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BURBANK - The California Republican Party and its officehiolders spent heavily to qualify a referendum that would overturn the new state Senate maps drawn by an independent state commission.

The referendum qualified and is Proposition 40 on the November ballot. But the state GOP convention is poised to do a 180-degree turn and urge voters to uphold the Senate districts that it had strenuously opposed.

The party's invitiatives committee voted unanimously for that position Saturday after hearing pleas from the Senate's GOP leader, Bob Huff, and Sen. Mimi Walters. The full convention will vote on Sunday.

Huff and Walters told the committee that the referendum was pushed not so much to get voters to overturn the new districts, but as the basis for a plea to the state Supreme Court to use the previous districts for the 2012 elections.

Ordinarily, something being challenged by referendum is held in abeyance until voters have spoken, but the court declared that even though the referendum had qualified, the commission's new districts would still be used for the 2012 elections. The ruling relied on a 30-year-old Supreme Court decision on another Republican-backed referendum on redistricting.

Republicans have feared that they could lose two of their 15 Senate seats this year, thus giving Democrats a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature's 40-member upper house and enabling them to pass tax increase bills without GOP support.

Huff, however, told the committee that he now believes Repblicans can eke out 14 seats, thus denying Democrats a two-thirds majority, and under the new districts could pick up a seat or two in 2014. Therefore, he now wants the referendum to fail.

Adding more confusion to the situation, the voting rules governing a referendum are different from those of other ballot measures. Huff now wants a "yes" vote on Proposition 40 to affirm the commission's new districts and reject the challenge that the GOP had once bankrolled.

The committee also voted to recommend party support for Proposition 31, a measure sponsored by California Forward to revise the state's budget procedures, with the most controversial provision being a "pay-go" requirement affecting any new spending or tax cut with an impact of $25 million or more.

"Pay-go" would require that such changes include offsetting revenue increases or spending cuts to neutralize their fiscal effects. Unions strongly oppose the concept, seeing it as a spending limit, and some conservatives also oppose it because it would make tax cuts less likely.

Updated at 4:51 p.m. to include Proposition 31 recommendation.


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