Stories about California

California ballot measures top $700 million in contributions

In California, campaigns have raised more than $694 million through October 17 to support or oppose statewide ballot measures on the November 3 ballot. An additional $13 million was raised for Proposition 13, which was defeated on March 3, bringing the total for the year to $708 million. In 2018, campaigns for and against 16 measures raised $369 million in California for the entire election cycle.

Of the 12 measures on the November ballot, contributions to the campaigns surrounding four of the measures—Propositions 15, 21, 22, and 23—account for 80 percent of the total contributions. Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors, accounts for 30 percent of this year’s total.

Proposition 22, at $218 million between supporters and opponents, is also the most expensive ballot measure election in California history. The difference in the amount raised by supporters and opponents is 10-to-1. Yes on 22, backed by Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Instacart, received $199 million. No on 22 received $19 million, with labor unions and organizations as the five largest donors. 

Proposition 15, at $124 million, is the second most expensive ballot measure election in California this year. Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price.

Yes on 15 raised $63 million, with a $17-million contribution from the California Teachers Association and a $12-million contribution from Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy. Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy also contributed $2 million to oppose California Proposition 20 and $500,000 to support Oregon Measure 110.

No on Prop 15 raised $61 million, with more than half coming from the California Business Roundtable. The California Business Roundtable was also active in opposing Proposition 21, contributing $6.2 million.

Proposition 21 would allow local governments to enact rent control on housing that was first occupied over 15 years ago, with an exception for landlords who own no more than two homes with distinct titles or subdivided interests. Proposition 21 is similar to 2018’s Proposition 10, which would have allowed local governments to enact rent control without specified limits. The campaigns surrounding Proposition 21 and Proposition 10 involve several of the same organizations. Yes on 21 received $40 million, with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation providing 99 percent of the total. No on 21 received $73 million, including $12 million from Essex Property Trust and $11 million from Equity Residential.

Proposition 23 is also similar to a ballot measure that was defeated in 2018 and involves several of the same supporters and opponents. Proposition 23 would require chronic dialysis clinics to: have an on-site physician while patients are being treated; report data on dialysis-related infections; obtain consent from the state health department before closing a clinic; and not discriminate against patients based on the source of payment for care. Yes on 23 received $9 million, which came from the SEIU-UHW West, a labor union that represents healthcare workers. No on 23 received $105 million—12 times the amount that supporters received. DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, which are both dialysis companies, contributed $67 million and $30 million, respectively.

Across the 12 ballot propositions, three individuals were top donors to several measures related to criminal justice, affirmative action, and voting policies. Connie and Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, contributed a combined $6 million to Yes on 25, which seeks to replace cash bail with risk assessments in California, and $1 million to Yes on 16, which is campaigning to repeal a 1996 state constitutional amendment that prohibited race-based and sex-based affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting.

Patty Quillin, whose spouse is Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, donated $1 million to Yes on 25 and $1 million to Yes on 16. Quillin donated $2 million to No on 20, which opposes a ballot measure to add crimes to the list of violent felonies for which early parole is restricted; recategorize certain types of theft and fraud crimes as wobblers (chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies); and require DNA collection for certain misdemeanors.

Quillin also contributed $250,000 to Yes on 17, which supports an amendment to allow people on parole for felony convictions to vote, and $250,000 to Yes on 18, which supports a constitutional amendment to allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primary elections and special elections.

Across the U.S., more than $1 billion has been raised for 129 statewide ballot measures—120 of which are on the November 3 ballot—so far. After California, the state with the most ballot measure campaign finance activity is Illinois, which only has one measure on the ballot.

In Illinois, more than $110 million has been raised for and against a constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax. Massachusetts and Colorado rank third and fourth. Ballotpedia will track ballot measure contributions and expenditures made through the remainder of the election cycle, which ends on December 31, 2021.

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Both candidates in Los Angeles’ District Attorney election complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey

Incumbent Jackie Lacey and George Gascón are running in the nonpartisan general election for Los Angeles District Attorney. Both candidates completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey. Ballotpedia asks all federal, state, and local candidates to complete a survey so voters can discover what motivates them on political and personal levels.

When asked what areas of public policy they were most passionate about, the candidates’ responses included:

Lacey: “The single biggest issue facing our criminal justice system and our County is how we deal with people suffering from mental illness within the court system. […] I founded and lead the pioneering Criminal Justice Mental Health Project in LA County, which has set priorities for a comprehensive mental health diversion plan that provides alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.”

Gascón: “I am committed to ending mass incarceration. […] While serving as District Attorney of San Francisco, I worked tirelessly to reduce jail and prison populations, and tackle bias by keeping demographic information about suspects from prosecutors as they decide whether to bring charges.”

We asked the candidates, “What was your very first job? How long did you have it?”

