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California Supreme Court makes it easier for tax propositions to appear on ballots

[JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] issued a 5-2 ruling [opinion, PDF] on Monday that will make it easier for the state to get tax propositions on ballots. The court's ruling relied on its interpretation of Proposition 218 [materials], a constitutional initiative approved by California voters in 1996 that was intended to assure that all taxes on Californian tax payers would have to gain a two-thirds voter approval before going into effect. The ruling will now limit this two-third requirement to tax proposals introduced by city and county-level governments, while initiatives introduced by citizens would only require a simple majority. Some anti-tax groups have stated [AP report] that the ruling will lead to an increase in local taxation within the state while legal experts said that Monday's ruling was too narrow to have such a significant effect on local taxation.

This lawsuit was originally filed [SFGate report] by the California Cannabis Coalition (CCC) [advocacy website] against the city of Upland in San Bernardino County. The CCC introduced a ballot initiative in 2014 that would have repealed an ordinance in Upland which banned medical marijuana dispensaries. The CCC initiative would have laid out the standard by which citizens could open a dispensary. After obtaining the required signatures of 15 percent of the city's population, California law compelled the local government to either adopt the initiative or put it on the ballot for the next general election. The city then imposed a $15,000 licensing fee for these dispensaries and argued that the additional fees proposed by the CCC were a general tax and therefore had to gain two-thirds voter approval. Monday's ruling will ensure that all future general taxes introduced by citizen organizations such as the CCC will only require a simple majority to pass and go into effect.

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