FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   June 29, 2000
RE:   CVF-NEWS Mega Round-up

Hi Folks,

Wow, I leave the state for just a few days and come back to find a bunch of important things have happened. This edition of CVF-NEWS provides a quick rundown of the events of the week, plus some news stories you don't want to miss. I apologize for the length of this email, but there is a lot of info to share and I want to be sure to keep you all well-informed :).

In this edition of CVF-NEWS:

* California's blanket primary initiative thrown out by Supreme Court
* California's Insurance Commissioner resigns from office
* Governor Davis to webcast budget signing ceremony
* Congress passes legislation to require disclosure of contributions to politically active, tax-exempt organizations
* Initiative to lower the vote requirement for passage of local school bonds qualifies for November ballot
* Orange County Register runs eye-opening series on California's lawmaking process

* * * * * * * * * * *
California's blanket primary thrown out by Supreme Court

On Monday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court struck down California's so-called "open primary" law (which is technically a blanket primary), on the grounds that it violated political parties' First Amendment rights to freedom of association. California's blanket primary system was enacted in 1996, when voters passed Proposition 198. The revised primary system allowed voters to cast ballots for any candidate of any party in the primary regardless of the voters' party affiliation. California's 1998 and 2000 primaries were held under the blanket primary process.

California's major and minor political parties joined together to challenge the law, which was previously upheld by lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision jeopardizes similar primary systems currently operating in Alaska and Washington state. Party leaders are now discussing implementing an alternative primary process that would allow decline-to-state voters to select a party to affiliate with on the primary election day. Others are suggesting that California consider enacting same-day voter registration, which would provide all voters with the opportunity change their party affiliation on election day if they wanted.

There have been many stories about this landmark decision published this week -- one that is very comprehensive is Jim Puzzanghera's in the San Jose Mercury News:

The opinion of the court is also available online at:

* * * * * * * * * * *
California's Insurance Commissioner resigns from office

On Wednesday, June 28, California's elected insurance commissioner, Chuck Quackenbush, resigned from office in the wake of ongoing investigations into his involvement with a nonprofit foundation. This saga has been unfolding for several months here in the State Capitol, with multiple hearings and investigations underway to determine if the commissioner and his deputies coerced charitable donations from insurance companies in exchange for waiving huge penalties against the companies related to delinquent payments to victims of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The nonprofit foundation used the millions of dollars in donations to pay for public service announcements on T.V. featuring the insurance commissioner designed to give the insurance commissioner more media exposure.

There is a bounty of coverage about this scandal available from Jack Kavanagh's Rough and Tumble web site, at:

Quackenbush's resignation creates a vacancy in a very powerful statewide elective office. For those of you not familiar with the history of the insurance commissioner's office, I'll give a brief review: in 1988 voters passed Prop. 103, an insurance reform initiative sponsored by consumer activists that included among other provisions, converting the office of Insurance Commissioner from an appointed to an elective office. In 1990 the first electoral contest for the office was held, and John Garamendi was elected to the post. In 1994, Chuck Quackenbush ran for the office and won, and he was re-elected to the position in 1998. (Until yesterday, Quackenbush was one of only two Republican statewide officeholders in California, the other being Secretary of State Bill Jones).

Although Prop. 103 didn't define the office of insurance commissioner as a constitutional office, the legislature passed a bill (AB 2375) in 1993 requiring that if a vacancy should occur in this office, it should be filled in the same manner as a constitutional office. Constitutional office vacancies are filled by appointment of the governor with a majority vote approval from both houses of the legislature. The irony is that the insurance commissioner's office was converted to an elective office in the first place due to a distrust of the gubernatorial appointment process. We'll have to wait and see if voters and consumer activists will be satisfied with whoever Governor Davis selects for the position.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Governor Davis to webcast budget signing ceremony

Speaking of the Governor.....he will be signing the state's 2000-2001 budget tomorrow at a signing ceremony in the State Capitol Park at 11:30 a.m. You can watch the event live tomorrow via webcast on the State of California's web site. The final details of California's $100.8 billion (yes, billion) budget were enacted by the State Senate today, and the budget will be signed into law June 30, one day prior to the start of California's new fiscal year. To watch the live webcast of the signing ceremony, visit the state's web site at 11:30 a.m. P.S.T. at:

* * * * * * * * * * *
Congress passes legislation to require disclosure of contributions to politically active, tax-exempt organizations

In recent elections we've been seeing more and more independent expenditure campaigns that, while very political in nature and usually targeted to help or harm a particular candidate, have evaded traditional political disclosure laws due to their classification as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations operating under section 527 of the IRS code. Today Congress passed legislation to require these kinds of groups to disclose their contributors so that the public can be fully informed about who's paying for their political messages. It is a big victory for the cause of better disclosure, and hopefully will enable voters to make more informed decisions on election day. It has been reported that President Clinton intends to sign the bill into law. For more information about this historic vote, take a look at the story in the New York Times:

* * * * * * * * * * *
Initiative to lower the vote requirement for passage of local school bonds qualifies for November ballot

And then there were four.....So far a total of four initiatives have qualified for the upcoming California ballot. The most recent addition is a measure that would lower the number of votes needed to pass a local school bond from the current two-thirds vote requirement to instead a 55 percent vote requirement. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's very similar to Prop. 26, a measure backed by the same proponents which would have lowered the vote requirement to a simple majority had it not been defeated by the voters in March 2000. For more details about this and other measures qualified or attempting to qualify for November, visit CVF's Initiative Watch pages at:

* * * * * * * * * * *
Orange County Register runs eye-opening series on California's lawmaking process

Some people say legislation is like sausage; you shouldn't watch it being made. But, if you've got the stomach for it, then be sure to read the excellent series authored by Dan Weintraub in the Orange County Register, which ran in the paper June 11 - 22. The series, titled, "The Shadow Legislature" chronicles the life and times of an environmental lobbyist and how he makes his way through California's lawmaking process. The series sheds lots of light on the nitty-gritty details about how laws are really made. It's an outstanding online presentation as well, complete with lots of color photos. A big kudos is due to Weintraub and the Register for putting together such a fascinating and well-written package. Check it out for yourself at:

That's all, folks! Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a fabulous Fourth of July!

Back to CVF-NEWS index
Subscribe to CVF-NEWS
Contact Kim Alexander

Main Page

What's New




Contact Us

Support CVF

This page was first published on June 30, 2000 | Last updated on June 30, 2000
copyright 1994 - 1999, California Voter Foundation. All rights reserved.