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Monday
Sep282015

Yes We CAN (talk about politics in the workplace)

Lawyer for EmployersEmployment Defense

 

by Tal Burnovski Yeyni

818-907-3224

 

As election times draw near, news about debates, political faux pas, and myriad guarantees are becoming more and more entrenched in our lives. Which, coincidentally, brings about the oh so common political discussions among friends, families and even co-workers.

As an avid political junkie I enjoy the occasional, lively debate. I have also witnessed several political discussions gone sour. While disagreement over politics can generate a healthy exchange of thoughts and ideas it can also cause a great deal of frustration and anger.

Which begs the question: Can employers limit their employees' political speech in furtherance of a drama-free work environment?  

The short answer is no. Political discussions can be problematic at times, but prohibiting them altogether is against California's public policy. California Labor Code prohibits employers from making, adopting or enforcing any rule, regulation or policy that:

(a) forbids or prevents employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office, and

(b) controls or directs, or tends to control or direct the political activates or affiliation of employees. (Labor Code §1101).

There’s more. Labor Code §1102 provides:

No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.

Meaning, Labor Code §§ 1101-1102 reinforce the substantial public interest in protecting the “fundamental right” of employees to engage in political activity without interference or threat of retaliation from employers. (Ali v. L.A. Focus Publication (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 1477, 1487). 

Therefore, in California, employers should be very careful in prohibiting political discussion and even more so dismissing an employee for voicing his or her political opinions.

However, employers are not left to navigate through the rough seas of politics without an anchor. There are a few steps employers can take to promote a pleasant work environment during the upcoming election season: 

  • Employers may draft or revise their employee conduct policies to direct employees to observe professional behavior at work and avoid using rude and abusive language or outbursts toward management, employees or others.

  • Employers are further encouraged to remind employees about acceptable conduct in the workplace. 

  • If you are struggling with a similar issue, please consult a legal advisor  

In the meanwhile, don't get upset about politics. Take the example of Will Rogers, who once famously said: I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an Employer Defense Attorney at our firm. Contact her via email: tyeyni@lewitthackman.com; or by phone: 818-907-3224.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
Oct102012

Rumble in the Employment Law Jungle: Campaign 2012

by Robert A. Hull

It’s a grudge match – a political campaign versus a law whose consequences could tilt the election. Who wins?  A fascinating battle ensued this past week between President Obama’s presidential campaign and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

In this corner, the WARN Act mandates that businesses of a certain size must give notice of a possible mass layoff or plant closing 60 days before such a layoff/closing (even if those businesses are not certain such layoffs will occur).

The reason?  To give workers a chance to look for new employment and prepare themselves for probable job losses.

In that corner, a lean, mean presidential campaign on guard against any dramatic events which could tip the election.

 

Background to the WARN Act Showdown

 

Certain dramatic across-the-board budget cuts (i.e., ‘sequestration’), including very deep defense cuts, are set to take place January 2nd, as the result of the failure of Congress to find a solution to the budget impasse. No solution is forthcoming.

Thus, many federal contractors are facing the likelihood that they will need to lay off many thousands of employees on January 2nd. Under the WARN Act, they would need to give notice to those employees by November 2nd, right before the general election.

To make matters worse, many of these employees are located in the battleground state of Virginia. Needless to say, workers receiving layoff notices immediately prior to an election would tend not to favor the incumbent.

 

Political Punch, Corporate Counter-punch

 

The bell rings. The President’s campaign looks confident, strong. Lockheed Martin plans to issue WARN Notices before the election, in Virginia.

A sharp uppercut: The Obama campaign is stunned, just for a moment. The White House requested that Lockheed hold off on the notices. In July, the Labor Department issued guidelines saying the contractors do not have to provide WARN notices before making layoffs January 2. They anticipated this bout.

The need for layoffs is “uncertain” because Congress can come to an agreement before then. Nice combination – jab, jab, straight right. But Lockheed responds that, if they don’t give WARN notices, they’ll face liability for failure to warn or else be forced to delay layoffs, a devastating counterpunch.

