Very unlikely allies….

Opponents of Proposition 1A are coming from all ends of the ideological spectrum, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Some will oppose the extension of tax increases from 2 years to 5 years. Others oppose the spending cap that will prevent restoration and reforms to health programs and in fact force cuts, next year and thereafter, to health and other vital services.

But I think any observer can agree that the ballot title, summary, and analysis of this proposal is s simply false and misleading. Prop 1A was hastily drafted with no public input, and now they are using false and misleading language in ballot materials in a clear effort to distort what the measure will actually do.

At issue is the process used to communicate fair and impartial information to voters. In a normal election cycle, every ballot measure is included in a ballot pamphlet distributed to the voters to protect them from being misled. The ballot pamphlet typically includes the following: the text of the measure to be considered; a 100-word title and summary and shorter ballot label prepared by the Attorney General; an “impartial analysis” prepared by the Legislative Analyst’s Office; and the arguments and rebuttals for and against the measure.

However, the legislation setting the special election, SB 19, changed this process significantly. For the six measures to be considered by voters, the Legislature has taken the responsibility for preparing the ballot label and title and summary away from the Attorney General and has imposed its own ballot label and title and summary for each of these proposed measures.

Dr. Geroge Lakoff, a professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, in an analysis of the current Prop 1A title and summary, notes that it contains phrases like “over-spending,” “rainy-day fund” and “reform.” “None of the words and phrases discussed is neutral,” said Lakoff. “In each case, the language prejudices voters towards passage of the proposition and toward the political and economic views of the proponents of the proposition.”

So today, Anthony Wright of Health Access California joined a suit with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in Superior Court to correct both the ballot label and the title and summary of the measure. The lawsuit contends the language chosen by the Legislature to describe these measures, including Proposition 1A, is not “fair and impartial,” but is extremely one-sided and is written in such a way as to persuade voters to adopt the Legislature’s proposals.

Another glaring omission in both the ballot label and title and summary is the absence of any reference to the extension of tax increases which are currently tied to approval of Proposition 1A. Specifically, there is no mention anywhere in those materials that Proposition 1A, if passed, would authorize the extension of three tax increases totaling some $16 billion which were adopted by the Legislature as part of the “budget package” in late February of 2009.

Unlike the arguments for and against a measure, those portions of the ballot pamphlet prepared by the government—the title and summary, the ballot label and the fiscal analysis—are required to be impartial and complete to protect voters from being misled.

We’ll keep you posted.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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