Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court prohibiting a vote tabulation regarding a school board tax recall based upon alleged violations of Ky. Rev. Stat. 132.017 and Ky. Rev. Stat. Chapter 369, holding that there was no error.This case involved a tax increase adopted by the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) in 2020. A recall committee was formed to challenge the excess portion of the tax. A recall petition was subsequently certified. JCBE filed suit, seeking review of the county clerk's certification pursuant to section 132.017(2)(i). The recall committee intervened and counterclaimed for failure to comply with Ky. Rev. Stat. 133.185 and the notice requirements of Ky. Rev. Stat. 160.470(7)(b). The circuit court dismissed the counterclaim and ordered no further action regarding the regular ballot votes for the tax recall. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public's right to vote on a tax recall is rendered null by the inadequacy of the recall petition occasioned by the alterations and lack of required information. View "Friedmann v. Honorable Bobbie Holsclaw" on Justia Law

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Proposition 13 and Proposition 218 amended the California Constitution to require that any special tax adopted by a local government entity take effect only if approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate. The court of appeal recently interpreted these constitutional provisions “as coexisting with, not displacing, the people’s power to enact initiatives by majority vote” and held that a measure placed on the ballot as a local citizens’ initiative requires a majority, not a supermajority, vote to pass.Sixty percent of San Franciscans voting on Proposition G— an initiative entitled “Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District”—approved the measure. San Francisco filed suit to establish that Proposition G was valid. The complaint against “All Persons Interested” was answered by Nowak, who argued that Proposition G is invalid because it failed to garner the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. Nowak also contended that a provision of Proposition 218 unique to parcel taxes, (art. XIII D, 3(a)), requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to enact Proposition G. Nowak sought to distinguish the earlier decisions on the grounds that Proposition G was conceived and promoted by local government officials and was not a valid citizens’ initiative. The court of appeal rejected all of Nowak’s arguments, standing by its earlier decisions. View "City & County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in Matter of Prop. G" on Justia Law

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After garnering sufficient voter signatures to qualify, a proposed initiative entitled “Universal Childcare for San Francisco Families Initiative” was placed on the city’s June 2018 ballot as Proposition C. The initiative sought to impose an additional tax on certain commercial rents to fund early childcare and education. Approximately 51 percent of the votes cast were in favor of Proposition C. In August 2018, opponents filed suit to invalidate Proposition C on the ground that it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. While Proposition C imposes the type of tax that, if submitted to the voters by the Board of Supervisors, would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass, neither Proposition 13 nor Proposition 218 imposed such a requirement on a tax imposed by initiative. The absence of a constitutional provision expressly authorizing majority approval of local voter initiatives is immaterial. The City Charter does not impose a super-majority requirement View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In the November 2018 general election, 61percent of San Francisco voters voted for Proposition C, entitled “Additional Business Taxes to Fund Homeless Services.” San Francisco filed suit to establish that Proposition C has been validly enacted through the voters’ initiative power. The City’s complaint against “All Persons Interested in the Matter of Proposition C” was answered by three defendants: the California Business Properties Association, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the California Business Roundtable (the Associations). The Associations allege that Proposition C is invalid because it imposes a special tax approved by less than two-thirds of the voting electorate as required by Propositions 13 and 218. (California Constitution Art. XIII A, section 4 & Art. XIII C, section 2(d).)The trial court granted the City judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeal affirmed, citing two California Supreme Court cases interpreting other language from Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. The supermajority vote requirements that those propositions added to the state constitution coexist with and do not displace the people’s power to enact initiatives by majority vote. Because a majority of San Francisco voters who cast ballots in November 2018 favored Proposition C, the initiative measure was validly enacted. View "City and County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in Proposition C" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Title Board set a title for Proposed Ballot Initiative 2019–2020 #3 (“Proposed Initiative”) that reads, in pertinent part, “An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the repeal of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado constitution.” The Board also ultimately adopted an abstract that states, regarding the economic impact of the Proposed Initiative. A challenge to the Proposed Initiative was presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review, and after such, the Court concluded the title and abstract were clear and not misleading, and that the phrase “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,” as used in the title, was not an impermissible catch phrase. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Title Board. View "In re Proposed Ballot Initiative 2019" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Edward Shadid challenged Oklahoma City Ordinance No. 26,255 (Ordinance)1 which was passed by the City Council of Oklahoma City and signed by the Mayor on September 24, 2019. The Ordinance amended Article II of Chapter 52 of the Oklahoma City Municipal Code, 2010, by creating a new Section 52-23.7. This amendment created a temporary term (8 year) excise tax of 1% to begin April 1, 2020, if approved by a majority vote of qualified, registered voters of Oklahoma City. A special election was set for this purpose on December 10, 2019. Petitioner contends the Ordinance violates the single subject rule found in art. 5, sec. 57, Okla. Const. The Oklahoma Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction to respond to Petitioner's challenge, and concluded the proposed ordinance did not violate the single subject rule found in the Oklahoma Constitution or the single subject rule found in state statute and City of Oklahoma City's charter. Relief was thus denied. View "Shadid v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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Political subdivisions of the State of Colorado challenged Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (“TABOR”) under the Colorado Enabling Act and the Supremacy Clause, contending that TABOR contradicted the Enabling Act’s requirement that Colorado maintain a “republican form of government.” TABOR allowed the people of Colorado to raise or prevent tax increases by popular vote, thereby limiting the power of Colorado’s legislative bodies to levy taxes. The issue currently before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was whether certain school districts, a special district board, and/or a county commission had standing to challenge TABOR. On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), the district court held that plaintiffs had Article III standing but that they lacked political subdivision standing and prudential standing. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint. The Tenth Circuit concluded that it could not properly reach its conclusions at this stage of litigation. Because the Court held the political subdivision plaintiffs were not barred by standing requirements, the district court was reversed. View "Kerr v. Hickenlooper" on Justia Law

