CA Supreme Court, on 6-1 Vote, Allows Gov. Brown’s Criminal Justice Initiative to Go Forward

Brown v. Superior Court:

Here we consider the scope of Elections Code provisions enacted in 2014, which created a new process by which a proposed initiative measure is submitted for public comment. (Elec. Code, § 9002.)1 After the comment period, the Attorney General prepares an official circulating title and summary, including an estimate of the measure‟s fiscal impact. (§ 9004.) The proponents may then solicit signatures to qualify their measure for the ballot.

The Legislature specified that any amendments to a measure submitted for comment must be “reasonably germane to the theme, purpose, or subject of the initiative measure as originally proposed.” (§ 9002(b).) In this case, proponents decided to amend their measure, deleting some provisions and adding others that were supported by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Challengers sought a writ of mandate requiring the Attorney General to reject the amendments. The trial court granted the writ, finding that the revised measure failed to meet the requirements of section 9002. The proponents, joined by the Governor, sought emergency relief in this court. We temporarily stayed the trial court‟s judgment and issued an order to show cause. We now grant the requested relief and direct the trial court to vacate its judgment. As discussed in detail below, the legislative history and statutory language demonstrate that the Legislature intended the comment period to facilitate feedback, not to create a broad public forum. Nor did the Legislature preclude substantive amendments. It required only that any amendments be “reasonably germane” to the original measure‟s aims. (§ 9002(b).) While the new process imposes time constraints on various governmental functions, the constraints are similar to those that existed under the former statutory scheme. In particular, the Legislature continued existing law relating to fiscal analyses of the impacts of proposed measures.

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