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Disclosure bills, Covered CA, election funding & SoS race

March 28, 2014

Hi Folks,

There is a lot of news to report. In this edition of CVF-NEWS:

Please enjoy our newsletter and have a great weekend!

-- Kim Alexander, President & Founder
California Voter Foundation

Disclosure bills to give voters information about top proposition donors advance in the Legislature

CVF is supporting two important bills this legislative season, SB 27, authored by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and SB 844, authored by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

SB 27, which is in the final stages of the legislative process, would, if enacted, would close a loophole in California disclosure law that allows donors to make anonymous donations to initiatives by passing their contributions through nonprofit organizations. SB 27, which is sponsored by the Fair Political Practices Commission, would also require committees that raise $1 million or more to self-identify their own top ten donors, making analysis of campaign data much easier for the public. Since it amends the Political Reform Act, it requires a 2/3 vote for passage.

SB 27 received bipartisan support in the Assembly, but fell one vote short in the Senate of passing. The author and Senate Republicans are attempting to work out a compromise which will hopefully succeed in getting the votes the bill needs to be enacted and for the top ten lists to begin being produced by this November's election season. CVF's SB 27 support letter is available online. Recent commentaries supporting this bill in the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times will hopefully help persuade lawmakers to reconcile their differences and give voters access to the information needed to make informed choices.

The second bill CVF is supporting is SB 844. If enacted, under this bill this Secretary of State would produce, maintain and publish online an aggregate lists of the top ten donors to each side of each initiative. This simple but important reform would give voters ready and convenient access to up-to-date lists of top donors on each measure; if multiple committees are involved the lists would aggregate that data so voters would not have to search multiple committees in order to research top funders.

SB 844 was heard in the Senate Elections Committee on March 18 and passed out unanimously with bipartisan support and testimony in favor provided by Maplight, CVF, California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. Both SB 844 and SB 27 would include language in the state ballot pamphlet letting voters know that the top ten lists are available and where to find them. For more details see CVF's SB 844 support letter and Senator Pavley's news release.

Covered CA agrees to mail voter registration forms to nearly 4 million applicants

Last May, Secretary of State Debra Bowen designated Covered California as a "National Voter Registration Act" (NVRA) agency. This means that Covered CA is required to offer voter registration services to everyone who comes through their doors, either literally, over the phone, or online.

The NVRA was enacted by Congress in 1993 due to the recognition that voter registration is a burden placed on citizens and that it is appropriate for the government to provide assistance with registration and ensure citizens have an opportunity to register or update their registration address when they engage with government agencies to obtain public services or change their address.

Many advocacy groups, including the California Voter Foundation, have been monitoring Covered CA's NVRA compliance, and were hopeful that voter registration opportunities would be integrated into the online application when it debuted last October. But the agency was unable to do so by the October launch.

Last Fall, the ACLU put the agency on notice that it was considering taking legal action to compel compliance. Earlier this month, the ACLU, along with several plaintiffs including the League of Women Voters of California, made good on that threat, resulting in a settlement agreement with the agency reached on March 21. Under the agreement, Covered CA immediately began sending out a mailing to its nearly 4 million applicants informing them of the agency's responsibility to provide an opportunity to register to vote, along with a voter registration card.

CVF applauds the ACLU and Covered CA for reaching this agreement and will continue monitoring the agency's progress toward full NVRA compliance. Over the past several months we have worked closely with Covered CA staff, the Greenlining Institute and California Calls to provide input and guidance on the messaging and scope of the mailing, as well as the importance of translating the letter into the recipient's preferred language, and the plans for integration of voter registration opportunities via the online application. For more details, see the ACLU's news release and settlement agreement, as well as KXTV Channel 10 in Sacramento's news story.

Legislative budget committees hit the "pause" button on continued suspension of funding for state-mandated local election programs

Since last summer, CVF has been monitoring the lack of funding to counties from the state to pay for state mandated local programs, such as California's permanent vote-by-mail program, which now has nearly 8 million participants constituting 43 percent of the state's registered voters. Last June I wrote an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee highlighting the lack of funding and potential equal protection problems it creates for California voters, since counties are technically free to suspend programs such as permanent vote-by-mail that the state mandated but is no longer paying for.

This issue has been getting some more traction in the new budget cycle, and this week benefited from a strong dose of support from Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), who authored a commentary on the California State Association of Counties' website explaining the danger of continuing to withhold this funding and the potential problems that can ensue.

CVF provided testimony at a Senate budget subcommittee hearing on Thursday to express our concerns about the withholding of this funding and urged the committee to consider restoring it. The Legislative Analyst's Office has also been sending the same message (see page 15-17 of the committee's analysis). In Thursday's committee hearing, Sen. Berryhill made a motion to add $100 million to the state budget to restore the election mandates funding for the current budget cycle and for the immediate past cycles when it was also withheld. Chairman Richard Roth (D-Riverside) voted for it as well and the motion passed on a bipartisan vote.

Meanwhile, in the Assembly on Tuesday, its budget subcommittee also took up the unfunded mandates issue and CVF provided testimony there as well. Although they didn't vote to restore the funding, they did vote to put a hold on the issue and leave the door open for further consideration.

There is a long way to go in the budget process and while restoring the election mandates funding is still considered to be quite a long shot, supporters at least have a window of opportunity and we are happy to see growing support for funding restoration.

Secretary of State's race gets underway with candidate forums

This year the office of California Secretary of State will be an "open seat" contest for the first time since 2006, drawing a number of candidates to the ballot. However, one of those candidates, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has dropped out this week after his arrest and indictment on corruption charges.

The official list of candidates was released yesterday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Under California law, Senator Yee's name cannot be removed from the ballot even though he has withdrawn from the contest. Other candidates who will be listed include Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), Derek Cressman (D-Sacramento), Jeffrey Drobman (D-Thousand Oaks), Roy Allmond (R-Sacramento), Pete Peterson (R-Los Angeles), David Curtis (Green-San Rafael) and Dan Schnur (No Party Preference-Willows).

CVF is one of many co-sponsors of a series of public forums organized by the ACLU of California's Voting Rights Project, bringing Secretary of State candidates together to discuss and debate the key issues related to the office, such as expanding voter participation, protecting voting rights and updating voting equipment. The first forum was held in Los Angeles on March 3 at the California Endowment and drew over 200 people in a standing-room only event. A video archive is available, as well as this Los Angeles Times story.

The next forum will be held on May 6 in San Diego - click here for more information about this event and the series.

Follow CVF on Twitter!

CVF uses Twitter to help our audience connect with important news and developments in the field of voting and elections, and also to offer live tweeting from conferences and events. An archive of tweets and links to relevant stories is available at!/kimalex3.

Follow @kimalex3 on Twitter to get CVF news tips, opinion and analysis from CVF's president.

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The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting and applying the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process. CVF-NEWS is a free, electronic newsletter featuring news and updates about the California Voter Foundation's projects and activities.

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U.S. Mail - P.O. Box 189277, Sacramento, CA 95818

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This page was first published on March 28, 2014 | Last updated on May 14, 2014
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