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A ballot measure aimed at protecting a multi-billion-dollar stream of federal revenue for California hospitals from legislative interference apparently won't appear on the November ballot.

The California Hospital Association said Tuesday that random sampling of signatures for its ballot measure by election officials indicate that it would require a full signature count to qualify – if it does – and "based on this information, it is not likely that the ballot measure will qualify by the June 26 deadline to appear on the November 4, 2014 general election ballot."

The organization submitted 1.2 million signatures and needs 807,615 valid registered voter names to make the ballot, but the random sampling indicates it won't meet the threshold without a full count.

The proposed measure is a constitutional amendment that would require voter approval of any change in a special fee that's been levied on hospitals since 2009 to provide matching funds for about $2 billion year in federal funds to treat low-income patients.

The hospitals agreed to the fee as the state struggled to balance its budget each year and want it to continue indefinitely because they receive much more in extra revenue than the fee costs them.

If a full signature count qualifies the measure, it would appear on the ballot in 2016. Meanwhile, the fee is likely to continue.

Through March, proponents' campaign committee had raised more than $51 million and spent $27.1 million – including $1.6 million for signature gatherers and $25 million to reserve advertising time for a planned fall campaign. The committee had $24 million on hand as of March 31.

PHOTO: Angela Torrens of Rocklin signs a petition in front of the Bel Air grocery store in Rocklin in September 2007 to qualify a tribal-casino referendum for the ballot. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton



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