The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sued over the title that the Attorney General's office wrote for Proposition 23, and last week, they won. They thought the Attorney General wrote the title in a way that reflected bias against the measure. Here's the title that was challenged, along with the court's rewrite:
Suspends Air Pollution Control Law
s (AB 32) Requiring Major Pollutors Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.
The Howard Jarvis side argued that "major pollutors" was pejorative, and that using the plural "laws" implied that a variety of pollution control laws might be suspending, when in fact only one -- AB 32 -- was addressed by the initiative. A superior court judge agreed and rewrote the title.
This case illustrates the fact that it can be a difficult balancing act for a partisan state official (Attorney General Jerry Brown is a Democrat) to write a neutral ballot title for a clearly partisan ballot measure. But it's not any fairer to let initiative sponsors draft their own title, as some states do. Is there a better way to provide voters with a fair, neutral, and concise title for initiatives?
Read an L.A. Times editorial on this case.