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Gun-rights groups rev up against Newsom measure

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom filed his proposed gun-control ballot measure with the state attorney general’s office Tuesday, and gun-rights activists are preparing for battle.

The Firearms Policy Coalition and the Firearms Policy Coalition Second Amendment Defense Committee PAC – the latter formed specifically to fight Newsom’s measure – have begun sending out more than 25,000 grassroots activism guides to volunteers and activism hubs throughout the state, with another 75,000 guides expected to ship within the next week.

Brandon Combs“We are committed to building the biggest, most-organized, and highly informed Second Amendment grassroots army ever seen in California to fight and oppose Gavin Newsom’s assault on our civil rights,” PAC president Brandon Combs said in a news release. “We want 100,000 volunteers working on this by the end of the year. This initial deployment is just the beginning of our much larger opposition plan.”

Combs said the organizations have infrastructure in place and have hired lawyers and other experts. “These measures will do nothing to advance public safety, but they will further undermine the Second Amendment rights of all Californians,” he said. “The time to draw a line in the sand is right now.”

Newsom and his allies must collect 366,000 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the proposal for the 2016 general election ballot, but Combs and his allies seem to believe that won’t be a problem – they’re preparing for a showdown at the polls next November. “All California gun owners and civil rights organizations must stand together, dig in, and do whatever it takes to defeat this anti-rights initiative at the ballot box,” Combs said.

Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, Gavin Newsom, gun control, Lt. Governor | 28 Comments »

Ballot measure fee to rise from $200 to $2000

It’s about to get a lot more expensive to submit a proposed ballot measure in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill by Assemblymen Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, that raises the fee for submitting a ballot measure from $200 to $2,000, effective Jan. 1, 2016. AB 1100 is freshman Low’s first bill to be signed into law.

“It has been over 72 years since this aspect of the initiative process has been updated. This reform is overdue,” Low said in a news release. “We live in California, the cradle of direct democracy, but we also need a threshold for reasonableness. And this bill will do just that.”

The $200 fee was established in 1943 to deter frivolous proposals and to cover some of the costs of analyzing and processing initiatives, but that’s not a lot of money today. Low’s office said $200 today is the equivalent of $14.80 in 1943 dollars.

The bill was inspired in part by the submission in March of a “Sodomite Suppression Act” that if enacted would’ve required the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the proposal unconstitutional and it has been removed from consideration for next year’s ballot, but critics called for reform of the ballot initiative process nonetheless.

“If a proposal makes it to the ballot, the $2,000 fee would be refunded to the proponent,” Low noted. “If a proponent feels strongly about a measure, a true grassroots campaign will find the means to pay the filing fee and get their proposal on the ballot.”

Critics insist the bill raises a barrier for ordinary Californians to engage in the process.

“Direct democracy is a citizen’s right – a cornerstone of the checks and balances of democracy that have been protected passionately in California,” state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said in a news release. “Raising the fee by 900 percent is cost prohibitive.”

Only the state’s elite political class will be able to put their ideas on the ballot, he said: “Elected officials should increase voter participation, not discourage it.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Under: Assembly, ballot measures, Evan Low | No Comments »

Proposed measure would drop drinking age to 18

Terrance Lynn doesn’t see himself as the new patron saint of college keggers, but his proposed ballot measure to lower California’s drinking age from 21 to 18 might get him there nonetheless.

Lynn, 42, of Portola Valley, sees it as a civil-rights issue.

out of the shadows“There is no kind of ‘junior citizen’ status – you’re either an adult or you’re not” except when it comes to drinking, he said; 18-year-olds can be held criminally liable as adults and can volunteer or be drafted into the military, yet can’t legally buy a beer.

Alcohol enforcement, like the war on drugs, often has a disproportionate socio-economic impact, Lynn added: A Stanford student caught drinking a beer might get a pass or at least have an easy time clearing his or her record, while a poor kid from East Palo Alto could face more serious repercussions. And making it legal for college-age people to drink could help reduce binge-drinking by bringing campus consumption out of the shadows, he said.

Lynn acknowledged that while 18-to-20-year-olds would “obviously vote their self interest on this,” that age group usually doesn’t go to the polls in great numbers – though if this won’t bring them out, he can’t imagine what will.

This would run afoul of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which punishes states that allow those under 21 to drink by reducing annual federal highway funds by 10 percent. Lynn believes that with California’s clout in D.C. – its huge congressional delegation, and the fact that it pays a lot more in federal taxes than it gets back – “I can’t imagine that situation would last for long.”

Michael Scippa, public affairs director at San Rafael-based Alcohol Justice, said Lynn isn’t the first and won’t be the last to propose reducing the minimum legal drinking age, but “from a public health perspective, it’s extremely foolish and there’s no reason to do it.”

