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Consumer Group Calls on Santa Monica Assemblyman Bloom to Drop Filing Fee Bill

SANTA MONICA LOOKOUT
http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2015/June-2015/06_30_2015_Consumer_Group_Calls_on_Santa_Monica_Assembleyman_Bloom_to_Drop_Filing_Fee_Bill.html

Santa Monica-area state Assemblyman Richard Bloom should drop his bill to hike the fee for filing a state ballot initiative to $2,500, after the California Attorney General’s Office tossed out a proposal that triggered the bill, a local consumer’s group said.

The call by Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog came after Attorney General Kamala Harris rejected a ballot initiative that targets gays and lesbians and spurred Bloom to co-author AB1100 with Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell.

A call to Bloom’s office was not returned Monday.

If approved AB1100 would hike the state’s fee for filing a proposed ballot measure from the current $200 to $2,500, the highest in the nation. California currently has the fifth-highest filing fee for ballot initiatives, Consumer Watchdog said.

On his website, Low said the bill was prompted by a ballot initiative proposed in February by a Huntington Beach lawyer who wants to legalize the execution of homosexual and transgender people “by bullets to the head or any convenient means.” (“Santa Monica Watchdog Group Says Bloom Bill Limits Citizens’ Political Clout,” June 19, 2015)

“This would discourage people from putting ballot initiatives out there just for giggles,” said Sean MacNeal, Bloom’s spokesman. “If people are really serious, they're going to need more than $2,500 to run a successful ballot campaign anyway.”

Harris last week rejected the proposed initiative, calling it “patently unconstitutional.”

Her ruling makes the bill by Bloom and Low “a moot point,” said Consumer Watchdog.

“It’s outrageous that the state that birthed direct democracy would charge its citizens an initiative filing fee that is five times greater than the next highest state -- Mississippi,” said Carmen Balber, the group’s spokeswoman, in a letter to Bloom and Low urging them to drop their proposal.

Raising the filing fee will mean some groups working to change California law would end up paying thousands in fees, said Balber.

“AB110 would create another hurdle for citizen initiatives. This is especially true because groups that are serious about initiatives typically submit multiple versions of the same measure before moving forward with the one with the best chance for success.

“This means that legitimate initiatives are likely to pay not $2,500 but double or triple that in practice,” said Balber in her letter.

Individuals and groups able to afford the filing fees will end up dominating the initiatives process, said Balber.

Harris’ ruling, which was upheld in Sacramento Superior Court last week, “proved that there are myriad backstops to curtail reviled initiatives without financially burdening the public’s ability to access the initiatives process,” she said.