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California Supreme Court hearing exposes politicians' disregard for voters – Orange County Register

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, applauds newly sworn-in California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 30, 2023. Rivas replaces current Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon , D- Lakewood, who has held the position since 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last Wednesday, the California Supreme Court heard Legislature v. Weber, a lawsuit by Governor Newsom and Democrats in the House to remove from the ballot a properly qualified constitutional amendment initiative called the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA).

If the TPA goes into effect, it will restore key provisions of Prop. 13 and other voter-approved ballot measures, giving taxpayers, not politicians, more control over when and how new tax revenue is collected. If California is ever to have a chance of restoring its former glory, TPA is critical because the legislature and courts have created massive loopholes and confusion in long-established tax law and policy over the last decade. TPA closes these loopholes and provides new protections to increase accountability and transparency about how politicians spend our tax dollars. It represents the only long-term check on the otherwise unlimited power of a progressive two-thirds and supermajority legislature to raise taxes.

As support for TPA grows, so does the desperation of its critics, which explains the efforts of the governor and legislature to use the courts to keep TPA off the ballot. But the question voters are asking is how can a properly qualified ballot measure that has received more than 1.4 million signatures of support simply be removed from the ballot?

The legal theory advanced by the governor and the legislature is that TPA is an attempt at an improper “revision” of the state constitution, not just an amendment. Only the legislature can propose a “revision,” and it requires both a two-thirds majority in each House of Representatives and ratification by the statewide electorate.

Put simply, the difference between a “revision” of the Constitution and an “amendment” is that the former either represents a fundamental change to our basic form of government or strips a branch of government of one of its core powers. Neither does TPA. Since the early 20th century, when direct democracy rights were created in California, courts have found only two measures to exceed this limit. In fact, a similar challenge to Prop. 13 was defeated in 1978.

The “appeal” argument is very weak and several Supreme Court justices pushed opposing counsel during oral argument. (A final decision is expected in June).

Legal arguments aside, the attempt to prevent voters from deciding the fate of the TPA at the ballot box reflects the divide between our political ruling class and ordinary citizens. In California, under one-party rule, taxpayers are treated as second-class citizens who only exist to serve politicians by handing over ever-increasing tax revenues that politicians covet. This money, in turn, is used to reward those interests that support those in power with massive campaign contributions.

But that's why we have direct democracy. While the original Progressive movement aimed to break the political stranglehold of the railroads, today the special interests are overwhelmingly public sector organizations – government agencies and public employees paid with your tax dollars.

Anna Harden

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