Appeals Court Rules That Initiatives Proposing Special Taxes Need Only a Simple Majority for Passage

Lawyer And Client Or Business People

On December 17, 2020 a California Court of Appeal panel ruled unanimously for a Fresno community organization represented by Olson Remcho, reversing a lower court decision and finding that voter initiative measures proposing special taxes need only simple majorities for passage.  The published opinion in City of Fresno v. Fresno Building Healthy Communities is here.   

The firm handled the case at both the trial and appellate levels.  Tom Willis argued the case before the appellate panel, appearing with Karen Getman and Ben GevercerDeborah Caplan and Lance Olson were the trial court team on the case.

California Court of Appeal panel rules unanimously for a Fresno community organization represented by Olson Remcho

According to the court’s opinion, “In the November 2018 general election, 52.17% of Fresno voters voted for Measure P, a voter initiative measure entitled the ‘Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Tax Ordinance.’ . . .After FBHC filed its opening brief, the First District Court of Appeal filed its opinion in City and County of San Francisco v. All Persons, 51 Cal.App.5th 703. There, the First District was presented exactly the same questions presented here, namely, whether Proposition 13 and Proposition 218 require a two-thirds vote of the electorate for passage of a voter initiative that imposes a special tax. In that case, the City and County of San Francisco filed a petition for declaratory relief asking for a determination that a special tax initiative that received 61 percent of the vote be declared passed. (All Persons, supra, 51 Cal.App.5that p. 708.) The trial court granted the City and County of San Francisco’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the First District affirmed. (Id. at pp. 708-709.) The First District ultimately concluded neither Proposition 13 nor Proposition 218 affects the voters’ initiative power, and therefore neither imposes a two-thirds voting requirement on the passage of voter initiatives that impose special taxes. (Ibid.) We fully agree with and endorse the holdings and reasoning of All Persons, and find that case controls the outcome here. We reverse.”