Lacey: “My first job was as a sales clerk at a local Sears. I worked there for two years as a minimum wage employee. The experience was grueling at times, to say the least! I continued to work jobs like this in order to help get me through college and eventually law school.”

Gascón: “In high school, I worked 20 hours a week as a “box boy” at a local supermarket. Though only 14 at the time, I pretend to be 16 to satisfy the minimum age requirement. As it was a union job, I actually made more than my parents did, allowing me to help support my family.”

In 2018, 1,957 candidates completed a Candidate Connection survey. This number represents 6.9% of all 28,315 candidates Ballotpedia covered during that cycle. Out of the 1,957 respondents, 477 (24.4%) won their elections.

To read the candidates’ responses and learn more about the race, click here: 

District Attorney election in Los Angeles County, California (2020)

To read more about Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey or if you are a candidate who would like to submit a survey, click here:

Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection

SCOTUS to hear case concerning Fourth Amendment

On Oct. 19, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted review in the case “Lange v. California” for a total of one hour of oral argument during its October Term for 2020-2021. The case originated from the California First District Court of Appeal. “Lange v. California” has not yet been scheduled for argument.

The case:  While Arthur Lange was driving home on the highway in Sonoma, California, California Highway Patrol Officer Aaron Weikert pursued Lange with the intention of conducting a traffic stop. Weikert followed Lange home and activated his overhead lights once Lange pulled into his home’s driveway. Lange pulled into the garage and the garage door began closing behind him. Weikert approached Lange and stopped the garage from closing with his foot. He questioned Lange and asked if Lange knew Weikert was following him. Lange stated that he did not know Weikert was following him. Weikert stated he smelled alcohol on Lange’s breath and charged Lange with driving under the influence.

At trial, Lange claimed that Weikert’s entry into Lange’s home violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution since Weikert did not have a warrant to enter Lange’s home, and the court moved to suppress a video recording of the incident. The trial court concluded that the officer had probable cause, denied the motion to suppress, and issued a conviction for Lange. Following that action, a civil court ruled that Lange’s arrest was unlawful, while an appellate court ruled that the arrest was lawful. On appeal to the California First District Court of Appeal, the court affirmed the conviction.

The issue: Whether the pursuit of a person whom a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualifies as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant.

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for the term on Oct. 5, 2020. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

As of October 19, 2020, the court had agreed to hear 39 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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California governor appoints Jenkins as first nominee to state supreme court

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Martin Jenkins to the California Supreme Court on October 5, 2020. Pending confirmation by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments, Jenkins will succeed Justice Ming Chin, who retired on August 31, 2020. Jenkins is Newsom’s first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under California law, state supreme court justices are recommended by the Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation to the governor. The governor then selects the new justice, who must be confirmed by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Jenkins was an associate judge on the California First District Court of Appeal, Division Three, from 2008 to 2019. He was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). He stepped down in 2019 after Gov. Newsom appointed Jenkins as judicial appointments secretary.

From 1997 to 2008, Jenkins was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. President Bill Clinton (D) nominated Jenkins on July 24, 1997, to a seat vacated by Eugene Lynch. The U.S. Senate confirmed Jenkins on November 9, 1997, and he received commission on November 12. Jenkins served on the Northern District of California until his resignation on April 3, 2008.

Jenkins earned his A.A. from the City College of San Francisco in 1973, his B.A. from Santa Clara University (formerly the University of Santa Clara) in 1976, and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1980.

A press release from Gov. Newsom’s office said Jenkins “would be the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice and only the third African American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court. It has been 29 years since an African American man has served on the California Supreme Court.”

The California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of October 2020, four judges on the court were appointed by Democratic governors and two judges were appointed by Republican governors.

In 2020, there have been 21 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 20 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Campaign contributions to California’s 12 November ballot measures exceed $500 million

In California, more than $525 million has been raised to support or oppose this year’s 12 general election ballot measures through September 19. The next campaign finance deadline—and the final one before the election—in California is October 24. So far, there are four ballot measures that have seen more than $50 million raised.

Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors, is leading the pack with $194.99 million between supporters and opponents. Yes on Proposition 22 received $184.3 million from five app-based firms—Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, InstaCart, and Postmates.

In October 2019, Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign, stated, “We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.”

The campaign No on Prop 22 received $10.7 million. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, SEIU-UHW West, Service Employees International Union, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770, and United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Issues PAC—labor unions or union-affiliated committees—were the top-five donors to No on Prop 22.

Proposition 23, which would create new physician and data requirements for chronic dialysis clinics, is a continuation of the conflict between the SEIU-UHW West and dialysis businesses that also resulted in Proposition 8. In 2018, Proposition 8 was the country’s most expensive ballot measure. The SEIU-UHW West raised $6.21 million for Proposition 23 through September 19. No on 23 received $93.06 million from four dialysis firms—DaVita, Fresenius, U.S. Renal Care, and Dialysis Clinic, Inc.

