Monday, July 25, 2005

Proposition 80 removed from ballot

A second measure has been ordered off the statewide special election ballot. On Friday, a state appeals court ruled that Proposition 80, an energy regulation measure, must be removed from the ballot because its aim would require a constitutional amendment and the measure was qualified only as an initiative statute. Another measure, Proposition 77, which would take the authority to draw political district lines away from the Legislature, was also recently removed from the ballot, bringing the total number of measures to appear before voters from eight to six.

That is, at least for the time being. There is still talk of the Legislature and Governor striking compromises that could result in more measures being placed on the ballot. There is also talk of of cancelling the special election altogether. See Saturday's Sacramento Bee story and San Francisco Chronicle story for more details about those discussions.

Both initiative rulings are being appealed. More information about the statewide special election is available from CVF. Below are excerpts from Bob Egelko's story from Saturday's San Francisco Chronicle about the removal of Prop. 80.


A consumer-backed energy initiative that would partly re-regulate California's electric utilities was removed from the Nov. 8 ballot Friday by a state appeals court ruling on a lawsuit by the energy industry.

The Court of Appeal in Sacramento agreed with industry arguments that a 94-year-old provision of the California Constitution allows only the Legislature, not the voters, to expand the state Public Utilities Commission's regulatory authority. A legislative attempt to enact a law with some of the same provisions was vetoed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sponsors of the initiative, Proposition 80, said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court. The ruling came a day after another Nov. 8 ballot measure -- Prop. 77, Schwarzenegger's initiative to transfer legislative authority over reapportionment to a panel of retired judges -- was stripped from the ballot by a Sacramento judge. The governor plans to appeal that ruling.

Prop. 80 would repeal some of the provisions of the state's 1996 electricity deregulation law, widely blamed for the blackouts and price spikes that Californians endured in 2000-01.


In Friday's ruling, the court said the initiative conflicted with a provision added to the state Constitution in 1911 -- the same year lawmaking by initiative was authorized -- that gave the Legislature "plenary power'' to increase the PUC's authority over utilities. Citing dictionary definitions, the court said plenary power meant "total power, to the exclusion of all others.''

"We would impermissibly rewrite the constitutional provision if we were to construe it to give the people the power by initiative to expand the PUC's authority and jurisdiction,'' said Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland in the 3- 0 ruling.

If such measures are to be adopted by the voters, Scotland said, they must be in the form of a state constitutional amendment, which requires 598, 105 signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. A statutory initiative like Prop. 80 needs 373,816 signatures to qualify.

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