I recently asserted that the Citizens’ Plan for San Diego ballot measure – which would raise funds to promote San Diego tourism, expand the Convention Center, build a football stadium, and other inter-related matters – requires a majority and not a two-thirds vote, even though others disagreed. A landmark appellate court decision issued last week confirms that only a majority vote is needed.
In a unanimous March 18 ruling, the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded that the provision in the California Constitution regarding a two-thirds vote for approving “special” taxes earmarked for a particular purpose only applies when a city council or board of supervisors is pushing the tax increase, and not when the tax increase is placed on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative. The court certified its ruling for publication so that it will be binding on future courts in San Diego and throughout the state.
The case, California Cannabis Coalition v. Upland, arose out of a dispute between a citizens’ coalition that wanted its medical marijuana initiative to appear on a special election ballot in late 2015, and the city of Upland, which claimed that the constitutional provision mandated that the initiative appear on the regular November 2016 election ballot. When the coalition submitted the petition signatures, the city sued and obtained a ruling that the initiative could not be voted on at a special election.
But the appellate court overturned that decision and made an important distinction between taxes imposed by local government and taxes imposed by a voter-approved citizens’ initiative. Whereas the regularly scheduled election rule and two-thirds vote requirement apply to taxes imposed by the government, they do not apply to taxes proposed by citizens through the initiative process. The court put it simply: “taxation imposed by initiative is not taxation imposed by local government.”