Among the terrible traditions in California politics is attorneys general writing biased language for ballot measures to push voters to their side — knowing judges often defer to their judgment. For decades, attorneys general from both parties have blatantly put their thumbs on the scales of democracy.
Now Attorney General Xavier Becerra — a former congressman appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris after her 2016 election to the U.S. Senate — has shown a pattern of abuse despite telling Assembly members in January 2017 that he understood "the importance of a word."
Proposition 70 was placed on the June ballot as part of a legislative compromise to round up Republican votes to extend the state's cap-and-trade pollution emissions program.
If passed, it would require state lawmakers in 2024 to ratify with a two-thirds vote how cap-and-trade dollars are spent — giving them a chance to block use of the funds for the state's beleaguered bullet-train project. Becerra titled the measure: "Limits Legislature's Authority To Use Cap-and-Trade Revenue To Reduce Pollution."
On Monday, a Sacramento judge ordered a much fairer title: "Requires Legislative Supermajority Vote Approving Use of Cap-and-Trade Reserve Fund." It was the second time a judge has altered a Becerra ballot measure title.
A fix is simple. It's time for someone civic-minded to craft a ballot measure assigning the writing of ballot language to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office or to a panel of retired judges.