Judge Orders Rewording Of Initiative To Suspend California Climate Change Law

(August 4, 2010)


August 4, 2010

A Sacramento judge on Tuesday ordered Attorney General Jerry Brown to reword a ballot initiative that would roll back the state's landmark climate change law.

In a ruling Tuesday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley agreed with measure proponents charging that Brown's office used misleading language when it drafted the initiative, Proposition 23.

As the Democratic candidate for governor, Brown opposes Proposition 23 and supports the state's climate change law, AB 32.

Frawley said use of the term "major polluters" in election materials carried negative connotations with voters and ordered Brown's office to use the less loaded term "major sources of emissions."

"My concern is that the word 'polluters' suggests something that comes out of a smokestack. That's where the prejudice lies," Frawley said.

Frawley also concluded that Brown inaccurately said the proposition "requires the state to abandon implementation of" California's climate change law, or AB 32, and ordered it to substitute the term "suspends."

Proposition 23 seeks to roll back California's global greenhouse gas reduction law until statewide unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for a year.

Supporters of the measure say AB 32, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, will lead to job losses and higher energy costs.

But opponents of Proposition 23, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, environmental groups, high-tech companies and venture capital firms, say AB 32 not only will reduce greenhouse gas emissions but will bolster a growing clean tech industry and create new jobs.

During Tuesday's court proceedings, Supervising Deputy Attorney Stephen Acquisto argued that the ballot should be written in "plain language" for voters to understand. He said the term "polluters" accurately describes companies regulated by AB 32.

Striking the word "polluters" from the ballot language is akin to passing an anti-vandalism law without using the word "vandalism" because perpetrators might take offense, Acquisto said.

"It is technical, foggy language that no one is going to understand," Acquisto said of the changes.

Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 committee, said Frawley's ruling eliminates the "false, misleading and prejudicial" language developed by the attorney general's office.

"Yes on 23 is pleased that voters will be provided a fair and accurate official description of Prop. 23 and are confident that they will vote Yes on 23, a common-sense proposal to protect jobs and California's economy," she said.

Jane Warner, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California, said backers of Proposition 23 are trying to mislead the public into voting for a measure that will fatten their wallets and hurt the environment and the economy.

"Despite the court's changes, the simple fact remains: Prop. 23 is a deceptive proposition bankrolled by Texas oil companies that will kill California's clean air and clean energy standards, resulting in more air pollution," Warner said.


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