Tim Donnelly launches referendum vs. vaccine law

Former assemblyman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is launching a referendum campaign to overturn California’s new law requiring mandatory vaccinations for public and private school students.

Donnelly, the arch-conservative from Twin Peaks, submitted his proposed referendum Wednesday to the state Attorney General’s office for preparation of an official title and summary, with which he can circulate petitions to place it on the November 2016 ballot.

Tim Donnelly“This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decisions for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best,” he said in a news release.

It certainly seems to be in keeping with Donnelly’s political philosophy; his talk radio show’s website describes him as “broadcasting from deep behind enemy lines in the occupied territory of the socialist republic of California.” Donnelly finished third, with about 15 percent of the vote, behind Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican rival Neel Kashkari in last year’s top-two gubernatorial primary.

Donnelly’s news release says California enjoys one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates, even though it has let people opt out for personal or religious reasons. But by signing SB 277 into law Tuesday, Brown “deprived every Californian of that choice should they wish to send their children to a private or public school,” the release said.

“For the vast majority, this is not an issue, but for those who are concerned about the inherent risks of an ever increasing schedule of vaccinations, or who themselves or their children have suffered severe reactions, up to and including death, having the freedom to opt out is everything,” the release said. “Now, that freedom is subject to the arbitrary control and subjective determination of a doctor and the government, instead of the parent.”

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: State Sen. Richard Pan, the pediatrician who authored SB 277, issued a statement later Wednesday noting Californians “overwhelmingly support requiring vaccinations for school.

“Our bill was a reasonable, science-based approach to protecting children, and the most vulnerable among us, from dangerous diseases,” wrote Pan, D-Sacramento. “Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to prevent deadly communicable diseases. I have spent my career campaigning to build healthier and safe communities and I will continue that work by fighting any referendum that hurts Californians.”


Efforts to roll back abortion laws start circulating

Supporters can start circulating petitions for two ballot referenda to overturn a pair of abortion-access laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Thursday.

Brown on Oct. 9 signed into law AB 154 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, so nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants with special training can perform abortion by aspiration — in which the uterus’ contents are suctioned out — which is the most common kind of first-trimester abortion. The Assembly passed the bill on a 50-25 vote in May, and the state Senate passed it on a 50-25 vote in August, with most Democrats and no Republicans voting for it.

Brown also that day signed AB 980 by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, which requires the repeal of any sections of the California Building Standards Code that treat primary-care clinics differently if they do abortions.

With dozens of new abortion restrictions enacted in other states this year, California stood alone in passing laws to increase access.

Bowen said Thursday that proponent Laurette Elsberry can start circulating petitions for her measures to roll back these new laws. The attorney general’s official titles and summaries for these measures are:

REFERENDUM TO OVERTURN LAW ALLOWING SPECIFIED LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TO PERFORM EARLY ABORTION PROCEDURES. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would permit a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or physician assistant with a valid license and training to perform specified early abortion procedures. (13-0029.)

REFERENDUM TO REIMPOSE DIFFERENT STANDARDS ON CLINICS PROVIDING ABORTION SERVICES THAN ON OTHER PRIMARY CARE CLINICS. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would repeal regulations that impose different building and licensing standards on clinics providing abortion services than on other primary care clinics. (13-0030.)

Elsberry – who voter registration records indicate is a 75-year-old Republican from Sacramento – has until Jan. 7 to gather and submit valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters for each measure.


Prop numbers assigned to November’s measures

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today assigned proposition numbers to the 11 measures set to appear on the November 6 ballot:

    Proposition 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. (Jerry Brown’s tax measure) Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
    Proposition 31 – State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
    Proposition 32 – Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Prohibitions on Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 33 – Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 34 – Death Penalty Repeal. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 35 – Human Trafficking. Penalties. Sex Offender Registration. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 36 – Three Strikes Law. Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 37 – Genetically Engineered Foods. Mandatory Labeling. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 38 – Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs. (Molly Munger’s tax measure) Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 39 – Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 40 – Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

Supreme Court to rule Friday on redistricting suit

The California Supreme Court will issue its written opinion at 10 a.m. tomorrow on a challenge to last year’s state Senate redistricting, it announced minutes ago.

That challenge, filed in early December, asks the court to decide whether the old or new state Senate district map should be used for this year’s elections if a proposed referendum seeking to overturn that map qualifies for the ballot.

The court is grappling with what legal standard or test it should apply in determining whether a referendum is “likely to qualify” under a state constitution section dealing with when plaintiffs can seek relief from the judiciary. It also must decide whether it has the authority to hear such a petition before the referendum has qualified for the ballot, or even before anyone can deem it likely to qualify.

The parties made their oral arguments at a 75-minute hearing Jan. 10.

A Republican-backed group called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting has gathered signatures to place the challenge referendum on the ballot, but those signatures won’t be tallied until late February – halfway through the nominating period for state Senate races.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission contends the new map it drew should be used immediately because that’s was the will of the voters and because it meets federal standards. FAIR contends using the new map wouldn’t be fair to voters who are exercising their legal right to challenge it.


For folks who want to watch the count tally of the GOP’s ballot initiative that challenges the state Senate maps, click here.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a number in red. That’s how many valid signatures have been counted so far. They need to reach 504,760 to make it onto the November ballot.


