The conservative writer Steven Malanga asks whether Prop 13-style tax revolts are even possible anymore.
Frequent initiative sponsor Tim Eyman is scheduled to announce a new initiative Monday that would limit how much revenue can be collected by state and local governments. Any excess money would be used to reduce property tax bills. Look for this to be pitched as a response to the collapse of the real estate market and the economic crisis. But it's a high-risk policy. With economists of all kinds calling for public investment to stimulate the economy, the state, cities and counties of Washington would instead have to spend less.
To the south, in neighboring Oregon, the business community is preparing an initiative that would guarantee more funding for higher education.
Last fall, Arkansas voters approved an initiative that would ban adoption by unmarried couples. The targets of the measure are gay couples. This week, opponents of the initiative filed suit to overturn it, on the grounds that it violates federal and state constitutional guarantees of equal treatment and due process. It appears to be a well-constructed case. Among the plaintiffs are a married, heterosexual couple. Their complaint is that the initiative statute infringes on their own rights. How? In their will, they would leave custody of their own children to a cousin, who is gay and lives with her partner.
Another bit of good news for the legal challenge. The case has been assigned to a judge who struck down a previous effort to remove gay couples from the state's foster care program. A few more details from a local newspaper story are here.
During the Prop A campaign in Missouri, voters were told that the measure, which loosened restrictions on gambling, would produce money for a "tamper proof" education fund that couldn't be tapped for any spending other than schools. But now, with the state budget a mess and the economy heading south, Missouri lawmakers are preparing to do some tampering.
Missouri is hardly alone in this. Dozens of states are breaking into voter-approved funds. In California, going after funding sources the voters set aside for other purposes has become the state sport. Gov. Schwarzenegger, who rose to power by championing a ballot initiative to set aside for after-school programs, has joined the bandwagon, calling for raids on voter-approved funds for mental health and children's program in his budget proposal this week.
The San Francisco Chronicle has more here on the ballot initiative, filed by lawyers working for the Califorina Teachers Assn., to raise the sales tax to create a new source of education funding. A proposal to raise taxes for new education funds at a time of budget scarcity won't make the union popular in Sacramento.
But there's a case to be made for such an initiative. Education is often blamed for the state's budget problems, because about half the state budget is devoted to schools. But the education part of the budget is growing more slowly than other items, especially health and social services programs. And if schools are the state's top priority, then their funding should be protected from the vagaries of the economy.
A Democratic law firm filed two versions of an initiative Monday with the California attorney general. As Democratic leaders have promised, the initiative effectively would eliminate California's requirement of a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. (Though, for political purposes, the two-thirds requirement would remain in the constitution--new language would merely exempt all appropriations from the two-thirds requirement for approving appropriations. Look for advocates of the initiative to say, over and over, that it doesn't remove the two-thirds requirement from the constitution. Because technically, it doesn't).
One of the two versions of the initiative also would eliminate the two-thirds requirement for raising all taxes (with an exception for property taxes that offers a bit of a nod to Prop 13). Again, this is political. Proponents are cutting the heart out of Prop 13, but they'll be able to say, "What are you talking about? We don't touch property taxes!" It's also possible that by filing two versions, backers are telegraphing a political strategy: they could agree not to take on the two-thirds requirement as it applies to taxes -- in return for support for eliminating the two-thirds requirement on the budget.
Marjorie Christoffersen, the manager of El Coyote, a Mexican restaurant on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, has resigned, according to Frontiers magazine. Christoffersen made a $100 donation to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. After the ban on same-sex marriage passed, protestors who favor same-sex marriage called for a boycott of the restaurant and demonstrated outside. Christoffersen is a Mormon, and her church had urged her to give.
..this (unintentionally, I think) ridiculous piece in yesterday's New York Times. The Los Angeles-based writers, Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz of the Atlantic, discover (without disclosing their evidence) that Prop 8's victory came as a surprise to Hollywood because the creative community didn't realize that folks in black churches were not ready for same-sex marriage. The piece then goes on to make a number of other claims (among them that gay activists think Prop 8 wouldn't have passed if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee), without a single example or a even a bit of factual support. The piece recycles a now discredited exit poll statistic that 70 percent of blacks voted for Prop 8. And in the process, it manages to trade on one stereotype (the smug, self-righteous, out-of-touch Hollywood types that exists only in the warped minds of New York editors and other East Coast elites) and to traffic in another (that of the cultural conservative homophobic black folk.)
Look at the quotes (of Hollywood talking about blacks): "It's their churches," somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election (Yes, that's the real attribution). "It's their Christianity," someone else hissed, rolling her eyes.
What's Jamiel's Law? It's a Los Angeles city initiative that would allow police to arrest illegal immigrant gang members for being in the country illegally. It seeks to overturn a Los Angeles Police Department order that prohibits officers from making contact with individuals for the purpose of determining their legal status. The initiative was inspired by the case of Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a reputed gang member who also was an illegal immigrant.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that the initiative's sponsors have enough sigantures to qualify. But the facts of the story suggest the opposite is true--that the sponsors of Jamiel's Law have fallen short. How 's that? To qualify an initiative for the city ballot, sponsors need 73,963 valid signatures. They submitted 76,000. That's almost certainly not enough. Those signatures will have to be checked to be valid, and it's certain that some won't pass muster. A 70 percent validity rate for signatures is considered good in this day and age. 80 percent is excellent. But to make the ballot, Jamiel's Law would need a validity rate better than 90 percent. That's unheard of.
Here's a ballot initiative idea that could catch on across the country. Arizonans who don't like cameras that take pictures of speeding drivers are working to qualify an initiative that would bar authorities from issuing tickets based on such cameras -- unless the motorist was more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. The Republic has a story.