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BREAKING NEWS: CA Appeals Court Deals Final Blow to Open Primary Opponents

by Keith Nelle, published

The California Appeals Court wasted no time in dealing the final blow to the California School Employees Association in its effort to rewrite the Open Primary Initiative scheduled for the June Ballot as Proposition 14.

The Court rejected the CSEA language, preserved the lower court’s language, and ordered the restoration of the Legislative Analyst’s prediction of cost savings associated with the measure. Yes on 14 folks rejoiced at the outcome. But, the ruling ends a strange two-week odyssey that began with the lawyer for the legislature entering into a secret written agreement with the union’s plaintiff lawyer.

CSEA attorney, Lance Olsen is a familiar face in the capitol. In fact, he has often worked under contract for the Democratic legislative leadership. Olsen, armed with a written “stipulated agreement” secretly sign by the Legislature’s lawyer, apparently thought he could get in and out of court without Prop 14 proponents discovering the plot.

Ironically, the Yes on 14 campaign was tipped off by a comment on by a Prop 14 opponent and successfully intervened in the case. It is still not clear under what authority the Legislative Counsel entered into the secret agreement. No record of a Joint Rules Committee authorization can be found and Legislative leaders have denied any prior knowledge of the agreement.

The final ruling restores the institutional authority of the Legislative Analyst’s office, but sets a new precedent for the Court’s right to trump statutory language on legislative ballot propositions.

So, what started as a plan to secretly undermine Prop 14’s chances at the polls seems to have ended in language that actually improves the measures chance of passage in June. What is not so clear is what the Court’s unprecedented intervention means to the long term credibility and power of the legislature itself.

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