In a ruling that could have implications for Fresno’s Measure P, a San Francisco judge ruled Friday that tax measures there put on the ballot by citizen initiative only needed majority voter approval.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled that two petition-led measures passed in San Francisco in 2018 (both called Proposition C — one in June of that year, and the second in November). The propositions would increase city taxes for a specific purpose, childcare and homelessness, respectively.
San Francisco Measures Are Similar to Measure P
The San Francisco measures are similar to the 2018 Measure P in Fresno. All were placed on the ballot via signature gathering and would raise taxes for specific funds.
While Measure P earned 53% of the vote, because of city attorney Douglas Sloan’s interpretation heading into the election, the measure was deemed to need two-thirds approval to pass. Thus, the city declared the measure failed.
However, San Francisco’s city attorney made the opposite determination based on a 2017 state Supreme Court case known as Upland.
The Upland Decision
In Upland, the state Supreme Court ruled that the laws found in the state’s Constitution regarding tax measures (approved by voters via Proposition 13 in 1978 and Proposition 218 in 1996) did not apply to measures placed on the ballot via signature gathering.
However, the state’s high court ruled on the specific question of when the item may be placed on the ballot. It did not rule directly on the threshold: majority vs. two-thirds.
Now, Schulman’s decision finds that Upland also applies to how many votes a measure needs to pass.
The San Francisco court’s decision likely will be challenged by one of the defendants in the case, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Fresno Court Ruling Could Come This Week
The Fresno case is also in the courts. Technically, the city asked for an interpretation, knowing the unanswered questions stemming from the Upland decision. Parks advocate group Fresno Building Healthy Communities and HJTA are also involved in the Fresno case.
A preliminary ruling in the Fresno Measure P case is expected early next week.