Initiatives & Referenda

California State Seal Sacramanto, California, Usa
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In virtually every statewide election cycle over the last forty years, Olson Remcho attorneys drafted or advised on some of the most important statewide initiatives to appear on the ballot, and we have defended those same measures in pre- and post-election litigation. 

Most recently, we drafted and advised on the California Privacy Rights Act, a landmark consumer privacy measure, that was approved by Californians in November 2020.   

We drafted and advised on the California Privacy Rights Act, a landmark consumer privacy measure, that was approved by Californians in November 2020.

In 2012, we helped draft Proposition 30, which realigned state and local government responsibilities and imposed temporary taxes for education.  We subsequently defended the measure in litigation challenging its placement on the ballot, and later drafted Proposition 55, which extended by 12 years Proposition 30’s income tax adjustments.

In 2010, we drafted Proposition 25, which permits the State to pass its annual budget by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature, and we later defended the measure in court.  

In 2000, we drafted Proposition 34, which limits the amount of money an individual can contribute to candidates for the California State Legislature and statewide offices, expanded financial disclosure requirements, and placed limits on contributions by lobbyists.

In 1998, we assisted in drafting Proposition 10, which established a comprehensive program to help children ages one through five.  And in 2004, we drafted Proposition 71, which established the State’s stem cell research program. We defended both at the trial and appellate level against constitutional challenges.   

A partial list of statewide measures we drafted includes: 

In 2016:

  • Proposition 55 – Extension of Taxes to Fund Education and Healthcare
  • Proposition 56 – Tobacco Tax Increase
  • Proposition 57 – Criminal Justice Reform
  • Proposition 63 – Comprehensive Gun Safety
  • Proposition 64 – Legalization of Cannabis

In 2014:

  • Proposition 1 – Governor Brown’s Water Bond and Water Quality Initiative
  • Proposition 2 – Governor Brown’s State Budget Stabilization Initiative
  • Proposition 47 – Criminal Justice Reform

In 2012:

  • Proposition 28 – Modification of Term Limits
  • Proposition 36 – Three Strikes Reform
  • Proposition 39 – End Tax Loophole for Multistate Businesses

Local Initiatives:

We also have an active practice drafting local initiatives that appear on county, city, and special district election ballots. Many of those measures have involved land use issues, including general plan and zoning amendments and specific development approvals. The firm has also litigated important issues arising out of local land use measures.  

The following is a representative list of our recent local initiative work: 

  • Oakland Measure Z. In 2019 we represented the City throughout three pre-election litigation challenges involving Measure Z, a voter initiative establishing minimum wages and workplace protections for hotel workers.  We subsequently successfully defended the measure against  preemption and due process challenges. California Hotels & Lodging Association v. City of Oakland, 393 F. Supp. 3d 817 (N.D. Cal. 2019).  
  • San Diego Measure D.  In 2018, we represented proponents of a citizens’ initiative amending the San Diego County Charter to require elections for county elective offices to be held at a general election when turnout of voters is at its highest.  Our representation included a lawsuit forcing county supervisors to order the measure to be voted on in 2018 despite the county’s refusal to order the election.  Greene v. San Diego County Board of Supervisors, San Diego County Superior Court, No. 37-2018-00037778-CU-WM-CTL (2018).
  • Los Angeles Measure W.  In 2018 we drafted the Los Angeles County Flood Control Parcel Tax.
  • Los Angeles Measure HHH.  In 2016 we drafted the Los Angeles County Homelessness Reduction Bond measure.
  • The San Francisco Giants’ Mission Rock Development Project.  In 2015, we helped draft and advise the San Francisco Giants on Measure B, which won voter approval of the Giants’ proposed 28-acre mixed-use development on a site near AT&T Park. The firm has also represented and advised the ballot measure committee formed to support the passage of Measure B. 
  • Soda Tax.  In 2014, we drafted and defended Measure D in the City of Berkeley, which was the first successful tax on the distribution of sugary beverages.
  • Los Angeles – Measure P.  In 2014 we drafted the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Parcel Tax.
  • The San Francisco 49ers Stadium.  In 2010, we helped advise the San Francisco 49ers on their successful ballot measure winning voter approval of its stadium in the City of Santa Clara. After the initiative was approved, we also successfully represented the 49ers against a referendum challenge to one of the stadium approvals.  
  • City General Plan Amendments.  In the last several years, the firm has drafted several initiatives proposing to amend city general plans, including in Malibu, Pleasanton, and Ventura. In addition, in Malibu, when that measure won voter approval, we intervened on behalf of the proponents of that measure in subsequent litigation. 
  • Redwood City.  In 2008, we advised the City on a series on initiatives addressing the possible development of the Salt Works area of the City. The issues included general plan amendments and voter-approvals for certain future land use matters. 
  • Bay Meadows, San Mateo.  During the course of the redevelopment of the Bay Meadows racetrack, opponents of the project attempted to defer City approvals of the project. The firm successfully defended the developers in litigation over the referendum and the result was that the project went forward without delay.   

Representative Cases:

California Hotels & Lodging Association v. City of Oakland, 393 F. Supp. 3d 817 (2019). Successfully defended against preemption challenge Oakland Measure Z, protected wages for hotel employees.

Brown v. Superior Court, 63 Cal. 4th 335 (2016). Successfully defended Proposition 47 in first challenge brought under new state law allowing pre-circulation amendments to initiative measures.

Doe v. Harris, 772 F.3d 563 (2014).  Defended ballot measure proponents in constitutional challenge filed one day after measure was passed by voters. 

Camp v. City of Sacramento, Sacramento County Superior Court, No. 34-2009-00065404 (2010). Successful challenge to initiative that proposed changing Sacramento to a strong-mayor form of government because initiative was not proposed as a charter “revision.”

California Family Bioethics Council v. California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, 147 Cal. App. 4th 1319 (2007).  Represented the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in successfully defending at the trial and appellate levels a constitutional challenge to Proposition 71 (initiative funding stem cell research in California).

 Independent Energy Producers Association v. McPherson, 38 Cal. 4th 1020 (2006). Defended Proposition 80 in a case that now defines the standard for pre-election review of ballot measures.

 Worthington v. City Council of City of Rohnert Park, 130 Cal. App. 4th 1132 (2005). Successful defense of City’s agreement with Indian tribe over claims that agreement was subject to public referendum.

Lindelli v. Town of San Anselmo, 111 Cal. App. 4th 1099 (2003).  Successfully challenged an interim contract approved by a municipality before a referendum election could take place.

California Association of Retail Tobacconists v. State of California, 109 Cal. App. 4th 792 (2003).  Represented proponents in successful defense of Proposition 10 (initiative establishing the First Five Commissions) against constitutional challenge.

Westly v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration, 105 Cal. App. 4th 1095 (2003).  Prevailed in a challenge to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s interpretation of its powers under Proposition 162.

Jahr v. Casebeer, 70 Cal. App. 4th 1250 (1999). Challenge to local initiative setting Board of Supervisor salaries.

Lungren v. Superior Court, 48 Cal. App. 4th 435 (1996). Challenge to official ballot title and summary of Proposition 209 (affirmative action initiative).

Planning and Conservation League v. Lungren, 38 Cal. App. 4th 497 (1995). Challenge to statute regulating the process by which initiatives qualify for the ballot.

Kennedy Wholesale v. Board of Equalization, 53 Cal. 3d 245 (1991). Filed amicus brief in support of validity of Proposition 99.