California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis
This afternoon, the California Supreme Court ruled that a proposal to divide the state in three cannot be placed on the November ballot.
Though the “Three Californias” initiative gathered over 450,000 verified signatures, initially qualifying as “Proposition 9,” its place on the ballot was contested by the Planning and Conservation League, a nonprofit environmental organization. The group argued that trisecting the state would substantially “revise” the California Constitution, rather than simply “amend” it.
Voters can only amend the constitution via ballot propositions. Revisions—sweeping changes to the structure or function of government—require two-thirds approval of both the state Assembly and Senate before being placed on the ballot.
The Court did not take a side in that debate but agreed to take the proposition off of this year’s ballot while the question is resolved.
“Because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election…(the Secretary of State) is directed to refrain from placing Proposition 9 on the November 6, 2018, ballot,” the court wrote.
The decision throws another wrench into Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s latest effort to chop up the Golden State into more manageable sized pieces. Draper also funded a “Six Californias” initiative for the 2014 ballot.
“Apparently, the insiders are in cahoots and the establishment doesn’t want to find out how many people don’t like the way California is being governed,” Draper said in an email. “Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work. This kind of corruption is what happens in third world countries.”
Draper has argued that California has grown too large and economically diverse to be effectively governed.
“The citizens of the whole state would be better served by three smaller state governments,” read the text of the most recent measure.
“Proposition 9 was a costly, flawed scheme that will waste billions of California taxpayer dollars, create chaos in public services including safeguarding our environment and literally eliminate the State of California – all to satisfy the whims of one billionaire,” Planning and Conservation League’s executive director Howard Penn said in a press release.
The court gave Draper 30 days to make his case for why the Three Californias proposal is a constitutional use of the initiative process. But even if he persuades the court, the earliest it could appear on regular statewide ballot is 2020.
In his race against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, state Sen. Kevin de León failed to submit his latest campaign finance statements online, limiting the ability of Californians to see those reports for days if not weeks after they arrive by mail in Washington, D.C.
Feinstein filed her latest report with Federal Elections Commission on Friday electronically, as she generally does. Many other senators, including Kamala Harris, also file their reports electronically. De León mailed his.
Tradition dies hard: Senate rules do not require that candidates file electronic versions of their campaign statements, which detail who gives them money and how they spend it.
Instead, they can use “snail mail” to send paper copies, which can run thousands of pages, to the Senate office. U.S. House of Representative candidates must file their campaign statements online, as do state candidates.
The Federal Elections Commission retrieves paper copies from the Senate and hires contractors to key in the data into computers so the reports can be placed online. I described the cumbersome process in this 2007 article.
Feinstein promised back then to work to change the rules: “It’s time to bring the Senate into the modern era.”
Not much has changed.
An aide to de León said the state senator doesn’t rule out filing online in the future.
Bill Carrick, Feinstein’s campaign strategist: “People who don’t file online don’t want people to know what their numbers are.”
A 152-mile long canal that irrigates pistachios and other crops in the eastern San Joaquin Valley is sinking by an inch a month, the result of groundwater over-pumping by farmers.
The Sacramento Bee described the Friant-Kern Canal as an engineering marvel, but its capacity has been reduced by as much as 60 percent at because of subsidence.
The Bee: “Now it’s reaching a crisis point on the Friant-Kern, and California voters are being asked to fix it”
Proposition 3, an $8.9 billion water bond on the November ballot, would set aside $750 million to repair the canal, and additional sums to avert subsidence. Gerald Meral, a former water policy advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, wrote the initiative.
Business groups and farmers, many of them seeking canal improvements, donated $1.75 million of the $2.75 million Meral raised for the initiative so far. Environmental groups attracted by the measure’s promise of billions for habitat restoration have given $1 million.
Some specifics: LA River $150 million; Salton Sea and San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration $200 million each; clean drinking water and water quality $3 billion.
Meral: “The state can’t continue to underinvest in water. We have people who don’t have adequate water supplies. It is a human rights problem.”
Opposition: Sierra Club warns Proposition 3 could be used to “fund dam projects that are harmful to the environment.” So far, there’s no funding for an opposition campaign.
P.S. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox supports Proposition 3, telling CALmatters in a statement that it offers “the opportunity to build dramatically more storage and provide clean water.” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom has not taken a stand.