Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Third District Says Election-Spending Bill Impermissibly Contradicted Voter-Approved Initiative
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Gov. Gavin Newsom has failed in his bid to gain reversal of a judgment obtained by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association and former state Sen. Quentin Kopp invalidating legislative action creating exceptions to a measure enacted by voters in 1988 banning the public funding of political campaigns.
The Third District Court of Appeal late Monday held that Senate Bill No. 1107, signed into law in 2016 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, impermissibly contravenes Proposition 73, a successful 1988 initiative which added §85300 to the Government Code, providing:
“No public officer shall expend and no candidate shall accept any public money for the purpose of seeking elective office.”
Senate Bill 1107 amended §85300 to read:
“(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a public officer shall not expend, and a candidate shall not accept, any public moneys for the purpose of seeking elective office.
“(b) A public officer or candidate may expend or accept public moneys for the purpose of seeking elective office if the state or a local governmental entity establishes a dedicated fund for this purpose by statute, ordinance, resolution, or charter, and both of the following are true:
“(1) Public moneys held in the fund are available to all qualified, voluntarily participating candidates for the same office without regard to incumbency or political party preference.
“(2) The state or local governmental entity has established criteria for determining a candidate’s qualification by statute, ordinance, resolution, or charter.”
Limits on legislative tinkering with legislation added by initiative are set forth in Article II, §10(c) of the state Constitution which says:
“The Legislature may amend or repeal referendum statutes. It may amend or repeal an initiative statute by another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electors unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval.”
Sec. 85300 was added to the Political Reform Act of 1974. The act provides, in §81012(a), for amendment without action by voters, saying:
“This title may be amended to further its purposes by statute, passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring and signed by the Governor.”
Newsom argued that the 2016 amendment to §85300 furthers the purpose of the Political Reform Act, as a whole, by diminishing the clout of donors of large funds and reducing overall campaign spending. The appeals court sided with Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley who found that SB 1107 contradicts Proposition 73.
Justice Elana Duarte wrote:
“[A] legislative amendment that alters and conflicts with a fundamental purpose or primary mandate of an initiative does not further the purpose of the initiative and is invalid….Senate Bill No. 1107 alters the terms of the Act….Because Senate Bill No. 1107 expressly conflicts with a primary mandate of the Act, the ban on public funding of election campaigns, it is invalid.”
The case is Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Newsom, 2019 S.O.S. 2019 S.O.S. 2222.
Reactions to Decision
One of the lawyers for the plaintiffs was John Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of law1 & community service at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Eastman, who represented the Jarvis group and Kopp as an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, said yesterday:
“We’re delighted, of course, that the Court of Appeal has now affirmed the fundamental right of the people to control their government by way of the initiative, and that the Legislature is not free to ignore the will of the people by crafting laws that gut a key provision of a voter-approved initiative.”
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, commented yesterday:
“California voters decided to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used as political slush funds. If politicians want to change that, they have to take the issue back to the voters.”
The Office of Attorney General, which represented Newsom and others, responded to a request for comment by saying:
“Our office does not comment on client matters. Please contact the Governor’s office for comment.”
The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Bill’s Author Comments
However state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach, an attorney and the author of SB 1107, had this to say:
“I am very disappointed in the Court of Appeal’s decision, and I strongly disagree with the Court’s logic. The Political Reform Act’s clearly stated purpose is to limit the influence of special interests and money in our political system. Allowing for communities to have public financing of campaigns so clearly furthers that objective.
“Two thirds of both houses of the Legislature—a coalition of Democrats and Republicans—came together to support the granting of this right to communities and the court should have respected that decision.”
Political analyst Shawn Steel, a Seal Beach attorney who is national committeeman of the Republican Party of California and former chair of the state GOP, said:
“Senate Bill 1107 was properly struck down because it is a clear violation of the will of the people who made law by a state wide plebiscite.
“The Legislature may not strike down an initiative.
“What’s remarkable with the near-monopoly power Democrats have in both houses is they would still use legislative tricks to thwart the majority statewide vote.
“If Democrats want public financing for politicians elections they should simply put their ideas on the ballot and let voters decide.”
Charles Calderon, a Democrat who served in both the Assembly and the state Senate and chaired the Judiciary Committee in each house, offered these observations:
“As long as candidates for public office are forced to rely on private funding to get elected, there will always be fertile ground for potential mischief, corruption, impropriety, the appearance of impropriety, or mistrust in every decision they make once elected. Ironically, the political and legislative system actually worked in the case of SB1107.
“Legislation on public financing for campaigns were regularly introduced and defeated during my 24 years of service in the Legislature. Voting for SB 1107 or any version of public campaign financing was a courageous vote for legislators given the public has opposed it in every poll taken to date. It is particularly amusing to me that this milestone legislature was invalidated based on the meaning of ‘methods’ and ‘purpose.’
“I could hear the faint sound of an all too familiar exchange usually preceding the defeat of so many legislative proposals: We all agree on the purpose, we just have different ways of going about it.”
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company