Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Judicial Candidate Statement Bill Expected to Pass Today
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Urgency legislation that would postpone the deadline for judicial candidates in the June primary to turn in their candidate statements is expected to pass the Senate on final reading today.
AB 1129 cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and faces no apparent opposition, the California Judges Association’s chief lobbyist said Friday.
Under legislation, candidates for superior court seats around the state would have until March 15, five days after the filing deadline, to submit their 200-word statements for inclusion in the ballot pamphlet mailed to all voting households.
Michael Belote, who lobbies Sacramento lawmakers for CJA, said the bill has the support of local election officials as well as judges and has no known opponents. While the deadline for introducing new legislation has passed, CJA was able to get its proposal through the Senate because it was amended onto a dormant bill dealing with an unrelated issue.
Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, is carrying the bill in the Senate. If it passes today as expected, it will go back to the Assembly for concurrence in the Senate amendment.
Belote told the MetNews he became involved in the issue after a Northern California judge called to point out an apparent unintended byproduct of a recent change in state election laws.
Lawmakers adopted a proposal, designed to relieve the paperwork burden on local election officials, to replace the two-step filing procedure for judicial candidates—and some others—with a one-step process. Instead of having to file a declaration of intent to run, then come back later to file nomination documents, a candidate need only file one set of papers.
The period for doing so is from 113 to 88 days before the primary, which this year means Feb. 13 thru March 10.
But because March 10 is also the deadline for filing candidate statements, Belote pointed out, the practical implication is that incumbent judges who have not been challenged must file their statements anyway because of the possibility that an opponent will file at the last minute. Under the old procedure, if no challenger filed a declaration of intent, the judge only had to file his or her own documents on time to be assured of running unopposed.
But under the new procedure, the possibility of last-minute opposition requires the incumbent—there are 148 judges up for re-election in Los Angeles County this year, although three have slated retirements and are not running—to prepay the estimated cost of printing and mailing the candidate statement. The prepayment in Los Angeles County was $65,000 in 2004.
While the candidate may withdraw the statement up until the day after the filing deadline, Belote pointed out, it takes weeks to get a refund of the prepayment. “A lot of judges would have to take out second mortgages” or become involved in time-consuming and potentially unnecessary fundraising, the lobbyist speculated.
If passed and signed into law, the urgency measure would take effect immediately. But because of a sunset clause, it would apply only for this year.
After that, Belote said, CJA is likely to seek passage of a bill that would restore the two-step procedure, for judicial candidates only.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company