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Mendocino County Ballot Measure AI, which imposed a tax on commercial cannabis businesses, was approved by a simple majority of county voters. The trial court dismissed a challenge and denied plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that under a correct interpretation of article XIII of the California Constitution the tax imposed by Measure AI was not a general tax but, together with a related advisory measure, amounted to a special tax requiring approval by a supermajority of county voters. The court also rejected an alternative argument that Measure AI did not involve a tax at all, and instead imposed an unlawful fee. Because Measure AJ did not in any way limit the County’s ability to spend the proceeds collected under Measure AI, the tax necessarily and by its terms remained a general tax. View "Johnson v. County of Mendocino" on Justia Law

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In July 2015, the Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education passed a resolution to submit a renewal levy to voters at the general election. On November 20, 2015, the Delaware County Board of Elections purported to certify the election result. The county auditor then delivered the abstract of tax rates to the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rate for the school district. When the county auditor discovered that the Board of Elections had not certified the results of the levy using Form 5-U, however, the tax commissioner excluded the levy on the list of tax rates certified for collection to the county auditors in counties with territory in the school district, and the levy was not included on the property tax bills sent to property owners for the first half of tax year 2016. The school board brought this action in mandamus to compel the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rates for the levy. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because no proper certification of the multicounty election was presented to the tax commissioner demonstrating that the tax was authorized to be levied, the commissioner did not have a clear legal duty to apply reduction factors and calculate tax rates for this levy. View "State ex rel. Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education v. Testa" on Justia Law

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Nichols is a resident, property owner, and taxpayer in the City of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach held a special election, open to residents of more than six months, for approval of a $52.5 million bond issue to finance an ocean outfall project. The resolution passed. Nichols voted in the election. She then filed suit challenging the election and the resultant issuance of bonds. The district court, reasoning that Nichols was not contesting the expenditure of tax funds, but the legality of the Special Election; found that Nichols, having voted, lacked standing; and dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that because Nichols failed to show an illegal use of municipal taxpayer funds, she cannot establish standing on municipal taxpayer grounds. The court rejected her claims of municipal taxpayer standing on the basis of two expenditures by Rehoboth Beach: the funds required to hold the special election and the funds used to purchase an advertisement in a local newspaper. View "Nichols v. City of Rehoboth Beach" on Justia Law