Late last month, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley admonished state Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s mischaracterizing of an initiative put forward by Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, to repeal the recently enacted gas tax increases as “flawed” and potentially “misleading” to voters.
As written by the attorney general’s office, the proposal was said to eliminate “recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.” Such a description clearly downplayed the fact that the measure was targeting recently enacted gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases.
Fortunately, after the lawsuit by Allen and a rewrite of the measure’s title and summary by the judge, the new question before voters reads: “Repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees.”
This new, more neutral framing of the proposal is closer to the truth and more properly reflects the purpose of the measure. But it really shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit and a rewriting by a judge.
For whatever pretense of impartiality and fairness an elected attorney general might have, the fact is that partisanship routinely creeps into ballot initiatives, particularly when they threaten the wishes of the political establishment.
As Becerra’s office did with Allen’s gas tax repeal, then-attorney general Kamala Harris did the same thing with an effort by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio to put pension reforms before the voters.
Harris went on the describe the effort as eliminating “constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree health care benefits for current public employees,” with further language so biased the author’s pulled their initiative.
The best way to remove such partisanship is to assign responsibility for ballot…