Hip Hip Hooray for Ted Costa

One hour ago the California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 77 WILL appear on the November ballot. Yippee!

Supreme Court allows redistricting initiative on November ballot
- By DAVID KRAVETS, AP Legal Affairs Writer
Friday, August 12, 2005

(08-12) 18:25 PDT San Francisco (AP) --

The California Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to change the way legislative districts are drawn should be placed back on November's special election ballot.

The 4-2 decision overturns a state appellate court ruling that removed the measure because of a wording dispute. It also settles the slate of initiatives voters will decide Nov. 8, unless the governor and the Democratically controlled Legislature agree to a compromise set of reforms in the days ahead.

In its ruling, the San Francisco-based court said it was unconvinced there were different meanings in two different versions of the redistricting measure. The version distributed to voters for the signatures required to place it on the ballot differed from the version submitted to the attorney general's office for review.

The measure's supporters characterized the differences as "stylistic" and said they did not substantively change the initiative's goals.

"We conclude that it would not be appropriate to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote on Proposition 77 at the special election to be held on November 8, 2005, on the basis of such discrepancies," the court's majority wrote.

The decision is a victory for the Republican governor, who has made the redistricting initiative a centerpiece of his so-called "year of reform."

The initiative seeks to strip lawmakers' power to draw congressional and legislative boundaries in California and instead shift that responsibility to a panel of retired judges.

In a statement, Schwarzenegger said he was "pleased that the people of California will have an opportunity to vote on Proposition 77. ... Close to one million Californians signed petitions demanding redistricting reform, and today their voices have been heard."

The governor also is supporting measures that would implement a state spending cap and require teachers to work longer to get off probation. The ballot also includes several other hot button measures, including proposals dealing with minors' abortion rights, prescription drug costs and whether union dues can be used for political purposes.

Supporters of the governor's redistricting measure submitted enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot, but Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued to remove it after its backers disclosed that they used a different version of the initiative during the certification process. The texts differed in 17 places, according to court documents.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled in Lockyer's favor, striking the measure from the ballot July 21. Earlier this week, the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento rejected, in a 2-1 vote, an attempt by its backers to restore it.

Lockyer said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision and said he had brought the challenge to defend the integrity of the initiative process.

"The outcome in this case presents a serious danger of opening up the initiative process to bait-and-switch tactics that deceive voters and erode their trust," he said in a statement.

Voting to overturn the Sacramento appeals court were Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Marvin Baxter, Justice Ming Chen and Richard Aldrich, a Los Angeles appellate justice sitting on assignment.

Dissenting were justices Carlos Moreno and Joyce Kennard. Justice Kathryn Werdegar was unavailable and did not participate. The court normally has seven members, but Schwarzenegger has not yet replaced Janice Rogers Brown, who left last month to sit on a federal appeals court.

It was the second time this summer the high court has overturned an appellate court decision and left an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Last month, the justices overturned the same appeals court and ordered election officials to place an initiative that would re-regulate the state's electricity market back on the ballot.

In a 6-0 decision, the court said the constitutionality of Proposition 80 could be decided after the election if it's approved by voters. They said it was "usually more appropriate to review constitutional and other challenges to ballot propositions or initiative measures after an election" unless there was "some clear showing of invalidity."

Proposition 80, a reaction to the state's 2001 energy crisis, is supported by consumer groups and would require electric service providers to be regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Opponents of the redistricting measure still believe they will defeat it at the polls, said Lance Olson, an attorney representing Californians for Fair Representation-No on 77.

"The court still hasn't ruled on the merits," he said. "We still think the measure was qualified illegally, but we're not likely to find out because we're certain that this issue will be defeated at the polls. That's where we'll turn our focus now."

California voters have rejected four redistricting attempts since 1982.

Schwarzenegger has been an outspoken critic of the system, which he has called unrepresentative and undemocratic.

After the 2000 census, lawmakers of both parties approved a redistricting scheme that allowed districts to be drawn in a way that heavily favored candidates of only one party. Of the 153 congressional and state legislative races in November 2004, not a single seat changed parties.

The last time a redistricting measure came before the justices was 1999, when it removed from the ballot a measure placing redistricting in the hands of the judiciary.

The justices invalidated the measure before the election because it contained a separate and unrelated question — how much lawmakers could earn. The justices said ballot initiatives must deal with only one subject at a time, as the California Constitution demands.

The case is Costa v. Superior Court, S136294.


Associated Press Political Writer Beth Fouhy contributed to this report.

Thanks to Jon Fleischman (my new best friend) for the heads up with his Flash Report.

Thanks to Breaker at Right on the Left Beach for the photo of Ted.