As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ballot Measure Courtroom Action!

Robert Cruickshank has a good roundup of the Prop. 8 hearing in San Francisco today (so does the LA Times). Joyce Kennard, who voted to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage last May, seemed strongly against reversing the Constitutional amendment and didn't even want to take the case to begin with, so a total reversal seems unlikely. Unfortunately, the "slippery slope" argument that this would open up the ability to deny fundamental rights through ballot measures didn't seem to do much for Kennard. On the question of the 18,000 same-sex marriages already legally performed, it does look like the justices were more inclined to uphold them, which turns the whole thing into a legal quagmire IMO, because who's to say that the conferring of legal rights is just a question of when you exercise them? Robert notes a couple other points:

• Justice Ming Chin, a right-winger, implied that maybe the answer is to get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Look for that to become an increasingly popular concept, especially if Prop 8 is upheld.

• Several justices, including Chief Justice George, strongly implied that they think the constitution is too easily amended and that there needs to be some order brought to that part of the initiative process.

To that end, there is actually another major hearing going on in the state today, in Sacramento Superior Court. Various plaintiffs are suing to change the title and summary on two of the ballot measures in the May 19 special election, on the grounds that they were fraudulent and misleading. And there's already been one victory today.

The May 19 ballot measure to temporarily take money from a 2004 mental health initiative has a new overview that will be presented to voters, after a settlement to a legal challenge was reached this morning.

The challenge to Proposition 1E's ballot title and summary, and its ballot label, was centered on charges by opponents that the Legislature wrote a "false and misleading" overview, in order to make Prop 1E's redirection of some $450 million in mental health funds more palatable.

The new summary makes it more clear that earmarked mental health funds will be taken away from the voter-approved Prop. 63 and used to balance the state budget. Earlier, the weasel words "provides temporary flexibility" were used.

The other dispute is over Prop. 1A, the state spending cap. John Myers is Twittering from the courtroom, and the plaintiffs are making the same clear and obvious points about the legislature's treachery in this matter that George Skelton made this morning. The title makes no reference to the spending cap OR the extension of tax increases that was part of the deal, and the summary only alludes to the taxes near the end of the description as part of the fiscal analysis. The summary uses words and phrases like "rainy day fund" and "overspending" and "reform" in ways clearly designed to persuade the voter. Defense lawyers claim that the fleeting reference to revenue in the fiscal analysis is all that is needed, and anyway voters "already understand all the underlying budget issues" so there's no need for any changes.

As I've said, this now is starting to look more like a cover-up, which is very bad for a legislature and a Governor who aren't seen by the voters as trustworthy, and in at least the Governor's case, for good reason. If the aftermath of the ruling is a court order that the legislature deliberately wrote the title and summary in a way to obscure the truth about what Prop. 1A would do, there's your fodder for commercials for the next 2 months. And it's a potentially fatal blow.

We're awaiting a decision...

UPDATE: So here's the answer - the judge would like some of the more misleading language removed, but isn't inclined to add in big bold letters "THIS MEANS YOUR TAXES ARE GOING UP." This obviously can be exploited by whatever campaign coalesces around the No side - the "hidden tax," et al. - but it won't be on the ballot beyond the bit in the fiscal analysis. We'll see what the final language will read.

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