An anti-tax group filed a lawsuit Thursday that alleges Democrats violated the California constitution when they changed the state’s recall election process to try to save a senator facing a recall.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several activists say the changes illegally draw out the process for removing lawmakers from office.
The association, the California Republican Party and conservative talk-radio hosts in Southern California are looking to remove Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton from office over his vote for a gas tax increase earlier this year. Replacing Newman with a Republican would eliminate the Democrats’ supermajority that allows them to raise taxes without Republican votes.
“The Legislature has pulled out all the stops to silence the voice of taxpayers and undermine the people’s right to a fair and democratic process,” the organization’s president, Jon Coupal, said in a statement.
Democratic legislators approved new recall rules last month as part of the state budget. Their changes give people time to rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on the potential costs of holding a recall election.
That could delay an election to remove Newman by several months, potentially allowing it to coincide with next year’s statewide primary or general election, which has much higher turnout.
Howard Jarvis attorneys say in their lawsuit that the organization was aiming for a recall election this November, days after the gas tax hike takes effect.
The lawsuit names Secretary of State Alex Padilla as a respondent. It was filed in the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. Howard Jarvis attorneys say they took the unusual step of going straight to an appellate court because they need a quick decision to prevent the Legislature from succeeding in its efforts to delay the recall.
Democrats charge the backers of the recall are misleading voters to believe the recall will repeal the gas tax increase. They say misinformed voters deserve a chance to remove their names from the recall petition.
“These common-sense reforms were designed to protect California’s recall process and ultimately taxpayers from wasting millions on irregular elections based on fraud and deception,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “Their lawsuit has no legal basis and I expect it will be dismissed expeditiously.”
Recall proponents submitted 85,000 voter signatures last month. They need 63,593 to be found valid to spark an election on removing Newman from office.