When the California Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to remove Proposition 49, The Overturn Citizens United Act, from last year’s November ballot, it did so without a hearing.
Late last week, the Court announced that they will hear oral arguments in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v Padilla on October 6th. The hearing will determine if Prop 49 will be restored to California’s November 2016 ballot.
Democracy advocates and activists have a strong interest in this case and will not only be watching it closely, but will also be taking action in the coming weeks to highlight what’s at stake.
Do the people of California have a protected right to “instruct their representatives” as per the California Constitution, Article 1, sec. 3 (a)? Does the California legislature have the right to engage in any and all activities it deems necessary to represent their constituents, as long as they are not expressly prohibited by the California Constitution?
These questions may seem wonky, but they are at the core of what the Court must decide.
When tens of thousands of Californians lobbied their legislators last year to place The Overturn Citizens United Act on the ballot, we did so because we had no other formal means to voice our outrage. We are offended at the corruption of our government by Big Money and we are frustrated at our government’s inability to enact common sense reforms on a whole host of issues about which most Americans agree, but which corporate and Big Money interests oppose.
If the California Supreme Court were to decide that the people have no right to speak and to instruct their representatives, they would become the first state High Court to do so, setting a dangerous precedent that could be used by other states to similarly silence their voters. Further, they would be doing the US Supreme Court one better, doubling down on the absurd notion that money is the same thing as free speech, and in California, money is the only thing that can speak.
Let us hope the California Justices will exercise restraint and step away from that Orwellian abyss.