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RECAP: Mayors Appeal to Gov. Newsom, Opponents' Arguments Struck Down in Court, LA County Endorses

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

As the Yes on 15 campaign continues to garner endorsements and momentum, opponents’ scare tactics and lawsuits get struck down by court

Over the past week, the Yes on 15 campaign continued to garner momentum while opponents saw some of their main arguments labeled “false and/or misleading” by the courts and had their lawsuit against Prop. 15’s ballot language tossed out:

  • Mayors for Prop. 15: Today, mayors throughout California – who are on the frontlines of this crisis and responsible for critical local services despite budget shortfalls – sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom to join them in supporting Prop. 15, emphasizing that only the top 10% of the richest corporations would generate 92% of the revenue and that small businesses receive a tax cut.

  • Opponents’ scare tactics, lawsuits struck down by the courts: Last week, opponents of Prop. 15 lost multiple court battles: 1) Opponents’ main arguments labeled “false and/or misleading” by court, resulted in more than 100 words being struck from their ballot arguments -- click here for final Superior Court ruling; 2) Opponents’ lawsuit against Prop. 15’s title and summary were thrown out by multiple courts -- click here for Superior Court and Appeals Court rulings.

  • LA County Supervisors endorse Prop. 15: Last week, the Board of Supervisors for the nation’s most populous county voted to endorse Prop. 15, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that with “the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the county’s fiscal outlook, it is important to pursue additional revenues that could be used to counter the potential disinvestment in education and local services, particularly within vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.”

“The Yes on 15 campaign continues to garner momentum and endorsements for the movement to close corporate property tax loopholes so we can invest in schools and local communities,” said Yes on 15 Communications Director Alex Stack. “As opponents keep trying to push falsehoods, we will continue to run on the issues most important for California voters.”

Please see below for the relevant coverage of these developments:


Sacramento Bee: Mayors urge Newsom to back ‘split-roll’

More California mayors are getting behind Proposition 15, the ballot measure that would require many businesses to pay more tax by assessing their properties at market rate instead of purchase price.

A new group of mayors wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, calling on him to throw his support behind the so-called “split-roll” initiative.

The letter, which includes signatures from by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, calls Prop 15 “a reasonable, necessary measure that will help us all meet the moment.”

“By closing these corporate property tax loopholes, we can generate nearly $12 billion every year for our K-12 schools, community colleges, and local governments — all while protecting homeowners and renters, small businesses, and agriculture. Moreover, by exempting small businesses whose property is worth $3 million or less and implementing new small business tax cuts, we can support our local businesses which have been so impacted by this crisis,” the letter reads in part.

Other mayors on the letter include Stockton’s Michael Tubbs, Palo Alto’s Adrian Fine and Richmond’s Tom Butt.


The mayors’ letter cites an analysis of the proposition from Blue Sky Consulting Group, commissioned by the Yes on 15 folks, that finds that just 10% of the largest commercial commercial and industrial properties would generate 92% of the revenue.


CBS/AP: Changes Ordered To California Voter Guide Over ‘False Or Misleading’ Anti-Prop. 15 Arguments

A California judge has ordered changes to an election guide mailed to every registered California voter this fall, ruling Wednesday that some arguments opposing a hotly contested property tax initiative are “false or misleading.”


Proposition 15 does not apply to homeowners. But opponents of the measure wrote in the voter information guide that the initiative would let the Legislature raise property taxes on homeowners. They argued that because some business owners operate small businesses from their homes, the measure gives the Legislature the power to increase their property taxes without asking voters.

Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles ruled Wednesday that the paragraph “is misleading if not outright false,” saying the proposal exempts the operation of a home-based business from reassessment. He also ordered other language deleted that said there is “no accountability how the money is spent.”

Arguelles rejected requests from opponents to delete language saying the initiative “does not impact homeowners and renters.” [...]

“The court’s ruling today is concrete evidence that there are consequences for running a campaign based solely on debunked scare tactics,” said Alex Stack, communications director for the Yes on 15 campaign.

POLITICO: Judge to 'split-roll' opponents: 'The Court is not a copy editor'

A Sacramento Superior Court judge rebuffed a ballot language challenge from "split-roll" opponents in a new tentative ruling.

Opponents of Proposition 15 disputed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s official description of the measure, which would dissolve property tax caps on commercial property. The challenge is part of a flurry of lawsuits contesting the wording of the ballot measure titles, summaries and arguments that voters will see for the November election.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl denied the request in a tentative ruling ahead of a scheduled Thursday hearing date.

Impact: The first tentative ruling in a November ballot language case is a win for Becerra and a setback for opponents seeking to shape voter perceptions. And it underscores the relatively high legal bar for campaigns to win changes to formal ballot summaries.

Judge Earl noted that California attorneys general wield broad discretion in crafting ballot language and said the challenge “does not come close” to establishing the Prop 15 language was false or misleading, acerbically noting, "The Court is not a copy editor."



MyNewsLA: L.A. County Board Throws Its Support Behind Proposition 15

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to back Proposition 15, a statewide ballot measure that would partially repeal longstanding protections under Proposition 13 by taxing most commercial and industrial properties based on current market values.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended that the board support the ballot measure, which Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai estimated would increase county property tax revenue by nearly $400 million annually, even after factoring in the costs to implement operational changes and fight appeals. That’s a 5% bump in local revenues, Ridley-Thomas said.

“Considering the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the county’s fiscal outlook, it is important to pursue additional revenues that could be used to counter the potential disinvestment in education and local services, particularly within vulnerable and disadvantaged communities,” Ridley-Thomas stated in the motion.



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