new america foundation’s joe mathews on challenging the legality of prop 13

A Drive By Shot at Prop 13

Your blogger is all for overturning Prop 13, particularly the piece that required a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. But Prop 13 is sturdy, both legally and politically. Overturning it will require sustained public education and organizing. It’s a waste of time to try out discredited legal theories to defeat it. But that’s what former UCLA Chancellor Charles Young did last week by suing under the theory that, 31 years after it passed, Prop 13 was an unconstitutional revision to the constitution, rather than amendment. Call it a drive-by shot. That’s now how you kill the king.

Young’s argument is the same theory that didn’t work when it was used to challenge Prop 8, the ban on same-sex marriage. In fact, it’s a theory that hasn’t worked because the California constitution and the judiciary have always been reluctant to overrule a vote of the people.  If you read the state constitution — particularly the second article — you’ll see why. The people really are sovereign in California.

What’s more, as former Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn president Joel Fox points out correctly in this post, Prop 13 already survived a challenge under this same legal theory.

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