The Obama campaign struggles to keep its feet. But, wait – it's up and throws a haymaker!

The Office of Management and Budget issues a memo on September 28th saying that the government will pay for any employee compensation costs as determined by a court, as well as the litigation costs and attorney’s fees (irrespective of outcome), owed by the federal contractors for failure to give the WARN notices. WARN is down! Lockheed and other contractors agree not to issue layoff notices before the election. The campaign is victorious.

Lessons?  A presidential political campaign can be a force to be reckoned with, for certain. But, if you’re a business with a possible mass layoff or plant closure and are thinking about not providing WARN notices, be forewarned. Unless you face sequestration on January 2nd, you will have to pay for all of your compensation costs, litigation costs and attorneys' fees as a result of your failure to give such notice.

Final Word:  Lockheed and all others should TAKE heed. The September 28th memo appears to only cover liabilities associated with the failure to give notice under the FEDERAL WARN Act. (Read the full White House Memo.)

Many states, such as California (but not Virginia), also have certain STATE WARN-type provisions. If mass layoffs or plant closures occur in those states, and state laws are not complied with, companies like Lockheed may still be on the hook.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Friday
Sep212012

November Propositions |California Ballot Initiatives' Pros & Cons Part 2

Los Angeles Environmental AttorneyLos Angeles Business Litigation LawyerStephen T. Holzer
September 21, 2012

Los Angeles Environmental Attorney

 

Last week we took a look at Propositions 30 through 35 – the first six of the 11 new ballot measures Californians will see when they head to the voting booths in November. In this blog, we'll review the remaining five, Propositions 36 through 40.

If you want to read the Official Title and Summary for each measure prepared by the Attorney General, click on the blue text of each proposition and you'll be hyperlinked to the Secretary of State website where those documents are hosted.

We've also included hyperlinks to the main opposition and support sites for each proposition.

 

Proposition 36  – Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

 

If enacted, this measure would revise the “three-strikes” law, requiring a third-strike life sentence only in cases where the third-strike conviction is for a serious or violent felony. 

If the third offense is for a non-violent crime like shoplifting, repeat offenders would be punished by receiving twice the normal sentence for the crime instead of life imprisonment. However, rapists, murderers and child molesters would be exceptions—if convicted of even a minor third-strike crime, these persons would receive life sentences. 

Prop 36 Opposition:

Current and former District Attorneys and law enforcement seem to be divided on this one. But key opposition members to the measure include the California GOP. The "Save Three Strikes" movement says:

1. The 1994 Three Strikes law cut crime rates in half when it passed in 1994.

2. Prop 36 would allow nearly half of the state's current 3-strike inmates to be re-sentenced and then released.

3. Low-level criminals released under AB109 are already causing enough crime – worse criminals with two or more convictions could be released under this new ballot measure.

Prop 36 Support:

Again, law enforcement and DAs fall on both sides of this argument. Drafters of the measure include legal eagles from Stanford Law School, the Legal Defense Fund, and the NAACP. Proponents say:

1. Prop 36 will make room in California prisons for more dangerous prisoners, as non-violent third-strikers will have their life sentences reduced.

2. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates Prop 36 potentially saves the state $100 million each year – funds that would help schools, prevent crime and decrease the need for tax increases.

3. The current law is too harsh in awarding 25 years to life sentences for repeat, non-violent felons, for such crimes as possession of small amounts of marijuana, writing bad checks, or theft of inexpensive items.

 

Proposition 37  – Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

 

This Proposition would prohibit claims that food is “natural” where such engineering has taken place and, additionally, would require labeling indicating such engineering had occurred.  There would be a number of exemptions offered, including exemptions for food that has been certified as organic, food that is made from animals fed with genetically–engineered materials and food containing minimally-engineered materials.

