Below is a recap of the last two weeks’ election law news and hot topics. With Friday, February 21, 2014 being the last day to introduce legislation the trend for the last two weeks has been a flurry of new bills:
California campaign finance reporting bills on verge of governor’s desk by Merced Sun-Star
February 20 – A campaign finance reform bill has pass the State legislature and is awaiting Governor Brown’s determination. If approved, SB 27 would require politically active nonprofits to reveal donors when they spend more than $50,000 in California elections.
A pair of bills requiring greater transparency from electioneering nonprofits are one step away from Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers have sought to fortify campaign spending rules since out-of-state nonprofit groups poured $11 million into the 2012 election cycle, a flexing of financial muscle that eventually earned the entities a $1 million California Fair Political Practices Commission fine. Both the Senate and the Assembly on Thursday approved bills that would implement new rules in time for this year’s election.
Calif. Voters Could Get Shot at Restoring Bilingual Education by Education Week
February 21 – State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill that would repeal the restrictions placed on bilingual education approved by voters 16 years ago under Proposition 227.
New legislation unveiled this week in California would ask voters to revisit the controversial ballot measure that has required the state’s public schools to provide classroom instruction in English. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Los Angeles-area Democrat, introduced a bill that would repeal the restrictions placed on bilingual education that was approved by voters 16 years ago with the passage of Proposition 227.
Legislative proposal could change voter options by The Daily Journal
February 21 – State Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) proposed new legislation that would allow special elections to be conducted by all-mail ballot in an attempt to encourage higher voter turnout.
Encouraging higher voter turnout during special elections and saving money is the goal of legislation introduced this week by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco. “As turnout rates in special elections reach all-time lows, I think we are overdue for a fresh look at our state’s election procedures,” Mullin wrote in a press release.
Bill would mandate council districts by Daily Pilot
February 20 – State Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) has stated that he intends to propose new legislation (which he was required to do by Feb. 21, 2014) to require general law cities with populations of more than 100,000 to switch from citywide elections to district elections.
Legislation that could force Costa Mesa and other Orange County cities to implement geographic district-based city council elections is expected to be introduced in the state Assembly on Friday, according to a spokesman for Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina). The bill would require general law cities — meaning they are not governed by charters — with populations of more than 100,000 to switch from citywide council elections to districts.
Sen. Padilla seeks blackout period on fundraising by state lawmakers by Los Angeles Times
February 20 – State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoma) proposed 4 new bills to prohibit campaign fundraising during the 100 days before the end of each legislative session.
State lawmakers would be prohibited from raising campaign funds for more than three months at the end of each legislative session under legislation proposed Thursday by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
California bill would ban lobbyists from hosting fundraisers by The Sacramento Bee
February 12 – State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) proposed new legislation to prohibit lobbyists from hosting fundraisers.
Reacting to this week’s announcement that a Sacramento lobbyist is paying a six-figure fine for making illegal campaign contributions by hosting lavish political fundraisers at his home, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced a bill Wednesday to ban the practice.
…in addition to new legislation, State government may go through significant changes in 2014:
California Senate panel to come up with new ethics, campaign laws by Los Angeles Times
February 10 – In the wake of recent scandals including State Senator Roderick Wright’s conviction, the State Senate has created the Senate Ethics Working Group to “examine legislative and campaign finance rules in California and other states, with a view to formulating a package of reforms this session.”
With the state Legislature being rocked by scandal after scandal, the leader of the Senate has assembled a group of lawmakers to come up with recommended changes in state ethics and campaign laws, officials announced Monday.
Top-two system could force voters to work by Los Angeles Times
February 9 – Voting reforms started in 2012 will greatly impact 2014 election races that have traditionally been a Democrat versus a Republican. Under the new top-two open primary, the top two candidates for a seat may be from the same party. It is anticipated that nearly 1/5 of the 100 legislative contests could turn into a one-party runoff.
Voters’ brains in state general elections are programmed to choose between a Democrat and a Republican. Therefore, many Californians may be befuddled in November. They may have to work harder at their decision — not just be guided by the party label.
Why more voters are going independent in California by The Christian Science Monitor
February 20 – Since 1997, the California Democratic and Republican parties have been losing voters, with the Democratic Party dropping by 3.2 percentage points and the Republican Party dropping by 7.5 percentage points.
Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are losing ground in voter registration in America’s most populous state – following a nationwide trend. Though still reliably “blue,” California has adopted some political reforms designed to moderate partisanship in the state’s political system, and some suggest that over time those changes will make the major political parties less relevant.
Dan Walters: California’s legislative supermajorities at risk in 2014 election by San Jose Mercury News
February 12 – The State legislature’s supermajorities have been reluctant to use their power to push through liberal agendas.
Two years ago, as a collateral effect of President Barack Obama’s landslide re-election win in California, Democrats gained two-thirds “supermajorities” in both legislative houses. It sparked a torrent of private and public speculation over potential impact on legislative issues, such as tax increases and constitutional amendments, that the controlling party might pursue.
Gov. Brown, Lt. Gov. Newsom Among Lawmakers Warned Of Ethics Violations by CBS SF Bay Area
February 11 – Several state politicians, including the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, received improper donations from a Sacramento lobbyist.
Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom are among 40 California lawmakers being investigated over potential ethics violations, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
…the debate over the voting rights of ex-felons has triggered national attention:
Holder Endorses Voting Rights for Returning Citizens by Los Angeles Sentinel
February 20 – US Attorney General Eric Holder has joined the national debate regarding the voting rights of ex-felons by stating that prohibiting these persons from voting is wrong. The NAACP and other civil rights organizations are working in 11 states to end this prohibition.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that laws prohibiting returning citizens from voting even after they serve their sentences are wrong. “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes,” Holder said Tuesday at the Georgetown University Law Center in Northwest during a symposium sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
…and in local news, first-time voters, particularly Latinos, are being targeted:
Talk targets voter suppression in S.J. by Recordnet.com
February 21 – Signs have been placed around the Stockton area to discourage voters, stating in Spanish “In every election, if you vote, it is a crime. Jail. Fine!!! Deportation.”
It was a crudely made sign, using a mishmash of upper and lowercase letters written with a black marker with a vague threat in Spanish that could make a legally registered voter think twice before casting a ballot. At least three signs like that turned up in south Stockton during elections, according to Latino political activists who called them an attempt to discourage voters.