Capitol Alert

Petition gatherers: Come for one measure, stay for another

Maybe the opportunity to support Tim Draper’s ballot measure to split California into six states is enough to stop you the second a signature gatherer approaches on the street.

If not, he or she may have a more familiar way of getting your attention: the price of gas.

Michael Arno, whose company is collecting signatures to qualify Draper’s initiative for the November 2016 ballot, has offered signature gatherers an unrelated “expression of support” that people can sign urging the Legislature to hold off expanding California’s controversial cap-and-trade program to vehicle fuels in 2015.

The state’s carbon market is the centerpiece of Assembly Bill 32, the landmark greenhouse gas reduction legislation passed in 2006. But industry analysts say the program’s expansion will result in higher prices at the pump, and politicians and industry groups are pouncing on the issue in an election year.

Arno, whose company has been paid more than $1.3 million to gather signatures for Draper’s initiative, said he is doing the cap-and-trade measure for free. He has long been concerned about the price of gas, he said, and his effort will help increase awareness of what he calls an “additional tax.”

For signature gatherers being paid for Draper’s initiative – but not the gas petition – the measure doubles as bait. Arno said he expects to deliver more than 100,000 signatures to the Legislature.

Advocates of the cap-and-trade program have said it will improve the environment and reduce the total cost of fuel in the long run, as cars become more fuel efficient and public transportation improves. Shannon Baker-Branstetter of Consumer Union, a proponent of Assembly Bill 32, said Wednesday that the program’s expansion to include vehicle fuels is not a tax.

“We saw the petition, and it’s disappointing to see these kind of misleading tactics,” she said.