Legislative Negotiations Maintain Simple Majority Threshold for Local Special Tax Initiatives; Soda Taxes Banned

As you may recall, the California Supreme Court issued a decision last year which dramatically changed the environment for citizen initiatives aiming to impose special taxes at the local level. The Court effectively concluded that the constitutional two-thirds voter approval requirement for special taxes only applies when the taxes are placed on the ballot by a city council, board of supervisors or special district board – i.e., not when a special tax is placed on the ballot by citizen initiative.

Although special interests throughout the state responded to this court decision by considering the use of citizen initiatives to pass special tax measures, most abandoned these plans when a statewide initiative began to circulate which would overturn the Supreme Court decision. If this statewide initiative was approved on the November 2018 ballot, then it would have required any special taxes approvedon the June ballot to be reauthorized by a two-thirds vote.

In a surprising turn of events, the statewide ballot measure has now been withdrawn, despite the fact that it had been set to appear on the November ballot. The proponent evidently decided to withdraw the measure after the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a law banning taxes on sugary soft drinks in cities and counties. Based on these negotiations, local special tax citizen initiatives will continue to require only a simple majority vote in order to become law.

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Please contact a Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist if you would like assistance setting up a lobbying or gift law compliance system in the City of Los Angeles or any other jurisdiction.

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The Sutton Law Firm specializes in political and election law, representing businesses, individuals, candidates, ballot measures, PACs and nonprofit organizations involved in the political and legislative processes on the state, local and national levels. The firm offers its clients a full range of legal, reporting and litigation services.