Only Simple Majority Required (Again!): California Court of Appeal Holds SF’s Proposition G Citizen Initiative Did Not Require Supermajority Voter Approval; Reconsideration Request Pending

California’s Court of Appeal again held that a special tax measure placed on the local ballot as a citizen initiative required only a simple majority, not a supermajority, vote to pass.  Seal_of_San_Francisco

Proposition G is a school parcel tax initiative that passed on San Francisco’s June 2018 ballot with 60.76% of the vote. The Proposition G school parcel tax is a special tax—in other words, the expenditure of its revenues is dedicated to a specific project or projects—and not a general tax, which revenues roll into the locality’s general fund. Here, the Proposition G school parcel tax funds are earmarked for educators’ salaries, staffing, professional development, technology, charter schools, and oversight of funding.

Appellants challenged the validity of the tax by arguing two-thirds supermajority voting requirements added to California’ Constitution decades ago (e.g., through Propositions 13 (1978) and 218 (1996)) should apply to the Proposition G citizen initiative. Reiterating the same reasoning applied by several court opinions over the last few years, the court concluded these supermajority voting requirements added to California’s Constitution are not applicable to valid citizen initiatives. Appellants attempted to distinguish this case from the previous cases by arguing a provision of Proposition 218 was unique to parcel taxes, requiring a two-thirds vote. Appellants also argued that because Proposition G was created and promoted by local government officials it was not a not a valid “citizen” initiative. The court rejected appellants’ arguments and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the City and County of San Francisco.

Appellants have filed a request for reconsideration of the decision. Because the California Supreme Court denied review of the opinion of City and County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of Proposition C, see Pillsbury’s coverage here, this request for reconsideration will likely be Appellants last chance at prevailing on its challenge to Proposition G.