Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Senate Delays Action on Judicial Candidate Statements, CJA Lobbyist Says Bill Likely to Pass Tomorrow
By a MetNews 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 state Senate tomorrow, the California Judges Association’s chief lobbyist said yesterday.
AB 1129 was originally set to be approved on final reading yesterday, but the Senate did not take up any substantive business, Michael Belote told the MetNews. The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and faces no apparent opposition, the lobbyist said.
If the bill eventually passes both houses and is signed by the governor, candidates for superior court seats around the state will 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.
Belote 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 tomorrow, 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, incumbent judges who have not been challenged would have to 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.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company