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State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, thanks Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, for voting for her measure that would move all statewide initiatives and referendums to the November general election ballot, during the final day of this year's legislative session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. The bill was approved by the Assembly on a 41-28 vote and sent to the Senate.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Any bill that is rushed to passage in the waning hours of a legislative session by gutting and amending an unrelated measure should be considered suspect. Senate Bill 202, by Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, falls into that category.

It would require all statewide initiatives and referendums be limited to general elections in November. Supporters accurately argue that November elections draw more voters to the polls and are more representative of the California electorate.

However, that is not the real reason SB202 was passed. The bill also contains a provision to postpone a scheduled June 2012 vote on whether to amend the California Constitution to strengthen the state's rainy day fund.

Democrats agreed to place that measure on the ballot to win support from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican lawmakers as part of the budget deal.

But SB202 reneges on that promise and would push the rainy day fund question to the November 2014 ballot. That would undermine the budget compromise and needlessly delay action on an issue that is of critical importance in fixing California's dysfunctional budgeting process.

SB202 also raises a couple of constitutional questions that need to be addressed through the normal legislative process, which includes hearings and careful legal analysis.


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Article 2, Section 8 (c) of the California Constitution states, "The secretary of state shall then submit the (ballot) measure at the next general election held at least 131 days after it qualifies or at any special statewide election held before that general election. The governor may call a special statewide election for the measure."

This should not be altered by legislation, but by a constitutional amendment.

Even worse, SB202 could set a dangerous precedent, because placing the rainy day fund measure (ACA4) on a ballot required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

By changing a measure that required a two-thirds vote with only a simple majority vote, SB202 would override the purpose of the two-thirds vote and contradict the state budget deal, setting the stage for a constitutional challenge.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, who authored the rainy day ballot measure, opposed the election switch from June 2012 to November 2014. He rightly stated that lawmakers need to keep their commitments.

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said Democrats "should be ashamed" for forcing the late consideration. He's right; unfortunately, he did not have the courage of his convictions and voted for the bill.

It may well be a good idea to limit ballot measures to general November elections, starting in 2014, to attract the most voters. But such a change should not affect pending measures, break legislative promises and raise constitutional questions, all of which SB202 is guilty of.

We trust that Gov. Jerry Brown will have the good sense to veto SB202 along with any other such measures that fly in the face of open democratic government.