SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

California and Local Measures on the November Ballot

California and Local Measures on the November Ballot

While the focus in November is on the top of the ticket, Californians will confront a formidable ballot on November 3, 2020. Propositions 15, 19, and 21 will impact California real estate and we include an overview of these propositions below. San Francisco voters have 13 San Francisco propositions to consider in addition to state and federal offices and measures. The local propositions address an array of topics, including governance, affordable housing, taxes, and permits. Some of the key measures impacting San Francisco businesses are summarized below. Except where indicated, the measures require a simple majority vote to pass. California...

Farewell (for now) to the SAT and ACT in UC admissions

Farewell (for now) to the SAT and ACT in UC admissions

Overview In September 2020, an Alameda County judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting University of California undergraduate campuses from accepting SAT or ACT test scores for admissions or financial aid purposes.[1] In a seventeen-page order, Judge Brad Seligman found that the UC’s current “test-optional” policy constituted unlawful discrimination toward persons with disabilities under California’s Education Code and Unruh Civil Rights Act. This article discusses the unique constitutional deference and autonomy the UC system receives, explains why it is still subject to certain legislative regulation, and outlines both the case and possible future developments. Analysis Didn’t the UC system already plan...

State-mandated COVID-19 vaccination is constitutional

State-mandated COVID-19 vaccination is constitutional

Overview Public health experts are concerned that the nation will fail to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 — even after a vaccine becomes available. This is not borrowing trouble: there are already signs that some citizens will refuse inoculations, and states have struggled for years against a public misinformation cabal on vaccines, which has caused resurgent outbreaks of measles and other diseases that only occur when parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Many citizens currently reject even non-invasive disease-fighting techniques like wearing masks in public. Accordingly, it appears certain that at least some will refuse to be inoculated against COVID-19...

How California lives with two legislatures

How California lives with two legislatures

Overview California has two legislative bodies: the electorate and the legislature. Practical experience and separation-of-powers theory teach that two political actors simultaneously wielding the same governmental power is a recipe for disaster. Conflict is inevitable, and the greatest risk is a problem known as cycling: when two actors share a power, policy issues can cycle repeatedly between the actors and never be resolved. In this article we examine how the legislative powers of the California electorate and the legislature interact, and use a current initiative proposal as a practical example to show how the restrictions on the legislature’s ability to...

The proposed Palo Alto wealth tax has many defects

The proposed Palo Alto wealth tax has many defects

Overview In Palo Alto, a man named Kevin Creaven recently published a notice of intent to begin gathering signatures to qualify a local ballot measure titled “The Wealth Tax Initiative.” The proposed measure would “levy a 2% wealth tax on net worth above $50 million, and a 3% wealth tax on net worth above $1 billion dollars; the revenue will be used to provide every permanent resident of [Palo Alto] a one-time payment of $2,500.” This article details the legal issues a court would likely address when reviewing this ballot proposal. We conclude that the measure is vulnerable to multiple...

The California Supreme Court’s Decision In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey Will Not End City Planning

The California Supreme Court’s Decision In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey Will Not End City Planning

Overview In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey, the California Supreme Court granted citizens the right to challenge zoning ordinances by referendum — even though a successful referendum would reject zoning that conformed with an amended general plan and leave inconsistent zoning in place.[1] Bushey resolved a tension between honoring the electorate’s constitutional referendum power and state land use law requiring zoning be consistent with the general plan.[2] The decision held that the referendum power prevails when a government has some other means to achieve consistency between the zoning and the general plan.[3] This changes the law from previous Court...

California’s quarantine orders need not exempt churches

California’s quarantine orders need not exempt churches

Overview Some churches have resisted California’s quarantine orders, even suing the state for exemptions. These churches argue that the religious liberty guarantees in the federal and state constitutions require California to accommodate them by allowing in-person religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. That argument lacks merit. The state can limit otherwise sacrosanct constitutional rights when necessary to defend public health. In a pandemic, the federal constitution does not require the government to treat churches differently from other places where people might gather and spread contagion. The California constitution is even more restrictive, and generally prohibits the state from preferring churches...

California can restrict, but not close its borders.

California can restrict, but not close its borders.

Overview In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several states have taken steps to limit travel into their states. Governors in Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas implemented interstate travel restrictions. In one instance, a state’s governor considered stopping cars with license plates from a specific state suffering more acutely from COVID-19 than others. Going forward, other states may consider similar measures, especially as some states that have benefited from taking strong measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 face the prospect of exposing their citizens to sources from outside their state. In light of recent discussion about the balance of power...

The California Attorney General’s constitutional authority over criminal justice reform during the COVID-19 pandemic

The California Attorney General’s constitutional authority over criminal justice reform during the COVID-19 pandemic

Overview The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed nearly every aspect of life in California, including our criminal justice system.[1] It also may portend economic dire straits.[2] These circumstances will compel California to make difficult choices, including in the capital case arena — which has always been “the antithesis of efficient and effective use of government time and resources.”[3] The state Attorney General can mitigate some of these issues by using that office’s constitutional authority to exercise leadership in criminal justice reform. This can be done by acknowledging errors in capital and other criminal cases, arguing for changes in existing law where...

The pandemic exposes the need to fix the federalism debate

The pandemic exposes the need to fix the federalism debate

Overview During the 2008 financial crisis, President-elect Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”[1] The present pandemic is no exception. Examples of political and economic opportunities abound: the debates over the appropriate legislative response to the pandemic,[2] schemes to defraud frightened consumers and merchants,[3] the emergence of a “coronavirus economy,”[4] and even the mad dashes to hoard ordinary goods like toilet paper,[5] groceries,[6] and personal protective equipment.[7] And given the human propensity to forget our vulnerabilities between crises, the more negative of these examples will likely repeat themselves. Yet...