A San Francisco trial court judge has ruled that Proposition G, a parcel tax to fund educational purposes that passed with a 60.76% vote in 2018, is a valid voter initiative that did not require a two-thirds supermajority vote like local special taxes introduced by mayors or local boards of supervisors. The same deciding judge already issued a pair of rulings in favor of San Francisco last July on similar supermajority vote validity-challenging actions concerning San Francisco’s Homelessness Gross Receipts Tax and Early Care and Education Commercial Rents Tax. Both previous rulings are currently under separate appeals in the First District Court of Appeal.
(This article originally was published by Law360 on August 21, 2019.)
The repercussions of the California Supreme Court’s August 2017 opinion in California Cannabis Coalition, et al. v. City of Upland, et al.1 continue to reverberate, leading San Francisco’s business taxpayers to wonder what practical precautions to consider.
In a February article, we analyzed the Upland opinion, the over 40-year history of California’s two-thirds supermajority voting requirement for passing local special taxes, and an introduction to the first five post-Upland litigation challenges, including San Francisco actions involving the validity of two separate Proposition C voter initiatives that passed in 2018 with a majority but not a supermajority vote. In a follow-up article last month, we provided an update on the status of these five supermajority tax challenges pending around the state, including trial court decisions made in the two San Francisco Proposition C actions.
Despite the narrow issue it originally addressed, the August 2017 decision by the California Supreme Court in California Cannabis Coal. v. City of Upland has sparked a much larger debate regarding whether local special taxes introduced by voter initiative are subject to the long-standing requirement in the California Constitution that local special taxes must be passed with a two-thirds supermajority vote by the electorate
In “The Sequel to Upland: A Calif. Supermajority Tax Showdown,” an article that originally appeared in Law360, Robert P. Merten III and Richard E. Nielsen recap the pertinent Upland background, identify the local special taxes currently at issue and discuss an important consideration courts will need to address when deciding these cases: the over 40-year history of California’s two-thirds supermajority voting requirement for the passage of local special taxes.