Capitol Alert

California lawmakers reintroduce anti-Citizens United ballot measure

People protest money in politics outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013.
People protest money in politics outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013. Abaca Press

After being booted from the ballot in 2014, two state senators have reintroduced an advisory measure that would poll California voters on unlimited independent campaign spending.

Senate Bill 254, from Democratic Sens. Ben Allen of Santa Monica and Mark Leno of San Francisco, would pose a nonbinding question to voters in November: Should Congress pursue a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United decision, which held that political spending by corporations and labor unions is protected as free speech?

The issue has been a lightning rod for liberals, who fret about a corporate takeover of elections. In July 2014, Democrats in the California Legislature approved the advisory measure over criticisms that it was merely a ploy to boost voter turnout in that year’s midterm election.

Challenged by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association as an “illegitimate exercise of legislative power,” Proposition 49 was blocked from the ballot while the California Supreme Court considered whether lawmakers had the legal authority to place a nonbinding query before voters. In January, the court ruled 6-1 that the measure was constitutional, but by then it was no longer eligible for consideration.

“People are frustrated and want to weigh in about the unchecked power of money in politics,” Allen said in a statement. “Placing this advisory measure on the ballot gives the largest state in the country a voice in one of the most pressing political issues of our time.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff