Friday, September 26, 2008
C.A. Rejects ‘Single Subject’ Challenge to Los Angeles Term-Limits Measure
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The state constitutional requirement that an initiative, including a local measure, embrace only one subject does not apply to a charter amendment submitted directly to voters by a city council, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Upholding last November’s approval of Los Angeles Measure R, Div. Eight agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe that a measure that has been approved for the ballot by a local legislative body is not an “initiative” within the meaning of Art. II, Sec. 8(d), which provides:
“An initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect.”
Measure R amends the Los Angeles City Charter by increasing the maximum number of council terms from two to three, by prohibiting lobbyists from serving on city commissions, and prohibiting lobbyists and their firms from contributing to city campaigns and officeholders. It also makes several amendments to the city’s ethics ordinances.
The measure was placed on the ballot for last November’s consolidated general election by vote of the City Council, with the backing of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles. After surviving two pre-election court challenges, it was approved with nearly 60 percent of the votes.
Opponents, relying on Sec. 8(d), sought a writ of mandate against the county—solely because it conducted the election—and the city. Yaffe denied the petition.
Justice Madeleine Flier, writing for the Court of Appeal, rejected the contention that Sec. 8(d) implicitly applies to measures placed on the ballot by local legislative bodies.
The justice cited Sec. 8(a)’s definition of initiative as “the power of the electors” to propose and vote upon new laws, as well as a dictionary definition of “a procedure enabling a specified number of voters by petition to propose a law and secure its submission to the electorate or to the legislature for approval.”
The Constitution and the charter, Flier added, are even more specific in that they refer to initiatives as being proposed by petition signed by a certain percentage of voters. Nor does the Constitution, in laying out requirements for amending a city or county charter, make any mention of a single-subject rule, the jurist pointed out.
Attorneys on appeal were Eric Grant, Sterling E. Norris, and Anthony T. Caso for the plaintiffs; Deputy City Attorneys Valerie L. Flores and Harit U. Trivedi and Deputy County Counsel Judy W. Whitehurst for the defendants; and Stephen J. Kaufman and Steven J. Reyes of Kaufman Downing, for the League of Women Voters and Chamber of Commerce as amici in defense of Measure R.
The case is Hernandez v. County of Los Angeles, 08 S.O.S. 5488.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company