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The clock is ticking for Prop. 18

August 6, 2010 |  5:57 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature are in a race against time to get Proposition 18, California's water bond, off the Nov. 2 ballot.

Two bills were amended Thursday that would allow for Proposition 18 to be pushed back to the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot, but those bills have yet to come to a vote. The first bill, AB 1265, delays voting on the water bond, and the second, AB 1260, would delay the terms for those appointed to allocate the bond's funds.

Monday, Aug. 9 is the deadline for any changes to be made to the voter information guide that will be sent to millions of voting households throughout the state. If the Legislature does not vote by then, millions of voters may end up receiving misleading materials.

Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said there was no question that the proposition would eventually be moved to the 2012 ballot.

"We could [make that vote] the day before the actual election, and it would be moved," she said.

In other words, even if the proposition appeared on the ballot and citizens cast votes for it, as long as the Legislature voted to move the proposition to the 2012 ballot before Nov. 2, none of the votes cast would be counted.

"None of the votes would matter," said Trost.

So, if Proposition 18 remains on the voter information guide, "we run the risk of confusing voters," said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "We want to make things as clean as possible to not confuse voters or make them study up on something that isn't intended to be on the ballot."

But Trost said Steinberg's office remains unsure of whether the Legislature will reach a vote by Monday.

"We're still working with both houses about whether or not we're going to [reach a vote]," she said. "But we don't run both houses, so we're not sure."

The longer the Legislature waits, the smaller Proposition 18's chances become of ever passing -- in this election or the next. If Proposition 18 ends up getting printed in 2010's voter information guide, lawmakers will have two choices: let citizens unknowingly vote on a voided proposition, or issue a supplemental notice at a huge cost. Either way, it's a great inconvenience to voters. If lawmakers go with the first choice, voters will feel misled and deceived. If lawmakers go with the latter, they will cast themselves (and the measure) in an unfavorable and indecisive light, leaving more questions than answers: Why do lawmakers seem so reluctant to vote on the bill? Why go through all the trouble to delay the vote?

Neither choice will increase Californians' willingness to vote on the measure -- ever. The whole reason Schwarzenegger and the proposition's backers want to move the measure to the 2012 ballot is to increase its chances for passage. But all the potential confusion the proposition could create in this election won't really help its cause.

The Legislature needs to rally and vote on the bill to push Proposition 18 to the 2012 ballot, because if it doesn't, its reasons for putting it on the 2012 ballot may end up being pointless.

-- Emilia Barrosse

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