Prop 37 Opposition:

Various California farm bureaus and agricultural associations, the California Republican Party and quite a few heavy hitters of the food industry are opposed to this one, arguing that 37 is deceptive and flawed, and will:

1. Ban perfectly safe foods only in California, unless they're specially relabeled and/or remade with higher cost ingredients.

2. Result in higher food costs for consumers, as manufacturers will be forced to use more organics and implement new record-keeping and other operations. Billions of dollars in costs will be passed on to families.

3. Institute more costly bureaucracy as government agencies will need to monitor food, growers, packagers, retailers, etc.

Prop 37 Support:

The "Right to Know" movement is supported by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), the California Nurses Association and other health groups, United Farm Workers and such companies as Amy's Kitchen and Whole Foods. They claim:

1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are genetically engineered foods and other products that have not been subjected to long-term health studies and are not proven safe.

2. A growing body of studies links GMOs to allergies, organ toxicity and other health problems, as well as environmental concerns such as a loss in biodiversity, increase in pesticide use and the emergence of "super weeds".

3. Companies revise their labeling all the time so there shouldn't be a cost increase in food as the Prop 37 opposition claims. A study shows there was no increase in food costs in Europe when their countries switched to GMO labeling.

 

Proposition 38  – Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

 

This measure offers an alternative to Governor Brown’s proposal (Proposition 30) to increase the income tax on individuals earning over $250,000/year and to increase the sales tax.  Proposition 38 would, for a 12-year period, increase income taxes on virtually everyone, from a .4 percent increase on very low earners ($7,316/year) to a 2.2 percent increase on individuals earning over $2.5 million annually.  The monies raised would be devoted exclusively to schools, early childhood education programs and repayment of State debt.

Prop 38 Opposition:

The primary opposition comes from the supporters of Governor Brown's Proposition 30, and the California Democratic Party, as well as the California Teachers Association. The No on 38 crowd says the measure will:

1. Kill jobs in small and family businesses and imposes a significant tax hike on most Californians.

2. Not allow for change – this law if enacted, will continue for 12 years.

3. Force schools through complex red tape to receive basic funding and creates new programs even though necessary school functions have been cut back.

Prop 38 Support:

Supporters of this ballot include the California State PTA and various school districts and school boards around the state. They claim Prop 38:

1. Restores budget cuts to schools, allowing teachers to be re-hired and programs to be restored.

2. Ensures that funds raised will go straight to the schools – state politicians won't be able to touch it.

3. Guarantees local control: parents and teachers decide how to spend the money.

 

Proposition 39  – Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

 

This Prop would require businesses with multistate sales to pay State income taxes according to the businesses’ percentage of total sales being made in California.  Presently, multistate businesses can base their California tax liability on a formula that gives weight to payroll and property outside the State, usually resulting in more favorable tax treatment than would exist if Prop 39 becomes law.

 

Prop 39 Opposition:

The opposition to Prop 39 is primarily lead by the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA), who says that, the measure:

1. Makes California's hostile business climate and uncertain regulatory environment worse, by raising taxes on job creators.

2. The three factor formula for determining tax liability has been in place since 1966, including through California's "boom" years in the 1980s and 1990s.

3. Is a job-killer because it's a $1 billion tax increase on job-creating, multi-state companies.

Prop 39 Support:

The "Close the Loophole" faction is supported by California's National Organization for Women (NOW), The American Lung Association/California, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and various environmental and conservation groups. Supporters say Prop 39:

1. Closes loophole created in 2009 costs the state $1 billion per year and tens of thousands of jobs.

2. Creates 20k – 30k construction-related jobs because of the direct investment in energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

3. Will help reduce the state budget deficit by generating an additional $500 million in annual General Fund revenue starting next year, and $1 billion after five years.

 

Proposition 40  –  Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

 

If enacted, this measure would have held the 2010 realignment of State Senate Districts by the “Citizens Redistricting Commission” in abeyance, and would have had the judiciary set interim districts until the 2010 realignment could be voted upon in a future State-wide election.  

