about the wisdom of having the measure on the November ballot. Whitman's camp feared that if the measure were on the ballot, it would increase the energy of pro-union forces to get their voters to the polls, where they would then be likely to also pull the lever for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, including her Democratic gubernatorial rival.[1]

When the campaign launched, they contracted with Verafirma, a new company that had created a technology that allows voters to sign petitions electronically, with the hope of collecting many signatures electronically. However, California election officials indicated that such signatures would not count and, although litigation was pending that may change that in future years, it would not be in time to help any 2010 signature collection efforts.

Verafirma uses iPhone to sign California petitions, Debate about online petition signatures hits three states

See also

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