Maybe not CEQA but this is related
Last week the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could determine whether the right to vote on local taxes, which is constitutionally guaranteed by both Propositions 13 and 218, will cease to exist.
The case, California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, at first glance seems limited to a narrow technical question: When a local initiative seeks to impose a new tax, does the issue need to be put to the voters at the next general election or can the proponents, relying on other laws, force a special election? But in answering that question, the lower court ruled that taxes proposed by initiative are exempt from the taxpayer protections contained in the state constitution, such as the provision dictating the timing of the election.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), which filed the petition seeking Supreme Court review, was alarmed because the constitution’s taxpayer protections include the right to vote on taxes. If local initiatives are exempt from those protections, then public agencies could easily deny taxpayers their right to vote on taxes by colluding with outside interests to propose taxes in the form of an initiative, then adopting the initiative without an election.
The import of the case was not lost on those who dislike Proposition 13’s requirement that local special taxes – those imposed for specific purposes – receive a two-thirds vote of the local electorate. For example, backers of a tax to subsidize a new sports arena in San Diego were hoping that the lower court ruling would allow them to impose a special tax with only a simple majority vote…
Taxpayers of all stripes and interests will be watching this case very closely. California is already a hostile place for taxpayers so losing the right to vote on local taxes would simply be adding to the pain… (more)
The bottom line is the tax-and-spend folks are not happy with Proposition 13 or Proposition 218 (which closed gaps on Prop 13), and activist judges like to knock down “misguided” voters’ wishes. So, the 4th District Court of Appeals said that Proposition 218 does not apply to voter initiatives; it applies only to government-originated initiatives.
Say I am the Restoration Authority and want a $500 parcel tax. I team up with the Bay Area Council, the BAC pays a gazillion signature gatherers, and places a voter initiative on the ballot at a special election timed so there is very little voter turnout and special-interest activists can vote my measure in with 50+1% of the yes vote.
So the HJTA, said “What!? Not so fast!” and took the case to the CA Supreme Court.
The 4th District Court ruling is bizarre, and if allowed to stand it would eliminate the intent of Proposition 218. Any proponent, including governing bodies, could team up with powerful special interest lobbies to pass a tax via an initiative. We recommend that voters who wish to retain their power to decide how and by whom they will be taxed support the efforts of the organizations working to overturn this 4th District Court ruling.