Legislative lawyers believe that if a referendum on the new law requiring sales tax collection by online retailers qualifies for the ballot, the law will have to be put on hold until the voters have their say.If that opinion holds, it may raise the stakes for a budget written with an expectation of at least $200 million from the law in question.
“We are of the opinion that the operation of the statute would be suspended during that time period,” writes attorneys for the office of
the Legislative Counsel in a letter dated Friday to state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego).
Anderson apparently asked for a legal opinion on whether the law, contained in ABx 28, would be operable should the newly launched campaign to overturn it via referendum gather enough voter signatures.
The six page letter (PDF) tackles an issue raised a few times before, and several times since, voters approved Proposition 25 in November: whether a majority vote budget and its related “trailer” bills are subject to referendum.
But, I am positive that this will be litigated once the requisite signatures are gathered.
Which I do not surmise will be too long with Amazon.Com’s deep financial pockets. With the polling already showing a likelihood that the referendum will pass, Walmart, Target and the other brick and mortar retailers will want to keep Amazon’s feet to the fire – and in legal fees.
Some have suggested that the budget and any related bill which includes an “appropriation” could, under Prop 25, may be immune from the referendum. In part, the quandary is linked to the California Constitution’s exclusion of “urgency statutes” (which go into effect immediately and require a supermajority legislative vote) and those “providing for appropriations.” Until Prop 25 lowered the budget vote in the Legislature, both seemed to apply to state’s annual fiscal plan.
“Before Proposition 25,” the opinion letter states, “the referendum was applicable only to statutes that did not go into effect immediately.”
But now, write legislative attorneys, the budget can no longer be considered exempt from referendum because Prop 25 didn’t explicitly say so. And while the constitution doesn’t expressly put a statute on hold once a referendum has qualified for the ballot, Legislative Counsel says the courts have nonetheless operated on that assumption.