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. Yes on 15 received $42.9 million, including $11.76 million from the California Teachers Association. Both Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy and SEIU California State Council provided the campaign with more than $7 million each. Opponents, organized as seven political action committees, raised $29.91 million. The California Business Roundtable provided $13.36 million for the opposition campaign.

Like Proposition 23, Proposition 21 follows a similar conflict from 2018. In 2018, voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have repealed the state’s law limiting local government use of rent control. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Proposition 10, is sponsoring the campaign in support of Proposition 21, an initiative to allow local governments to enact rent control on housing that was first occupied over 15 years ago. Yes on 21 received $24.01 million, including $23.94 million from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. No on Prop 21 and allied political action committees raised $41.49 million, including $6.6 million from the Essex Property Trust, $5.6 million from the California Business Roundtable, and $5.5 million from Equity Residential.

In 2018, there were 11 statewide measures on the general election ballot in California. Campaigns supporting and opposing the 11 measures received $362.6 million through the entire election cycle. In 2016, there was a total of $497 million in ballot measure campaign contributions for 18 measures.

There are still 45 days from the most recent campaign finance date (September 19) to the election on November 3, 2020, for campaigns to raise and spend funds. More than 1/3 of the total contributions raised in 2018 were received between late September and the end of the election cycle.

Campaigns supporting and opposing all 128 statewide measures on the ballot in 34 states in 2020 have raised a total of $803.7 million.

Additional reading:
Ballot measure campaign finance, 2020

This article was updated on Oct. 2 at 6:10pm to correct a typo that erroneously stated that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 23. It has been corrected to state that they are sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 21.

With funding from Uber, Lyft, and Doordash, campaign behind California Proposition 22 tops $180 million

California Proposition 22 has become one of the most expensive ballot measure contests to ever appear on a ballot in California. Based on campaign finance reports available on September 4, 2020, the campaign Yes on Proposition 22 received $181.4 million from five rideshare and app-based companies—Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, InstaCart, and Postmates.

Proposition 22 would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. The ballot measure was designed to override Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

In August 2019, DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber provided a combined $90 million to the ballot initiative campaign, which was 18 days before Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 5. The ballot initiative, which became Proposition 22, was filed on October 29, 2019. Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign supporting the initiative, stated, “We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.”

The campaign No on Prop 22 received $4.8 million through September 4. Two labor unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and SEIU-UHW West—provided about 52% of the campaign’s total funds.

Not only is Yes on Proposition 22 the most expensive campaign Ballotpedia has tracked in California, but the combined funds between supporters and opponents—$186.2 million—makes Proposition 22 the most expensive California ballot measure contest overall.

Before Proposition 22, campaigns for four veto referendums against gaming compacts—Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97—raised a combined total of $154,554,073 in contributions. The single most expensive ballot measure was Proposition 87, which had $150,770,683 in total contributions for and against the measure. Proposition 87 would have imposed a severance tax on oil production to fund alternative energy research and projects but was defeated.

Across the United States, the five most expensive ballot measures of 2020 are, to date, California Proposition 22 ($186.2 million), an Illinois constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax ($79.7 million), California Proposition 21 ($32.9 million), Massachusetts Question 1 ($31.3 million), and California Proposition 15 ($26.3 million).

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Uber and Lyft to continue rideshare operations in California ahead of Proposition 22 vote

California residents still have access to Uber and Lyft.

On August 20, the California First District Court of Appeal stayed a superior court judge’s decision, effectively allowing rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to continue operating in the state ahead of a vote on Proposition 22 on November 3. Prop 22 would define app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than classifying them as employees.

Here’s a timeline of how we got here:

