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A state appeals court today ruled that the state Legislature did not have authority to draft its own ballot language for the successful high-speed rail bond measure lawmakers placed on the 2008 ballot.

State law tasks the state attorney general with writing an impartial ballot title, label and official summary for "measures to be voted on throughout the State," though the Legislature has in the past drafted language for measures it places on the ballot with a two-thirds vote.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association had challenged the ballot language for Proposition 1A, arguing the Legislature used its pen to "lavish praise on its measure in language that virtually mirrored the argument in favor of the proposition."

The appeals court sided with HJTA, ruling in a 23-page decision published today.

"Simply stated, the Legislature cannot dictate the ballot label, title and official summary for a statewide measure unless the Legislature obtains approval of the electorate to do so prior to placement of the measure on the ballot," the decision reads.

HJTA President Jon Coupal applauded the decision, saying "no longer can the California Legislature use the ballot pamphlet as a biased advertising for its own pet ballot measures."

The decision does not invalidate the passage of the high-speed rail act, which was approved with roughly 52 percent of the vote. It is unclear how it will impact the water bond and "rainy day fund" measures already approved for future ballots.

Read the full decision here.


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