Scippa said there’s “an overwhelming body of scientific evidence… case after case, study after study” showing that barring drinking until age 21 reduces youth drinking and alcohol-related harm, especially on the roads. Reducing the age to 18 would mean “we’d start seeing a spike (in drinking) at 16,” he said. “We don’t want to go backwards here – it’s such a public health and safety success story. The only people who would benefit from this are alcohol producers.”

Lynn, a tech-company chief financial officer making his first foray into public policy, has submitted another proposed measure that would strip party affiliation from ballot designations so that it would be harder to see and vote a straight party line. “This labeling and partisan generalization is really hurting us in the national dialog,” he said. “It’s a tool of the powerful to control the ignorant.”

And he’s working on a third measure that would impose a 1000 percent sales tax on all political advertisements in California, with all revenue going to public schools; Lynn said it’s a way to counter the avalanche of money in politics since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (A true “sin tax,” some might say.)

There’s little chance of any of these making it onto 2016’s ballot. Lynn said he can’t spend much money on them beyond fees for filing and website-hosting: “Nothing beyond the bare minimum… I don’t have the wherewithal to do it, and I wouldn’t be inclined to if I did.” He’s hoping they’ll catch fire on social media and, once he’s cleared to start circulating petitions, will become a true grassroots signature-gathering campaign.

The public-comment periods for Lynn’s drinking-age measure and the party-affiliation measure last through Sept. 24.

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2015
Under: ballot measures | 4 Comments »

Spinning the public pension reform initiative

California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office this week released its review of the public pension reform initiative proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio – and what that review says seems to depend on your point of view.

The 11-page document ends with a summary of fiscal effects predicting “significant effects—savings and costs—on state and local governments relating to compensation for governmental employees. The magnitude and timing of these effects would depend heavily on future decisions made by voters, governmental employers, and the courts.”

Opponents were hot out of the gate Tuesday morning with a statement noting the LAO found there’s “significant uncertainty as to the magnitude, timing, and direction of the fiscal effects of this measure and its effects on current and future governmental employees’ compensation.”

“This measure is a Trojan horse that will undermine the retirement security of millions of California families with unknown costs to taxpayers under the guise of giving them more power,” Dave Low, Chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, said in Tuesday’s statement. “Voters have consistently said they will reject proposals that threaten the death and disability benefits of public safety workers, undermine collective bargaining, and eliminate retirement security for teachers, bus drivers, and other public servants. This measure would be dead on arrival to voters, just like previously over-reaching measures.”

But DeMaio and Reed issued a statement Wednesday morning saying the LAO had confirmed “that the mandatory requirements of the measure would produce ‘significant savings.’ Even better, in addition to what is specifically mandated by the measure, the LAO confirmed that voters would have new powers to add to the savings.”

“Government union bosses are desperate to protect their gravy train at taxpayers’ expense. That’s why they are spinning a web of lies about the measure,” they said. “Astonishingly, the government union bosses even going so far as to claim voters will opt to spend MORE money than the politicians if given the new powers our initiative grants the people. At the core of their argument, the unions, along with the politicians, are arguing that voters might make bad decisions with the new powers our initiative grants them. Telling voters they cannot be trusted to make good decisions is not exactly a winning message.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, pension reform | 6 Comments »

State Senate OKs bill to curb ‘doctor shopping’

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 46 – which would’ve raised California’s 40-year-old cap on certain medical malpractice damage awards – in November, but a lesser-known part of that measure moved forward Thursday in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 28-11 to approve SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require California doctors to consult an already-existing state prescription database before prescribing addictive medicine to their patients. This was another part of Prop. 46, albeit less controversial than the medical malpractice segment. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

It’s a win for Bob Pack, the Prop. 46 proponent and Danville resident whose two children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver on Oct. 26, 2003. The motorist who hit Troy and Alana Pack, 10 and 7, had consumed alcohol, Vicodin and muscle relaxants before getting behind the wheel; Jimena Barreto in the weeks before the crash had received six Vicodin prescriptions from six different Kaiser Permanente doctors, who had failed to check into the injuries for which she claimed she needed the pills.

To prevent this kind of “doctor shopping” by abusers and addicts, SB 482 will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient, and annually if the treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. “Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic.”

Results are promising in other states with similar laws, and Consumer Watchdog estimates that a 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California – as experienced in New York – would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Draper: From ‘Six Californias’ to ‘Fix California’

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper has gone from “Six Californias” to “Fix California.”

The man who last year had proposed splitting the Golden State six ways – but failed to get the idea onto 2016’s ballot despite spending $5.2 million from his own pocket – issued a public engagement challenge Wednesday to crowdsource ideas for fixing California’s government.

