Thursday, September 25, 2008

Court of Appeal Limits Single-Subject Rule

In an interesting decision, the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Eight, has decided that a city charter amendment placed on the ballot by the city council need not comply with the single-subject rule contained in Article II, Section 8(d). Hernandez v. County of Los Angeles, available here. By its terms, that provision applies only to initiatives, which the Constitution defines in Article II, Section 8(a) as "the power of the electors to propose statutes . . . and to adopt or reject them." A measure put on the ballot by the city council is not proposed by the electors through initiative petitions and thus is not an initiative within Article II, Section 8(c). Similarly, Article XI, Section 3 provides that a charter amendment "may be proposed by initiative or by the governing body," and thus also indicates that a charter amendment put on the ballot by a city council is not an initiative. This reading preserves the ability of city councils to put comprehensive charter amendments on the ballot in a single measure, rather than grouping provisions by subject.

This is an important decision, but it seems unquestionably right, given the language of the California Constitution. There should be no reason for the California Supreme Court to grant review.

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