Ballot measures in limbo as November ballot deadline looms

A measure to change the state’s term-limits law failed to qualify for the November ballot, and is likely to go before voters in 2012.

The measure would allow lawmakers to serve 12 years in either legislative house and do away with the current limits of three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms. The measure is backed by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. It is opposed by U.S. Term Limits.

Proponents submitted more than 970,000 signatures to county election officials. Counties then conducted a random sampling of those signatures to check validity rates in every county. In order to skip a full count of signatures, a measure must be on track to return 763,790 valid signatures. The term-limits proposal fell short of that threshold and must now go through the full counting process. That process is expected to carry beyond the June 24 deadline for measures to qualify for the November ballot.

Matt Klink, a spokesman for the initiative, said they were disappointed the measure would not be before voters in November, but are comfortable that they will qualify for the 2012 ballot after a full count is complete. And he took a swipe at Kimball Petition Management, the signature gathering firm hired to acquire signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.

“We submitted 979,281 signatures, which was less than we were promised,” Klink said. “We were promised well over 1 million signatures.”

As the term limits measure heads to a full count, six other proposals are awaiting results of the random sampling to see if they will qualify for the November ballot. The deadline for counties to conduct those sample tests varies depending on when a particular measure submitted their signatures to county officials. Some of those county deadlines extend beyond the June 24 deadline which means some of the measures current pending signature verification may also be left off the November ballot.

First in line at the county offices is a coalition of local government and transit officials who are asking voters to strengthen protections for local government revenues. A spokeswoman for the campaign, Kathy Fairbanks, says they are not concerned about missing the deadline because their deadline for random sampling is before the June 24 deadline from the secretary of state.

“We started really early before it got super crowded on the street,” she said. “That was part of our strategy to get out their quickly. That keeps the price down, too.”
Three measures already have qualified for November. The water bond placed on the ballot by state lawmakers, a measure to legalize marijuana and a proposal to raise vehicle registration fees to pay for state parks.

In addition to the local government measure, there are five measures that have submitted signatures for verification in hopes of qualifying for November. They include a suspension of the state’s greenhouse gas law, and a measure to make it harder to raise fees in the Legislature – both backed by business groups. Labor unions are backing proposals to allow the state budget to be passed with a simple majority vote and a proposal to roll back corporate tax cuts scheduled to go into effect this summer. Democrats in Congress are also seeking a measure that would repeal Proposition 11, the state’s redistricting law passed by voters in 2008.

Five of the measures have deadlines after the July 24 cut-off set by the secretary of state. But the campaigns seem confident, at this point, that counties will scramble to make next week’s deadline.

“We turned in enough signatures, and our validity rate is fine,” said Andrew Acosta, a spokesman for the majority-vote ballot measure. “It all looks like it’s on track for November. We’re confident the counties will continue their work” and be finished by next Thursday. Technically, counties have until July 5 to complete their count on the measure.

Ned Wigglesworth, a spokesman for both the AB 32 suspension and the measure that would make it harder to raise fees, said they are monitoring county officials to make sure their measures are tallied before the Democratic-backed measures that were submitted after theirs.

“We’re monitoring the counties closely to make sure they don’t jump any measures in front of those we’ve submitted,” he said.

Some counties are notoriously slow in providing their counts. Alameda and Contra Costa counties did not provide their sampling numbers on the term-limits measure until the last possible day. The state parks measure qualified for the ballot before Alameda ever submitted their sample count.

The issue is particularly precarious for the redistricting measure. They were last to hand in their signatures, and the measure itself would effectively be rendered moot if it is not on the November ballot. The measure seeks to preempt changes in the way the state draws legislative districts – districts that will be drawn in 2011. If the measure is not on the ballot until 2012, it would be too late to impact the next round of legislative map making.

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