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Pension Reform Initiative Slated for 2012?

The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility has plans to get voters to weigh pension changes at the ballot with a new initiative change pension accrual formulas for current state and local government workers. The foundation ideally wants to see lawmakers and the governor to support the plan’s ideas, but since that scenario is unlikely, the group will make preparation for raising the necessary amount of funds to get the issue on the ballot by collecting signatures. If successfully, it would be on a 2012 ballot. The Bee points out that other factors of the foundation’s efforts include “a cap on benefits, changes to retiree health benefits for employees hired after July 1, 2013 and changes to pension fund governance.”

You can view a draft of the proposal here.

Impacts of Prop 8 Legal Battle; Attys Attend Hollywood Fundraiser

Does state law allow supporters of a ballot measure to defend it in court when state officials won’t step up to the plate? The State Supreme Court has been asked to resolve this issue of legal standing by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the results could affect other propositions in the courts. The San Diego Union-Tribune points out:

“The question is key to the court’s decision on Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that limits marriage to heterosexual couples and that has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. A ruling that gives initiative proponents the legal right to defend measures they sponsor in court could reverberate in other litigation over controversial, hot-button ballot measures. ‘What the court does ultimately could impact future litigation because we know just about everything put on the ballot and passed by voters ends up before a judge,’ said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University who studies the state ballot measure process.”

Of course, an answer about the matter shouldn’t be expected any time soon, that is if the Supreme Court even decides to officially take up the case. More about the case can be read here.

In other Prop 8-related news, musician Elton John recently played at an extravagant fundraiser in the Hollywood Hills that was orchestrated to support the overturning of Prop 8. According to director Rob Reiner, the event raised more than $3 million. The New York Times reports:

Redistricting Panel Loses a Member

The redistricting panel has lost a member after Democrat Elaine Kuo decided to resign, citing time restraints as her reason. The 14-member panel is still getting its feet, but Kuo will be replaced by another Democrat reportedly within 30 days. There are currently seven other Democrats in the running to fill the spot. Capitol Alert reports that “Contenders are Victoria Aguayo Schupbach and Maria Harris of Los Angeles County, Tangerine Brigham and Brightstar Ohlson of Alameda County, Angelo Ancheta of San Francisco County, Lillian Judd of San Luis Obispo County, and Ann Marie (Amber) Machamer of Santa Clara County.”

You’ll recall that the panel was first created when voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008. Under the panel’s rules, there must be five Democrats. For more on picking a new member, see here.

In other redistricting-related news, Daniel Claypool has been hired as the panel’s executive director. In the past Claypool has worked for the Bureau of State Audits.

Appeals Court Denies Imperial County’s Legal Standing on Prop 8

There was some activity over the Proposition 8 trial on Tuesday, as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Imperial County’s right to defend the ban on gay marriage. You may recall that Imperial County was the only jurisdiction in the state that was fighting to appeal the Proposition 8 ruling after Judge Vaughn Walker previously rejected Imperial County’s request to intervene in the case. The three-judge panel in San Francisco heard arguments about the county’s legal standing in early December. Overall, on Tuesday the appeals court denied the county, its board of supervisors and a deputy clerk to defend the ballot measure in a federal court. That being said, the court did refer the case to the California Supreme Court to weigh whether or not legal standing should be granted to proponents of a ballot initiative. The judges wrote the following:

“Because we cannot consider this important constitutional question unless the appellants before us have standing to raise it, and in light of Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997) (“Arizonans”), it is critical that we be advised of the rights under California law of the official proponents of an initiative measure to defend the constitutionality of that measure upon its adoption by the People when the state officers charged with the laws’ enforcement, including the Attorney General, refuse to provide such a defense or appeal a judgment declaring the measure unconstitutional. As we are aware of no controlling state precedent on this precise question, we respectfully ask the Supreme Court of California to exercise its discretion to accept and decide the certified question below.”

Electoral College Reform Act

When it comes to presidential elections, should California’s electoral votes remain in a winner-take-all system? Not according to Ted Costa, a ballot initiative activist based in Sacramento who is sponsoring an initiative that will award individually 53 of the state’s 55 electoral votes to candidates based on votes in each congressional district. Currently the initiative is awaiting an official ballot title and summary at the attorney general’s office, but has been referred to as the Electoral College Reform Act. If it gathers enough signatures, the initiative could be on the 2012 ballot. So is the initiative a good idea? Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morain writes:

“With no fanfare, Costa last week submitted to the attorney general's office an initiative he calls the "Electoral College Reform Act." On its face, the populist proposal would play to voters' sense of fairness and desire for competition among candidates. In reality, this initiative would be a Republican power grab with national implications.The change contemplated by Costa and other consultants could push a Republican to victory in a close presidential race. ‘It is the kind of thing that puts the metal to the grindstone and sparks fly,’ Costa told me. Under the proposal, California's 55 electoral votes no longer would go to whoever wins the popular vote. Rather, they'd be apportioned based on the candidate who wins in particular congressional districts.”

For more on the initiative and its implications on a national scale, see here.

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