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Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association et al v. Barry Garner

May 16, 2013

SILICON VALLEY TAXPAYERS' ASSOCIATION ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
BARRY GARNER, AS REGISTRAR OF VOTERS, ETC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT; COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA ET AL., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST AND RESPONDENTS.



(Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. CV230732) Trial Judge: Hon. Kevin E. McKenney

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Premo, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Plaintiffs Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association, Omar D. Chatty, and Greg Coladonato appeal from a judgment of the superior court denying their petition for writ of mandate challenging the placement of Measure A (10-year 1/8 cent sales tax increase) on the November 2012 general election ballot by County of Santa Clara.*fn1 They contend that the placement ran afoul of article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (b), of the California Constitution (Proposition 218), which requires that local tax increase measures be placed on the ballot with a regularly scheduled general election for members of the local government's governing body. According to plaintiffs, the voters should not have been allowed to vote on Measure A because no members of the local government's governing body were actually on the ballot. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

background

Three seats on County's Board of Supervisors were up for election in the June 2012 statewide primary election. Two seats had uncontested candidates who received 100 percent of the vote. The third seat had an election where one candidate received 58 percent of the vote. Thus, no seat required a runoff election at the November 2012 statewide general election.

In August 2012, County adopted a resolution ordering, calling, and consolidating an election on Measure A with the November 2012 statewide general election. Plaintiffs demanded that County remove Measure A from the ballot. County refused, and plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of mandate in this court. We summarily denied the petition, and plaintiff filed a petition in superior court. The superior court denied the petition. Its written order explains the following.

"[Plaintiffs] contend that the November 6, 2012 election, albeit a regularly scheduled general election, is not 'for members of the governing body of the local government' because no seats for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will in fact appear on the ballot. [Plaintiffs] conclude that [County] violated [Proposition 218] by placing Measure A on the ballot. In opposition, [County argues that it] fully complied with [Proposition 218], and that the subject language cannot reasonably be construed as limiting a local government's ability to place a tax measure on the ballot based upon whether a supervisorial candidate will actually appeal on the ballot. [Footnote omitted.] [¶] Applying the principles of constitutional interpretation [citations], the Court finds that the subject language [of Proposition 218] is not reasonably susceptible to the interpretation proffered by [Plaintiffs]. The Court agrees with [County] that the language in question, on its face, refers only to the type of election for which a tax measure may appear on a ballot. No reference is made therein to a requirement that a candidate for the governing body of the local government actually be on the ballot in order to effectuate compliance."

In September 2012, plaintiffs filed another petition in this court and requested a stay of the superior court's judgment. We denied the petition.

In October 2012, plaintiffs appealed from the superior court's judgment.

On November 6, 2012, Santa Clara County voters passed Measure A with 56 percent of the vote.

proposition 218

Proposition 218 was passed in 1996 by the electorate to plug certain perceived loopholes in Proposition 13. (See Throckmorton, What is a Property Related Fee? An Interpretation of California's Proposition 218 (1997) 48 Hastings L.J. 1059; see also Patel, Is Nothing Certain but Death? The Uncertainty Created by California's Proposition 218 (2001) 35 U.S.F. L.Rev. 385.) Specifically, by increasing assessments, fees, and charges, local governments tried to raise revenues without triggering the voter approval requirements in Proposition 13. (See Ballot Pamp., Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), argument in favor of Prop. 218, p. 76.)

"Structurally, Proposition 218 sets up a dual system of voting on taxes. It contains two parallel subdivisions, now set forth respectively in article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (b) and article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (d), of the state Constitution. They govern two different kinds of taxes. The language in each subdivision is almost identical. A vote is required before a tax may be imposed, extended or increased. But the required quantum of support for the tax varies with the kind of tax being imposed, extended or increased. If, as provided for in subdivision (b), a tax is a 'general' one, the quantum is a simple majority. But if the tax is 'special,' a super-majority of two-thirds is required." (Citizens Assn. of Sunset Beach v. Orange County Local Agency Formation Com. (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 1182, 1189.)

Article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (b), is at issue in this case. This provision states: "No local government may impose, extend, or increase any general tax unless and until that tax is submitted to the electorate and approved by a majority vote. A general tax shall not be deemed to have been increased if it is imposed at a rate not higher than the maximum rate so approved. The election required by this subdivision shall be consolidated with a regularly scheduled general election for members of the ...


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