AG Brown Learns New Language

Katy Grimes: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association won a decisive battle yesterday when a state judge ordered the ballot language of Proposition 23 to be rewritten.

A win for voters as well, Proposition 23 is a November measure that would suspend California’s strict global warming laws until unemployment in the state drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. 800,000 voters signed petitions to put Proposition 23 on the November ballot.

HJTA filed the lawsuit against California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who drafted the title and summary of the ballot initiative using biased language. Jon Coupal, HJTA President, wrote, “As the sitting Attorney General, and in his campaign for Governor, Jerry Brown should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  But he crossed a clear legal line when he presented official ballot language that fails to meet the test of impartiality in describing the initiative to voters.”

Apparently Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley agreed. Frawley’s ruling found Brown’s labeling of the November proposition “false, misleading and prejudicial.” The new language changes the description of the law’s intended target from “major polluters,” a term Frawley criticized as having “an obvious negative connotation,” to “major sources of emissions.”

Frawley said the title and summary of the measure cannot say that it would “abandon” California’s greenhouse gas laws, but would instead “suspend” them.

“Specifically, the petition for Writ of Mandate we filed contends, “that the Attorney General is attempting to influence the election with a misleading and clearly biased ballot label, title and summary in violation of the elections code” and “has used biased words and phrases that advocate for [Prop. 23’s] defeat rather than merely informing voters of its chief purpose and effect,” wrote Coupal last week.

The original ballot initiative label reads as follows:

The Attorney General of California has prepared the following circulating title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure :


The new description says:

“Suspends implementation of air pollution control law (AB 32) requiring major sources of emissions to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for full year.”

Brown called the judge’s ruling reasonable and said he would not appeal.

This is not the first time as Attorney General that Brown has used biased and misleading language in a ballot initiative description title. Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, last year introduced Vote SAFE, a ballot measure designed to protect voters by requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, give additional time to count military votes mailed from outside the U.S., and protect the identity of absentee voters by concealing the voter’s signature on the envelope.

Brown wrote, “Prohibits citizens from voting at the polls unless they present a government-issued photo-identification card. Establishes provisional voting for citizens at the polls who fail to present government-issued photo-identification.”

An Orange County Register editorial today summed up the impact of Brown’s initiative wording the best: “Mr. Brown is the state’s top law enforcement official. If he used his present office to distort the election process with misleading and prejudicial language to advance his political agenda, we must ask whether it’s a glimpse of what can be expected if he is elected governor.”

Here is the HJTA lawsuit: Charles H’. Bell, Jr. (SBN 60553) Thomas W. Hiltachlc (SBN 131223

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