“California-based businesses are on the cutting edge of technology – constantly pushing the envelope,” Draper said in a news release. “Most good ideas come through Californians innovating and collaborating with each other. We should be able to do the same with government, but unfortunately, our government is still stuck in the 1980’s. They can’t complete a project, like building a bridge or updating a computer system, without it being late, over budget, or even obsolete by the time of completion. That’s why we are launching the ‘Fix California Challenge.’”

Draper, 56, of Atherton, said he realizes “that not everyone was a fan of Six Californias.”

“But most people agreed that something needs to be done to fix the state. That’s why I’m asking Californians if they think they have a better idea,” he said. “If so, I want to hear it. If you have an idea that will transform government, bring it to me and maybe we can get it on the ballot.”

Draper said he’s looking for ideas that address:

    Transformation: Challenge the status quo by fundamentally transforming and modernizing California with a “fresh start” or an “entrepreneurial” mindset.
    Representation: Provide for better representation and engagement of citizens and accountability of leaders to the people they represent.
    Education: Improve incentives in education to achieve long-term economic prosperity and create a more educated workforce that is better prepared for the jobs of the future.
    Accountability: Incentivize governments to be accountable to their citizens and compete for customers.
    Opportunity: Create opportunities to improve the quality of life for hard-working Californians across key sectors such as housing, infrastructure, social safety net programs and the environment.
    Renewal: Clean up the failures and update methods of the last several decades that are preventing further success and progress.

Draper is running this “Fix California Challenge” through Innovate Your State, a nonprofit he founded that’s dedicated to educating and encouraging public participation to fundamentally improve government.

“As a venture capitalist I see innovation everywhere and invest in bold ideas everyday. We need to bridge the gap between innovation and government, and this requires a ‘Venture Governance’ approach where everyone’s ideas have a chance to be heard and backed if they’re good enough,” he said. “Similar to a business plan competition, we’re going to run a ‘government plan competition’ to find the best ideas and implementation strategies out there.”

No word on the status of Draper’s proposed television reality show about Silicon Valley startups.

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | No Comments »

Marijuana legalization measure filed in Sacramento

A group that couldn’t get enough signatures to put a marijuana legalization measure on 2014’s ballot has launched its effort to try again for 2016.

MCLR logoProponents of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act went to the Secretary of State’s office Monday to make their initial filing; they then headed for San Francisco to join the 4/20 celebration at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill.

The proposed measure – which was immediately forwarded to the state attorney general’s office to receive an official title and summary before proponents can start gathering petition signatures – is the product of Americans For Policy Reform’s “wiki-like” open-source process, which took input from thousands of California residents.

“We hope this broad-based coalition of support will encourage further cooperation,” AFPR director and measure proponent John Lee said in a news release “We urgently encourage other advocacy groups to join us at the table.”

The measure’s backers say it keep marijuana out of minors’ hands; prevent growing on public lands; deprive cartels, gangs and other criminal enterprises of the proceeds from sales; prevent drugged driving and other adverse health effects; clarify the state’s existing medical marijuana laws; and save the state millions in law enforcement costs while generating millions in tax revenues.

AFPR tried to put a measure on 2014’s ballot but couldn’t raise enough funds for its petition drive. They’ve made some modifications to the measure since, and held a fundraiser in Los Angeles earlier this month.

“We have worked hard to bring people together and create the best law possible for legalization in California,” proponent Dave Hodges, founder of San Jose’s All American Cannabis Club, said in the release. “MCLR creates a comprehensive set of regulations to allow all types of cannabis businesses to flourish, and will net California billions in tax revenues.”

But one of the reasons the measure went nowhere in 2014 might be just as big an obstacle now. A larger Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform – chaired by Oaksterdam University executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones and including national groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project – had started collecting signatures for 2014 but then decided to hold off. The coalition now is moving forward with its own plans for 2016, with a far more extensive fundraising network as well as buy-in from many more established marijuana-related organizations.

Hodges in 2014 had said the coalition’s effort had sucked all of the fundraising air out of the room for his measure, making it impossible to bankroll a petition drive. He might find this year’s air to be just as thin.

UPDATE @ 4:38 p.m.: A marijuana legalization task force convened by the American Civil Liberties Union and chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will hold a digital town square on the issue at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at The forum will focus on public safety, especially drugged driving, criminal justice, and environmental concerns; two more forums are planned for later this spring.

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, marijuana | 6 Comments »

AG seeks court’s OK to nix gay execution measure

Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that she’s seeking the California Supreme Court’s permission to refuse to prepare an official title and summary for a proposed ballot measure called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year, said it’s her “sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians.

Kamala Harris“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” she said. “Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act.’ If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

Alas, unlike those in many other states, California’s ballot initiative process doesn’t provide for pre-enactment constitutional review. But Harris is getting praise for trying to avoid enabling this odious idea – pitched by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin – from even being circulated as a petition for placement on next year’s ballot.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – who one assumes would be on McLaughlin’s “hit list” – said Harris is right to ask the court to let the state turn away “an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder.

