Initiative Update:
Judge Writes New Ballot Title for Gas Tax Repeal Initiative After Finding AG’s Title Misleading 


Assemblyman Travis Allen, the proponent of an initiative to repeal the gas tax enacted in April won in court September 22 when a judge found that the ballot title prepared by Attorney General Xavier Becerra were misleading.

The action by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley reaffirmed a preliminary ruling that was very critical of the attorney general's characterization of the initiative. In the preliminary ruling, the judge asked the attorney general to come back to court with a version that provides voters with unbiased information.

When the attorney general did not provide a new version that met Judge Frawley's standard, the judge opted to write a new title on his own.

The title originally prepared by the attorney general read: "Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes."

Judge Frawley said that based on that description, "an ordinary reasonable elector … would not be able to discern what the initiative does."

The title's new version written by the judge reads: "Repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees."

Mr. Allen, who filed the initiative, told the East Bay Times: "It's very clear that Xavier Becerra has not lived up to the California Constitution and did not prepare an honest title and summary, and so the court [did] … his job for him."

The Sacramento Bee reported September 28 that supporters of the gas tax are "threatening political repercussions" against California's 14 Republican members of the House of Representatives if their join Mr. Allen's effort to repeal the gas tax."

The letter, signed by a coalition of 20 business, labor and local government groups that lobbied heavily for the fee hikes, sternly warns against pursuing an initiative to repeal the new taxes as a way to bolster GOP candidates in next year's midterm congressional election," The Bee reported.

"With so much at stake, our organizations will have no option but to mount a robust and powerful effort in opposition to this initiative, using the voices of California's business community to counter your efforts," the letter reads. "We don't think your objective is to create new political adversaries."

In other initiative news:

New Measure Seeks to Ban Revenue Shifts. An initiative filed September 28 would add a single sentence to the state constitution: "Revenue raised pursuant to a bond or tax measure approved by voters shall not be diverted by the Legislature, or by a local government, or special district, to any project or fund not expressly delineated in the original measure, if any, and as approved by the voters, unless that measure provides for such diversion of revenue raised."

The measure, dubbed the "Voter Protection Act of 2018," was filed by Michael Warda, who is represented by the well-known political consulting firm of Gilliard Blanning & Associates.


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