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With time running out to set a June special election on taxes, Gov. Jerry Brown is considering turning to the initiative process to qualify tax measures for a November ballot.

But the possible "Plan B" would also be tight on time under the elections code, with proponents having as little as three weeks to collect the hundred of thousands of signatures needed to qualify in time for an early November election.

That might explain why The Bee is hearing that an announcement on an initiative campaign could come as early as this week if talks with GOP legislators don't produce enough support for the legislative route.

The path to qualify for the ballot set out in the state election code can run more than seven months, allowing for a 150-day period for proponents to circulate petitions and at least 38 days for local election officials to count and verify petition signatures.

Adding to the crunch is the requirement that the initiative gets the green light for the ballot at least 131 days before the election, meaning the deadline for qualifying for an early November election would fall in late June or early July.

If it took the full time allotted for drafting the title and summary and counting and verifying the signatures through a random sampling process, proponents would face a window of roughly three weeks to gather the signatures needed for each initiative.

That's no easy feat. In order to qualify an initiative, proponents must submit the valid signatures of either 504,760 or 807,615 registered voters, depending on whether the measure is drafted as a statutory change or a constitutional amendment.

Another complicating factor? The shorter the time frame, the more cash it typically costs to pay the droves of paid-signature gatherers needed to circulate those petitions in a crunch. Expect to see Brown's supporters ponying up big bucks soon if this is the chosen route.

Here are some of the key benchmarks in the initiative qualifying calendar:

40: The minimum number of days the attorney general's office has to request and receive a fiscal impact report and draft a title and summary once an initiative proposal is submitted for review (the 25-day period for producing the fiscal impact report doesn't include weekends or holidays).
150: The number of days proponents have to collect and submit the signatures needed to qualify.
8: The number of days counties have to produce a raw count of signatures submitted.
30: The number of days counties have to produce a random sampling of signatures submitted. If the validity rate projects a total greater than 110 percent of the signatures required, the initiative qualifies. If it fails to hit that mark but is projected to be at least 95 percent of the signatures needed, officials have 30 more days to verify every signature.
131: The number of days before the election that the initiative must qualify for the ballot

See the full rundown of dates and requirements for qualifying for the ballot at this link.


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