Legislature v. Weber: California Supreme Court Pulls Initiative 1935 from November Ballot


On June 20, 2024, the California Supreme Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Secretary of State to pull Initiative No. 1935, also known as the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (“TPA”), from the upcoming November 2024 general election ballot. In the case of Legislature v. Weber, Justice Liu, writing for the Court’s 7-0 opinion, concluded that the changes proposed by the TPA would “substantially alter our basic plan of government,” and therefore “cannot be enacted by initiative.”

Background on Initiative 1935

Initiative 1935, or the TPA, was proposed by the California Business Roundtable. The TPA would have changed significant portions of Article XIII of the California Constitution, reclassifying fee structures and requiring a higher voter-margin to pass most voter-initiated special taxes.

Proponents of the initiative have claimed to be cracking down on the loopholes created by legislators and court rulings on voter-approved tax accountability measures, emphasizing California’s increasing taxes and fees. Opponents, with some referring the TPA as the “Taxpayer Deception Act,” argued that the TPA would significantly disrupt governmental functions and effectively eliminate state funding for programs, such as the disability insurance or paid family leave. Opponents also advocated that the TPA would prevent the government from acting expediently in state emergencies and force many governmental charges, such as parking fines, to go through an election with a two-thirds vote requirement.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan agency, analyzed the fiscal effects of the TPA and determined it would lower annual state and local revenues, potentially by a substantial amount.

California Supreme Court’s June 20th Opinion

The Court first distinguished between an amendment and a revision to the California Constitution (“Constitution”). While amendments to the Constitution can be made via voter-initiative, revisions, which are far-reaching changes that would alter the basic functioning of the government, must undergo the legislative process or through a Constitutional Convention.

Analyzing the history of the Constitution, such as how the taxing power has always been a central authority of the Legislature, the Court concluded that the TPA would create significant changes that substantially alter our basic plan of government, and thus cannot be enacted by voter-initiative. The Court endorsed the opponents’ argument that the TPA would disrupt the Legislature’s taxing authority, prevent state or local governments from delegating fee-determining authority to executive agencies, and expand the referendum power to encompass all fees imposed by state and local agencies. The Court agreed that these are significant changes of governmental function and shifts of power between the executive and the legislative branches to amount to a revision of the Constitution.

Therefore, without discussing the merits of TPA itself, the Court, focusing merely on the procedural validity, concluded that because the TPA is a revision of the Constitution, the TPA cannot move forward on the November ballot via voter-initiative.

Special thanks to Benjamin Chen, our FCPPG law clerk, for his extensive work on this alert.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.

© 2024 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo

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