This one gets a little confusing. If you vote "yes," you're voting to maintain the State Senate maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. A "no" vote indicates you want the State Senate maps redrawn. 

To further cloud the issue, the original backers of Prop 40 – the ones who wanted a "no" vote, mostly the GOP – have withdrawn, though the measure will remain on the ballot. And now the original "No" movement wants you to vote "Yes." The OC Register has something of an explanation in this editorial:  Prop. 40 (redistricting): Yes.

Prop 40 Opposition:

The Yes on 40 coalitions is the initial ballot writers' opposition, and consists of the California Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters/California, California Forward, and other groups. Yes on 40 says the prop will:

1. Uphold the will of the California voters, who passed Proposition 11 in 2008 which created the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

2. Hold politicians accountable by ending "backroom deals" and ensuring transparency.

3. Uphold a unanimous California Supreme Court decision to protect the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Prop 40 Support:

Remember, the initial supporters of this measure wanted a "no" vote, but have now backed out and cannot get the Prop 40 removed from the ballot. The GOP could get the vote they initially campaigned for and now no longer want, just because most voters will be confused. 

Read California Ballot Initiatives Pros & Cons Part I, posted last week. Or continue with a look at ballot measures that will affect Angelenos: Los Angeles County Measure by Measure.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business Litigation Attorney and Chair of our Environmental Law Practice Group. You may reach him at 818.990.2120.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Tuesday
Sep112012

November Propositions | California Ballot Initiatives' Pros & Cons Part 1 of 2

Los Angeles Environmental AttorneyLos Angeles Environmental LawyerStephen T. Holzer
September 11, 2012

Los Angeles Environmental Attorney

 

Eleven Propositions will appear on the ballot in November. Though the Secretary of State's (SOS's) office has them all listed on their website, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the pros and cons of each measure.

In this blog, we'll examine the first six of the 11 propositions we'll see on the 2012 ballot. We'll tackle the remaining five, Props 36-40, next week.

To read the Official Title and Summary prepared by the Attorney General, simply click on each numbered Proposition – you'll be hyperlinked to the appropriate page on the SOS website. We also provided links to the main groups opposing and supporting each proposition, where you may find more than the three reasons we listed to vote either for, or against, a particular proposition.

Proposition 30Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

 

This is the Governor's proposal to increase income taxes on taxpayers earning over $250,000/year and to increase the State sales tax by ¼ cent for four years.  Eighty-nine percent of revenue raised would go to K-12 education and the remaining 11 percent would go to community colleges.  According to the Secretary of State's summary, the Proposition would also guarantee funding for public safety services which are being realigned from the State to local governments. 

Prop 30 Opposition:

Primarily sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business California, the Small Business Action Committee, and various Chambers of Commerce and Taxpayers Associations, the naysayers to this proposition claim:

1. The Prop raises sales and income taxes on ALL Californians.

2. It won't generate new funding for schools.

3. Prop 30 destroys small business and kills jobs.

Prop 30 Support:

The Yes on 30 movement is primarily sponsored by California university organizations, state law enforcement associations, and various community and business groups. They say Prop 30 will:

1. Prevent about $6 billion in school cuts, and provides additional funding.

2. Constitutionally guarantee local public safety funding.

3. Help balance the budget.

Proposition 31State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

 

This measure proposes a number of intriguing budget tweaks.  Proposition 31 prohibits the Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million without either also creating equivalent revenues or identifying equivalent spending cuts. 

The Proposition also gives the Governor the authority unilaterally to cut the Budget during fiscal emergencies, provided that the Legislature has been given a chance to act but fails to do so.  Further, the measure requires that all bills be publicized at least three days prior to any vote.  Finally, the Proposition gives Counties the authority to alter State statues and regulations dealing with spending unless the Counties' alterations are vetoed by the Legislature within a two-month period. 

