Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Prop 23 Gets Draper-ized

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The AG’s approach to Proposition 23?

At least once in every California campaign cycle, it seems, an initiative gets “Draper-ized”.

That’s a word I just made up to describe what happens when a ballot measure runs afoul of the Democratic power structure in Sacramento. It’s a reference to Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who back in November 2000 ran Proposition 38, which proposed $4,000 vouchers for families that opted to shift their kids from public to private schools.

The Draper Initiative was an uphill climb to begin with. Two years earlier, former Gov. Pete Wilson tried and failed to get the reform-heavy Prop 8 passed. Even some within the Silicon Valley ed community — most notably, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings — disagreed with Draper’s approach.

But the death-blow came from, all places, the state Attorney General’s office.

In California, it’s the AG who decides the title and summary language for ballot measures. In this case, then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer (a veteran Sacramento pol and longtime friend of the state’s teachers’ unions) did the dirty deed. And all Lockyer did was describe Draper’s measure in most unflattering terms starting with this verbage:

“School vouchers.  State-funded private and religious education. Public School Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

— Authorizes annual state payments of at least $4,000 per pupil for private and religious schools phased in over four years.

— Restricts state and local authority to require private schools to meet standards, including state academic requirements.

— Limits future health, safety, zoning, building restrictions on private schools.”

Religion . . . restricted authority . . . limited health and safety restriction. Good luck getting that passed. Indeed, Yes on 38 received less than one-third of the vote.

Now, let’s skip forward a decade to the 2010 election. This year’s early frontrunner for “Draper-ized” initiative: Proposition 23, which aims to suspend California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (aka, AB 32).

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Jerry Brown has chosen this language for the ballot:

“Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.”

In this case, the Prop 23 campaign has opted to fight, with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filing a lawsuit seeking to undo the AG’s intent. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

“Specifically, the lawsuit contends that the measure would not suspend air pollution control “laws” because other greenhouse gas laws and smog laws would remain unaffected if it passes.

The lawsuit also alleges that the ballot summary is inaccurate when it says that AB 32 affects “major polluters,” because in the view of the taxpayers group, it will affect thousands of businesses.

The lawsuit, which names Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and state printer Kevin Hannah, asks for new language. It suggests: “Suspends state law that requires greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, until California’s unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive calendar quarters.”

Amidst the legal wrangling, there’s a lesson in this for California Republicans. While the top-of-the-ticket races for governor and U.S. Senate dominate voters’ attention, down-the-ticket races can be just as important.

An Attorney General with a different philosophy (and different political allies) perhaps comes up with a different Prop 23 ballot summary . . . just as a different State Controller doesn’t make life miserable for Gov. Schwarzenegger when it comes to budget impasses and state workers.

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Written by Bill Whalen

July 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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