Amazon seeks ballot measure to repeal sales tax

A lobbyist for online retail giant Amazon.com submitted to the Attorney General’s office Friday a draft of a proposed ballot measure that would roll back the online sales tax just passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Amazon’s “California Jobs Referendum” will be reviewed and given a title and summary by the AG’s office before it’s cleared to start gathering petition signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Paul Misener issued this statement today:

“This is a referendum on jobs and investment in California. We support this referendum against the recent sales tax legislation because, with unemployment at well over 11 percent, Californians deserve a voice and a choice about jobs, investment and the state’s economic future. At a time when businesses are leaving California, it is important to enact policies that attract and encourage business, not drive it away. Amazon looks forward to working again with tens of thousands of small business affiliates in California that were harmed by the new law’s effect on hundreds of out-of-state retailers. As Governor Brown has made clear, it is important to directly involve the citizens of California in key issues and we believe that Californians will want to vote to protect small business and keep jobs in the state.”

As my Mercury News colleague Patrick May explained last month, federal law says states can tax sales only if the seller has a physical presence in the state. California sought to get past that issue by letting the state tax board collect from any retailer with a so-called business “nexus” or connection with an affiliate inside California. Supporters say it would make the tax code more fair, forcing Internet retailers to collect taxes just as brick-and-mortar stores already do. Several other states have enacted similar statutes.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: Board of Equalization member George Runner says “I told you so:”

“As I warned, Californians are losing jobs and income as a result of the so-called ‘Amazon Tax.’ It should come as no surprise that impacted California business owners would seek its repeal.

“Clearly, the ‘Amazon Tax’ is not working. After having terminated their relationships with thousands of California-based affiliate businesses, leading out-of-state online sellers continue to sell into California without collecting the sales tax.

“My staff has identified more than three dozen online sellers that have terminated their affiliate programs. Each termination represents lost jobs and lost income for California—losses that could have been easily avoided had the Governor and Legislature exercised a little common sense.

“Proponents of the ‘Amazon Tax’ claimed it would ‘create fairness’ by ‘leveling the playing field’ between California’s brick and mortar retailers and out-of-state online sellers. They claimed it would generate $200 million in new revenues for the state this year. But they were wrong.”

UPDATE @ 4:54 P.M.: State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who sponsored some one of the bills that led to the online sales tax, says, “It is unfortunate that Amazon – a multi-billion dollar corporation – continues to argue for a tax loophole that gave them a unfair advantage against California’s small business owners. All we are asking is that they collect and remit their fair share of taxes, like everyone else.”

UPDATE @ 5:24 P.M.: Board of Equalization member Betty Yee doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her colleague George Runner. “It is in every Californian’s interest for online and store front businesses to play by the same rules,” Yee said in a news release. “I strongly doubt Californians will support a loophole promoting out-of-state jobs, when holding Amazon.com accountable to the same rules as everyone else protects California’s economy.”


Nehring, other GOP chairs discuss party’s future

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring is headed for New York City, where he’ll be holding a sort of summit meeting tomorrow with the GOP chairs from New York, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin to map out the party’s strategy for 2010.

To hear many tell it, they’re convening at the end of a great week for the GOP. New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent governor and Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee got their clocks cleaned, to be sure, but it sort of seems this merely proves the Democratic base won’t come out for what they see as crappy candidates.

Jon Corzine came into New Jersey’s governor’s office in 2006 under an ethical cloud and spent his entire term with low approval ratings after a showdown with fellow Democrats that resulted in a state government shutdown, an unpopular plan to lease out the state’s toll roads, budget cuts for state universities, nomination of a state Attorney General who soon had to resign in an ethics scandal, and more. His administration was a car wreck – literally. Polls going into the election showed massive voter disapproval of his job performance, while Republican Chris Christie – although not a great campaigner – fared better. Corzine discovered that money can’t buy you love.

In Virginia, younger and minority voters who flocked to the polls for Obama last year didn’t do so for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds; Democrats couldn’t turn out their base. But before that’s blamed on Obama, consider that although Obama endorsed and campaigned for Deeds, Deeds actually ran against much of Obama’s liberal agenda – against cap-and-trade, against a public health-care option, against the Employee Free Choice Act, against several issues important to Latinos. And exit polls showed 56 percent of Virginia voters said Obama wasn’t a factor in their vote, 24 percent said their vote was meant as a swipe against Obama and 17 percent said it was meant as a show of support for him – so only about one in four voters had an anti-Obama sentiment. (That number was even lower in New Jersey.)

Also, New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that pick their governors in the years right after presidential elections, and Virginia has picked governors from the party opposite the president’s since the Carter Administration.

Meanwhile, a Democrat won New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time since before the Civil War – which seems fitting, as it was a Republican Party civil war that made this win possible.

And that civil war isn’t just in one district in the far reaches of upstate New York; the California Court of Appeal just this morning sent back to Alameda County Superior Court a revived lawsuit over control of the county’s GOP committee.

This, I’ll bet, is what Nehring and his fellow chairs will most want to discuss tomorrow – how to move their party forward without the moderate-versus-conservative infighting and undercutting that threatens to tear it apart.