Prop 31 Opposition:

The No on 31 faction includes the California Labor Federation, California Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters, and other organizations. They complain that Prop 31:

1. Is poorly written, leading to lawsuits instead of reform.

2. Shifts $200 million from education and other vital services to fund experimental programs.

3. Leads to a more cumbersome, slower government.

Prop 31 Support:

This measure is supported by the California Republican Party, and a group called California Forward, which claims to transform government through citizen-driven solutions. Prop 31 Supporters say the ballot measure:

1. Forces politicians to be accountable by giving lawmakers and the public time to review legislative proposals.

2. Makes State and Municipal governments clearly identify the benefits of new and existing spending.

3. Benefits business by stabilizing the budget and requiring government at every level to set goals and measure progress.

 

Proposition 32Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.

 

If passed, Proposition 32 would restrict the unions' political fundraising by prohibiting the use for political advocacy of monies deducted for union purposes from employee paychecks.  Such use would be permitted only if the employee consents in writing on an annual basis. 

The Proposition imposes a similar restriction on corporations' use of payroll deductions.  However, even in the absence of voluntary payroll contributions, corporations would still be free to spend money on political advocacy so long as the expenditures come from other sources of revenue.

Prop 32 Opposition:

Labor unions, particularly those for public employees, constitute the key groups leading the opposition. Among other charges, they claim the proposition will:

1. Place restrictions on union workers while creating special exemptions for corporate interests.

2. Give corporations and lobbyists greater influence.

3. Empower insurance companies, real estate investors and other wealthy supporters to contribute directly to political candidates.

Prop 32 Support:

Supporters of this ballot say Prop 32 reduces the influence of special interest groups because it will:

1. Stop special interest from taking automatic wage deductions from employee paychecks for political purposes..

2. End special treatment by politicians awarding government contracts to companies who make financial contributions to their campaigns.

3. Break the union hold on politicians and government.

 

Proposition 33Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver's History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.

 

Proposition 33 if enacted, would permit insurance companies to set premiums based on whether the insured previously carried auto coverage with any insurance company. Also, premiums could be raised where the driver did not previously carry continuous insurance (except for lapses of 90 days or less, lapses caused by military service and lapses due to employment loss). 

Prop 33 Opposition:

The biggest opponents to Prop 33 are from Consumer Watchdog, an organization billing itself as a nonprofit dedicated to providing a voice for taxpayers and consumers, and the California Democratic Party. They claim the measure will:

1. Unfairly punish people who stop driving for legitimate reasons, such as unemployment.

2. Hurt drivers who drop coverage while in college, or who temporarily explore other means of transportation (public transit, bicycling to work, etc.).

3. Lead to higher uninsured motorist premiums for all insured drivers.

Prop 33 Support:

According to Drew Joseph of the San Francisco Chronicle, 99 percent of the funding for Prop 33 comes from the chairman of Mercury Insurance, George Joseph. Vocal proponents include the American Agents Alliance and the California Republican Party, who say Prop 33:

1. Rewards California drivers who are always insured by offering them discounts for continuous coverage, even when they switch insurance companies.

2. Empowers continuously covered drivers to shop for better insurance rates.

3. Does not, as the Prop 33 opponents claim, punish drivers who discontinue insurance due to layoffs, for up to 18 months.

 

Proposition 34Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.

 

Proposition 34 aims to abolish the death penalty and substitute life imprisonment as the harshest criminal penalty meted out by the State.  The measure would apply retroactively to any prisoner already sentenced to death, and would require those sentenced to life in prison to work in their prison facility, with wages going to the victims’ families. Prop 34's initiators estimate state savings of over $100 million a year as a result of not having to prosecute expensive trials and defend against appeals.

Prop 34 Opposition:

Not surprisingly, a number of victims' families and district attorneys are against Prop 34. They attest that:

1. Studies regarding cost savings to the state are misleading and inflated, as the data was written or collected by the writers of Prop 34.

2. The people on Death Row are serial killers, cop killers and rapists, who may find their way out again if Prop 34 passes.

3. The Death Penalty system should be fixed, not abolished – they recommend using a single drug for executions as well as mending the Appeals Process.

