Election Section

Leader says lawmakers will sue to kill Proposition 51

By Steve Lawrence The Associated Press
Wednesday October 23, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Armed with an opinion from the Legislature’s attorney, Senate leader John Burton said Tuesday that Proposition 51 is unconstitutional and that lawmakers will ask a court to overturn it if it’s approved by voters. 

But the San Francisco Democrat said he doesn’t want things to get that far. “We are hopeful that the people in their wisdom will figure out that this is a terrible raid on the state treasury,” he said. 

The Nov. 5 ballot measure would earmark 30 percent of the taxes on vehicle sales and leases to pay for a variety of projects that supporters say would relieve traffic congestion or replace unsafe school buses. 

But the legislative counsel’s office, in an opinion requested by Burton, says the measure would violate the state constitution’s requirement that ballot initiatives deal with a single subject. 

“We conclude that the wide variety of environmental projects and programs, development projects and programs and certain other projects and programs included in the initiative ... are not reasonably germane nor functionally related to each other,” the opinion says. 

Opponents say the non-transportation proposals in the initiative include funding for roadside produce stands, wetlands, libraries, child care centers, parks and weed abatement. 

Eddy Moore, transportation director for the Planning and Conservation League, the environmental group sponsoring the initiative, said all of the measure’s projects have some connection to transportation. 

“I have no idea where the produce stand thing came from,” he said. “The other things (listed by opponents) are twisted versions of what’s in there. 

“Every project in this measure is a public benefit project. All of the money flows through existing state and local agencies. Most of the projects in this measure are already written into state law as a priority or have been chosen by state or local agencies as a priority.” 

Burton said he also plans to ask the state Fair Political Practices Commission if the proposition’s backers broke any laws in raising money for the measure, although he concedes they probably didn’t. 

He also wants the FPPC to suggest ways to draft legislation to bar the PCL and other initiative writers from including projects in a ballot measure based on whether their supporters give donations to the campaign. 

A court struck down an earlier attempt to impose such restrictions. 

PCL officials acknowledge they have included projects sought by big contributors in their initiatives. 

“If we were as rich as (Arnold) Schwarzenegger we would not have to do any fund-raising,” said Moore, referring to Proposition 49, a Nov. 5 ballot measure backed by the actor to boost funding for after-school programs.