Monday, March 2, 2009

Prop. 1E Opponents Sue

PRESS RELEASE – Monday, March 2, 2009

Prop. 1E Opponents Sue Over Misleading, ‘Happy Talk’ Ballot Language

Measure Would Cut Almost $500 Million from Mental Health, But Official Descriptions Falsely Portray Prop. 1E as Necessary to ‘Preserve’ Programs

SACRAMENTO, March 2 – Opponents of one of the measures on the upcoming May 19 special election ballot, Proposition 1E, filed suit late Friday seeking changes to the official descriptions of the measure. A judge will hear the case this Thursday morning on an accelerated schedule.

Prop. 1E cuts up to $460 million from voter-mandated Proposition 63 mental health programs. However, the basic descriptions of Prop. 1E slated for ballots and the ballot pamphlet fail to disclose that it amends a voter-approved initiative and falsely suggest that the cuts to Prop. 63 would actually protect mental health programs.

“The problem is that the language for Prop. 1E is happy talk designed to win an election,” said No on Prop. 1E campaign manager Dave Fratello. “It does not fairly disclose to voters what they are being asked to do.”

“In fact,” said Fratello, “the Prop. 1E ballot language seeks to mislead voters by indicating that passage would protect hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of mental health programs, when in fact it cuts programs by that amount.”

The official descriptions of Prop. 1E were written by the Legislature and passed in the bill that called the special election, a break from the normal process. Ordinarily, the Attorney General writes a neutral summary of any measure appearing on the ballot. The Legislature purported to override the laws requiring fair and impartial language in the special-election bill.

The lawsuit filed by Prop. 1E opponents claims that a standard of fairness and impartiality still applies. Beyond that, the Legislature’s drafting of advocacy language that skews the official descriptions of the measure amount to an unconstitutional attempt to use government funds to advocate a specific political position, the lawsuit alleges.

Prop. 1E opponents challenged the short “ballot label” that would appear next to the “yes” and “no” spots on the ballot, as well as the title and summary that goes in the voter guide.

The ballot label entirely fails to reference Prop. 63 or any program cuts, instead suggesting that Prop. 1E is necessary to “preserve funding for children’s mental health services.” The complete title and summary similarly say that Prop. 1E “guarantees and protects” funding for mental health programs without mention of the dramatic cuts to Prop. 63 funds. If Prop. 1E were to be successful, the funds taken from Prop. 63 would go to the state General Fund.

“If you need to cut a half a billion dollars from mental health, then say so,” said No on Prop. 1E campaign manager Dave Fratello. “If you’re going to amend a voter initiative that expressly protected the funds it raised from raids like this, say so.”

“The principle here is pretty simple,” said Fratello. “The descriptions should be fair. No one should be able to manipulate this process to try to achieve a specific political outcome.”



Rusty Selix, Prop. 63 proponent, California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, Sacramento; Richard Van Horn, President, Mental Health America of Los Angeles

Secretary of State Debra Bowen; State Printer Geoff Brandt; California Legislature.

Hon. Michael Kenney

Hearing Date & Location:
Thursday, March 5, 2009, 8:45am
Sacramento Superior Court, Dept. 31

Click here to go to the Secretary of State's page for "public display" of all special election ballot materials.