The State Worker

Court rejects Chuck Reed's challenge to pension-measure language

A superior court judge dealt San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's pension overhaul campaign another setback on Thursday, rebuffing Reed's request to have the ballot initiative's title and summary rewritten.

Reed and other public officials sued Attorney General Kamala Harris last month, arguing that her description of Reed's pension initiative, which would empower local governments to change future pension benefits for current workers, was fatally biased.

The sentence in dispute states that the measure "Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed." Reed and his allies said in their lawsuit that description was "false and misleading" in a way that "creates prejudice" against the measure.

Not so, said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner. Going through the contested sentence word by word, Sumner found "nothing false or misleading" about how Harris described Reed's measure.

The language used to summarize ballot initiatives for voters is thought to play a decisive role in their fate. Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, has legislation attempting to remove perceived policticization of the process by shifting the summary-writing duty from the attorney general to the California secretary of state, which would become a nonpartisan office.

Editor’s note, 4:42 p.m.: This post reflects a change from an earlier description of the Gorell bill.

Tentative Ruling (031314)

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