“The proposal represents either the depth of bigotry and hatred or the height of sick publicity stunts — either way it should not be dignified by becoming an official part of the process Californians have to amend the state Constitution,” said Atkins, D-San Diego. “Having discussed options with Attorney General Harris, I know how seriously she takes her responsibility to the law and how seriously she takes her responsibility to protect the public’s safety. I urge the court to grant the Attorney General’s request and prevent the state’s initiative process from being abused in this egregious manner.”

The Human Rights Campaign hailed the legal action, too.

“This disgusting, barbaric measure should be stopped in its tracks, and once again Attorney General Harris has demonstrated leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “It is our sincere hope that the Supreme Court of California gives her the authority to prevent it from advancing.”

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, earlier Wednesday said McLaughlin’s proposed measure has inspired him to develop legislation to make signatures on ballot-measure petitions into public records.

“Voters must be informed when a petition they sign violates the United States Constitution,” said Rendon. “My proposal is simple: initiative signatures – particularly those that give permission to violate constitutional rights – shall be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

Even one of California’s most virulent anti-gay activists has shunned the proposed measure.

“This terrible ballot initiative doesn’t deserve any reporting, because advocating the killing of people who are not guilty of a contemporary capital crime, not guilty of threatening you with death yourself, and not pointing a rifle at you in war, is wrong in both the eyes of conservatives and liberals,” Randy Thomasson, president of, said Saturday.

Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, ballot measures, Kamala Harris | 3 Comments »

Proposed measure would require condoms in porn

All porn actors working in California would have to wear condoms, under a new proposed ballot measure that Secretary of State Alex Padilla has cleared to start circulating for signatures.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein believes condom use in pornography already is required under laws dealing with blood-borne pathogens, but the industry has largely ignored this and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has failed to enforce it.

He's here to helpSo he’s proposing a separate law that explicitly would require performers in adult films to wear condoms during intercourse; requires adult-film producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical exams related to sexually transmitted infections; require producers to get state health licenses at the start of filming and post the condom requirement at film sites.

Producers would be held liable for violations, as would certain distributors; performers, if they have a financial interest in the film that causes the violation; and talent agents who knowingly refer performers to producers who don’t comply.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office and state Finance Department estimate such a law could reduce state and local tax revenue by tens of millions of dollars per year as adult film production either leaves the state or is driven underground, and also could cost the state a few million dollars per year to administer.

In order to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot, Weinstein will have to collect signatures of 365,880 registered voters (5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in last year’s gubernatorial election) and submit them to county elections officials by Sept. 14.

Los Angeles voters in 2012 approved Measure B, requiring mandatory condom use in porn films; the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law in December. Nevada is considering such regulations, too.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | 6 Comments »

Ballot measure proposes all LGBT people be shot

Insane, the work of a bigoted asshat, or a miserably failed attempt at satire? You decide.

Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin last week submitted to the California Attorney General’s office a proposed ballot measure that would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Yes, you read that right.

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” the proposed measure reads.

McLaughlin’s “Sodomite Suppression Act” also would make distribution of “sodomistic propaganda” – which McLaughlin defines as “anything aimed at creating interest in or acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman” – punishable by a $1 million fine, up to 10 years in prison, and expulsion from California. And it would bar anyone “who is a sodomite, or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does” from holding public office or receiving public benefits – though that seems redundant, since the measure would ensure such people already are dead or in prison.

Finally, the proposed measure specifies that it “shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.”

The “hereunder” is a nice touch, sort of gives it a ring of legalese. Never mind that almost every part of this measure is blatantly unconstitutional – and, very likely, utterly insane.

Remember, McLaughlin is an attorney: His State Bar of California record shows he earned an undergraduate degree from UC-Irvine and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law in Virginia – his professors must be SO proud – before being admitted to practice law in 1998.

Opponents have begun an online petition urging the State Bar to disbar McLaughlin.

“Advocating the murder of innocent citizens clearly demonstrates moral turpitude and abuse of the law,” the petition says. “It is disturbing and outrageous that a lawyer admitted to the California State Bar would disgrace the profession and the state. This immoral individual is unfit to practice law. He should be immediately be barred from practicing law in California.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office has no choice but to take it seriously, and begin the process of developing a title and summary under which McLaughlin can circulate petitions to place this on next year’s ballot.

Your tax dollars will pay for the time and effort it takes to do this. Unlike those in some arguably wiser states, California’s ballot-measure process doesn’t include any review to determine whether an idea is constitutionally plausible before it hits the streets.

But oh, to be a fly on the wall as McLaughlin goes out asking people to sign his petitions. It should be quite a sight to see.

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: ballot measures | 3 Comments »