  • December 3, 2018: AB 5, which would codify a three-factor test to decide a worker’s status as an independent contractor, was introduced in the California legislature.
  • August 30, 2019: DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber each contributed $30 million into campaign accounts to fund a ballot initiative campaign should the legislature pass AB 5 without compromising with the companies.
  • September 18, 2019: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 5 without an exemption for app-based drivers and employers.
  • October 29, 2019: DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber filed the ballot initiative, which became known as Proposition 22.
    • The ballot measure, which was certified on May 22, 2020, would override AB 5 for app-based drivers. Prop 22 would also enact labor and wage policies that are specific to app-based drivers and companies.
  • January 1, 2020: AB 5 went into effect.
    • Uber and Lyft did not change how their workers are classified. Tony West, the chief legal officer for Uber, said, “Because we continue to believe drivers are properly classified as independent, and because we’ll continue to be responsive to what the vast majority of drivers tell us they want most—flexibility—drivers will not be automatically reclassified as employees. … We expect we will continue to respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court as necessary, just as we do now.”
  • May 5, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Uber and Lyft, alleging the firms were in violation of AB 5 for considering their workers to be independent contractors.
  • August 10, 2020: Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman granted an injunction in favor of Becerra and the city attorneys.
    • Schulman wrote, “Defendants’ [Uber and Lyft] position cannot survive even cursory examination. … To state the obvious, drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing business.” Schulman stayed his injunction until August 20. Both Uber and Lyft appealed the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.
    • Lawyers for Uber and Lyft said that their companies could suspend rideshare operations in the state unless the judge’s injunction was stayed.
  • August 20, 2020: The California First District Court of Appeal temporarily blocked Schulman’s ruling. Instead, the Court of Appeal gave Uber and Lyft until August 25 to file written consents to expedited procedures. Uber and Lyft have until September 4 to file opening briefs, as well as sworn statements from their CEOs confirming that the companies have developed AB 5 implementation plans should Proposition 22 be rejected and the courts uphold the injunction.
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Monique Worrell wins Democratic nomination for Orange County State Attorney

Monique Worrell won the Democratic nomination for Orange County State Attorney in a primary on August 18. As of 9:00 p.m. on election night, Worrell had received 42% of the vote to Belvin Perry Jr.’s 32% and Deborah Barra’s 20%.

Worrell, an attorney and former law professor, had endorsements from vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris (D) and incumbent Aramis Ayala (D), who is not seeking re-election. Worrell will face independent Jose Torroella in the November general election.

California school board recall petition approved for circulation

A petition to recall John Crabtree from his position as president and Trustee Area 4 representative of the Visalia Unified School District Board of Education in California was approved for circulation in August 2020. Recall supporters must collect 2,411 signatures by November 18, 2020, to get the recall on the ballot.

The effort began in June 2020. Recall supporters listed the district’s budget deficit, the board’s decision not to build a fifth high school, and Crabtree’s allegedly negligent leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for the recall effort.

Crabtree responded by saying that the district would not have a deficit if new student projections proved accurate, that the high school plan was canceled in the design phase due to cost increases, and that it was difficult for the district to build a virtual program from scratch at the end of the school year in response to the pandemic.

Crabtree was elected to the board in November 2013 and re-elected in November 2018. His term is scheduled to expire on December 9, 2022.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Signatures filed for California ballot initiative to reduce and tax single-use plastic packaging

On August 11, 2020, signatures were filed for a ballot initiative designed to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging and foodware in California. Proponents reported filing more than 870,000 signatures. At least 623,212 signatures (around 71.64%) need to be valid for the ballot initiative to appear on the ballot on November 8, 2022.

The ballot initiative would require the California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle), in consultation with other agencies, to adopt regulations that require producers to:
  1. make their single-use plastic packaging and foodware recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable;
  2. reduce or eliminate certain single-use plastic packaging or foodware; and
  3. use recycled content and renewable materials in the production of single-use plastic packaging and foodware.

The ballot initiative would also enact a fee, called the California Plastic Pollution Reduction Fee, on single-use plastic packaging and foodware. CalRecycle would determine the fee amount with a maximum amount of 1 cent per item of packaging or foodware. Beginning in 2030, the fee would be adjusted based on changes in the California Consumer Price Index. Revenue from the tax would be distributed to CalRecycle, the California Natural Resources Agency, and local governments.

Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets, also known as Plastics Free California, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. Through June 30, 2020, the campaign received $4.06 million. Recology, Inc. was the largest contributor, providing $3.70 million. Recology, Inc. is a business that provides commercial and residential waste, recycling, and composting services.

The campaign filed the ballot initiative in November 2019 and originally intended to place the proposal on the 2020 ballot. Eric Potashner, vice president of Recology, said the campaign had collected more than 800,000 signatures for the ballot initiative before the suggested deadline of April 21, 2020, but wanted to collect between 900,000 to 950,000. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Potashner said, “Even if I had a million signatures, I don’t know if we’d be submitting this thing till after June anyway. I don’t know if this is the right climate for this measure right now.” Potashner also noted that the ballot initiative’s provisions would not take effect until 2030, “so pushing this issue…to 2022 doesn’t have any practical implications in what we’re trying to do.”

On June 23, 2020, the campaign sued the state to extend the deadline to file signatures beyond July 6. The lawsuit asked the court to extend the deadline until all California counties moved into the third reopening stage following the coronavirus stay-at-home order or by at least 90 days. On July 2, Judge James P. Arguelles ordered that the deadline be extended to September 28, 2020, to account for the shelter-in-place order and coronavirus-related government restrictions.

The ballot initiative is the second to file signatures for the 2022 California ballot. An initiative to increase California’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits filed signatures in May 2020 and was certified for the 2022 ballot on July 21. Signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting are due October 12, 2020.

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