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Melissa Griffin: Ballot Battle Over California Tax Measure Placement

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California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Location is key on this November’s ballot.

June 28 was the deadline for measures to qualify for that ballot, and things are already getting heated. Studies show that ballot placement can add or subtract five percent of the vote. In this case, proponents of the two major tax reform measures are in a war for top billing, because neither is looking stellar in the polls.

On June 20th, both Jerry Brown’s tax measure, and Molly Munger’s tax measure each qualified for the ballot. By law, measures are listed in the order they qualify, so both measures would be together somewhere.

But the two hands-outstretched together will likely turn voters off, meaning a loss for both. Instead, each wants to be listed first and separately to grab whatever tolerance voters have for taxes and let the other measure down ballot somewhere suffer.

Democrats backing Brown introduced and passed a law last week that would list Constitutional amendments first on the ballot – because Brown’s measure is a Constitutional amendment, it would get that coveted top slot. To make this even more underhanded, they added a $1,000 appropriation to the bill, so it would go into effect immediately as a budget item, instead of January 1, 2013, when a normal law would take effect.

But, Munger isn’t the kind of girl who gives up just like that. On Friday, she filed a lawsuit to block the new ballot law and a judge agreed to stop the ballot assignments until the matter heard on July 9. Munger claims that the new law is a fake appropriation and, in an even juicier allegation that Brown used his influence to delay the qualification of Munger’s proposal to keep it from being first on the ballot.

In this editor’s humble opinion, while Brown’s new law is the slimy stuff that hatred of politicians is made of, Munger’s lawsuit isn’t likely to be successful unless she can come up with some direct evidence that elections officials delayed in qualifying her proposal. For now all we have is a new ballot law that, like cursing in church, is wrong, but not illegal.

As an additional note, the effect of the new ballot legislation is that from now on every ballot measure will try to amend our already-lengthy and convoluted state Constitution.

Most laws from Sacramento take effect on January 1 of the subsequent year but some begin in July – often to give industries time to comply. Laws that went into effect on July 1 include:

A. Foie Gras ban: You’ve been force-fed enough information on this subject.

B. Tattoo/piercing parlor regulations: Businesses that provide tattoos and/or piercings have to abide by new standards of sanitation and personnel have to be trained in first aid.

C. Junk sticker law: All cars that have been designated by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System database as junk or salvage be adorned with a large red sticker indicating as such.

D. Anti-bullying laws: “Sexual preference” and “gender identity” are now added to the list of types of bullying prohibited and anti-bullying training is now mandatory in schools. Also, social media postings are included in the definition of bullying activities.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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