Four years ago, Republican presidential candidates hold second debate

 The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, September 16, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Four years ago, Republican presidential candidates hold second debate
  2. California judge rules citizen-initiated local tax measures require two-thirds voter approval, state Supreme Court likely to decide issue
  3. Register for our September 30 Ballotpedia Insights session

Four years ago, Republican presidential candidates hold second debate

One thing I like to do is review our archive of news briefings from the last presidential election. Four years ago today—on September 16, 2015—Republicans held their second debate of the 2016 cycle. 

Fifteen candidates were invited to participate. The field was split into two segments with those candidates with the lowest polling averages debating in an early segment—often referred to in the media as an undercard—and those candidates with the highest polling averages participating in the debate that followed. The following 11 candidates—based on an average of all qualifying polls—participated in the second half of the event:

  • Jeb Bush
  • Ben Carson
  • Chris Christie
  • Ted Cruz
  • Carly Fiorina
  • Mike Huckabee
  • John Kasich
  • Rand Paul
  • Marco Rubio
  • Donald Trump
  • Scott Walker

The debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and sponsored by CNN, Salem Media Group and The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Jake Tapper, Hugh Hewitt, and Dana Bash were the moderators.

CNN announced the rules for which candidates would participate in May 2015. Those criteria specified that qualifying candidates must have: 

  • visited at least two of the following states no later than August 26—Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina;
  • one or more paid campaign aides working in at least two of the four states listed above by August 26; and
  • attained an average of 1 percent or higher in three national polls released between July 16, 2015, and September 10, 2015, as recognized by CNN.

Four candidates—Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum—participated in the first half of the event from 6:20 to 7:50 p.m. Eastern Time. Each had achieved an average of at least one percent in three national polls but were outside the top 11 candidates. Rick Perry was also originally scheduled to participate but he suspended his campaign five days earlier—on September 11, 2015.

The rules for both halves of the debate were the same. Candidates were each allowed 30 seconds at the beginning of the debate to introduce themselves. They had one minute to respond to direct questions, and, if another candidate mentioned their name, they were given 30 seconds for a rebuttal. At the end of each debate, candidates offered one-minute responses to the question of how the world would look after they left office.

Both halves of the debate featured significant deviations from these rules. Candidates engaged in direct back-and-forth exchanges with one another multiple times. Questions came from the three moderators and social media users. Topics ranged from leadership styles, qualifications, and electability to immigration, social security, the tax code, climate change, and foreign policy. 

The second half of the debate touched on a range of political, domestic, foreign policy and national security issues. The graph below shows the distribution of speaking time by the candidates:

2016 Debate

Trump had the most speaking time with 19.5 minutes and Walker had the least at 8.0 minutes. Walker suspended his campaign the following week—on September 21, 2015. In last week’s third Democratic debate—held September 12—Joe Biden had the most speaking time at 17.4 minutes.

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California judge rules citizen-initiated local tax measures require two-thirds voter approval, state Supreme Court likely to decide issue

A California Superior Court judge ruled September 5 that a local tax measure in Fresno was properly considered defeated because it required a two-thirds vote for approval. Judge Kimberly Gaab’s decision regarding the two-thirds vote requirement for Fresno Measure P differs from a ruling by Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman in a different case that the state’s supermajority vote requirement for local special taxes applied to tax measures referred to the ballot by lawmakers, but not to citizen initiatives. Because of the disagreement in rulings from the two superior court judges, the California Supreme Court will likely be the final arbiter upon appeal.

Fresno Measure P was designed to enact a 0.375% sales tax for 30 years to fund city parks, recreation, streets, and arts. It was put on the ballot by a citizen initiative and received approval from 52% of voters in 2018. The city certified the measure as defeated. The group Fresno Building Healthy Communities filed a lawsuit on February 1, 2019, claiming that because Measure P was a citizen initiative, it did not need to meet the supermajority requirement.

In July, Judge Schulman ruled that two 2018 ballot measures in San Francisco that were supported by a majority—but less than two-thirds—of voters were properly certified as approved by city officials. Both initiatives authorized taxes on certain city businesses to fund specific purposes.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 218 which included the requirement that local governments may only enact, extend, or increase a special tax with a two-thirds supermajority vote of the electorate. Following its passage, the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement was applied to legislative referrals and citizen initiatives.

In August 2017, the California Supreme Court categorized taxes imposed by citizen initiatives as separate from taxes imposed by local governments in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland. This ruling brought the supermajority vote requirement into question for special taxes proposed through citizen initiatives.

Judge Gaab said that the ruling in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland upon which the plaintiffs’ arguments were based differentiated between the election date issue addressed directly by the supreme court and the supermajority requirement issue. Her ruling stated, “The two-thirds vote requirement is not placed on the ‘local government.’ Rather, proposed special taxes must be ‘submitted to the electorate,’ which must approve the proposals by a two-thirds vote.” 

Prior to hearing arguments in the case, Judge Gaab stated that the vote threshold for citizen initiative tax measures “is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court or Legislature.” 

In 2018, eight local citizen initiatives in California proposing special taxes were approved by more than a simple majority but less than a two-thirds supermajority vote. Local officials declared two of the measures to be defeated based on the two-thirds supermajority requirement. The other six measures were certified as approved. 

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Register for our September 30 Ballotpedia Insights session

Our next Ballotpedia Insights session will discuss ways that cities should approach growth and development. Our Director of Outreach, Sarah Rosier, will interview Charles Marohn—an engineer and urban planner—about his upcoming book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.

Ballotpedia Insights is a Q&A series with political and legal scholars, researchers, reporters, and subject matter experts. Each installment, we host a new speaker and ask them tailored questions designed to gain in-depth insight into their work. They’re a great opportunity to learn from some leading professionals involved in politics. They’re free to register and attend.

Among the topics to be discussed are the author’s opinions on the following questions:

  • Does growth and development work to resolve urban financial struggles?
  • Does new development generate wealth?
  • What is the best way to strengthen local communities?

Marohn is the Founder and President of Strong Towns. He is a professional engineer in Minnesota and a land-use planner with two decades of experience. He was also featured in the documentary film Owned: A Tale of Two Americans and he was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen, a website about urban planning. 

The webinar will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Register today→