Prop 34 Support:

Those in favor of this proposition carry some weight, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Democratic Party, the California Catholic Conference of Bishops – and individuals such as Gil Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa. They say:

1. California tax payers will save $130 million per year by imprisoning criminals for life rather than executing them.

2. Convicted criminals will be required to work and pay restitution to a victims' fund.

3. Innocent people are sometimes wrongfully convicted of, and executed for, serious crimes.

 

Proposition 35 – Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

 

This Proposition would increase penalties for human sex trafficking.  Prison would be for 15-years-to-life and fines could be up to $1.5 million per offense. The measure would prohibit the sex trafficking victim’s consensual sexual history to be used against that person in legal proceedings and would also require the police to undergo human-trafficking training.  Cost to State and local governments would total several million dollars a year. 

Prop 35 Opposition:

Believe it or not, there are a few voices raised against this Proposition, including the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. The CCWP says:

1. The measure can be used as a pretext to label sex workers as pimps and traffickers, which will deter these workers from seeking help when subjected to violence.

2. Prop 35 increases police power to detain and interrogate people under a pretext of looking for trafficked individuals.

3. The Prop gives a vested financial interest to victims' services and non-profit agencies that work with law enforcement, in the form of fines charged to convicted traffickers.

Prop 35 Support:

Several attorneys general and district attorneys are in favor of Prop 35, and are backed by both California's Democratic and Republican Parties. Also on board are actress Jada Pinkett Smith, former Privacy Chief of Facebook, Chris Kelly, and the president of the California Police Chiefs Association. Supporters claim the Prop will:

1. Deter traffickers with higher penalties and fines.

2. Use fines to fund services for victims.

3. Require convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders.

That wraps up the first six of the 11 Propositions California voters will see on the November ballot. We'll look into the remaining five, Propositions 36-40, next week. We'll also post information about the Los Angeles County ballot measures as we get closer to election day.

 

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business Litigation Attorney, and Chair of our Environmental Practice Group. Contact him via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Aug182011

The 2012 Presidential Election & the Ghosts of Elections Past

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

Two major events affecting the 2012 presidential election occurred last week. One got, and is still getting, national media attention. That would be the August 12 Iowa Straw Poll, in which Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minnesota) and Ron Paul (Texas) emerged as winners in that particular battle for the Republican nomination.

On the other hand, and garnering hardly any media notice at all, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 459 (Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Francisco) into law on August 8.

The law assigns California electoral votes to the candidate winning the national popular vote. The former bill is the result of a movement sparked by the 2000 presidential election, in which George W. Bush won the presidency on the strength of electoral votes, even though Democratic opponent Al Gore won the national popular vote.

Anomalous as the election may seem, it also happened when Rutherford B. Hayes won the White House over Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, and when Benjamin Harrison took the presidency over incumbent Grover Cleveland, in 1888.

But what does Governor Brown’s move mean for the 2012 presidential election?

Probably nothing, for the next year or two, even though California’s endorsement carries quite a bit of weight. First, under AB 459, California’s participation in the measure first requires States with 270 electoral votes also to sign on. So far there are 134:

State

Electoral Votes

California55
Illinois21
New Jersey15
Massachusetts12
Washington11
Maryland10
Hawaii4
Vermont3
District of Columbia3

 

The other reason we probably won’t see a significant move toward a direct national vote is because we can expect a rainstorm of legal wrangling, should the movement attain the 270 necessary votes.

The U.S. Constitution allows individual states to select electors as the States see fit; but some will argue that this does not permit (in this case, mostly larger) States to “conspire” together to reduce the electoral clout of other (smaller) States, as this measure would do (i.e., candidates would probably concentrate on large population areas to rack up the popular vote while ignoring some geographical regions of the country).

If the popular-vote measure ever goes into effect, the debate over its Constitutionality undoubtedly would ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Los Angeles Civil Litigation Attorney and Chair of our Environmental Law Practice Group.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

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