The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 13, 2012
Court issues split decision on Proposition 32 language

A Superior Court judge in Sacramento has rendered a split ruling on a lawsuit contesting the language that describes a campaign-finance measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Judge Michael P. Kenny refused to strike a key sentence in the Proposition 32's title and summary that a proponent sued to take out -- although the court agreed with the measure's supporter that some words in Proposition 32's label needed to be strengthened.

Fights over initiative language are common. The titles and summaries appear in the state's voter pamphlet to describe ballot initiatives. Voters see initiatives' labels on the ballot when they vote. Both are written by the attorney general's office.

Kenny refused to strike this sentence from the measure's title and summary: "Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll deduction prohibition."

It's a key point that the Yes on 32 side wants to downplay while unions have seized on that fact to blast the measure as a veiled attack on labor that would leave corporate interests relatively untouched. Unions depend on payroll-deducted money to play in politics, whereas as corporations get funds from individual donations and company treasuries.

He did agree to change words such as "limits" and "restricts" to "prohibits," as the strikeouts show in this snippet of the amended title and summary:

120813 32 title and sum.JPG

The judge agreed to amend the measure's ballot label with the stronger words:

120813 ballot label.JPG

Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ballot label ruling today. Kenny denied it.

Kenny also denied a separate petition to change language in the measure that the plaintiff contended misled voters to believe Proposition 32 allows for voluntary contributions via payroll deduction. The measure bans all payroll deductions.

Both cases were heard by Kenny on Thursday.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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