Water Priorities Initiative Aims for 2018 Ballot

New Deadline for Water Priorities Ballot Measure

The California Water Alliance (CalWA) announced TODAY it has shifted its focus to qualifying the The Water Priorities Constitutional Amendment and Bond Act Ballot Initiative for the 2018 ballot instead of this fall’s general election, as originally planned.

With massive public support, CalWA has in a very short time succeeded in collecting more than half of the 585,407 signatures required to qualify the measure but fell short of today’s deadline to place the issue before voters this November, said CalWA’s executive director, Aubrey Bettencourt, who underscored that all signatures collected to date count toward the July 25, 2016 deadline for 2018 as well.

“While we certainly would have preferred to get this critical issue in front of voters this year, we have every confidence that we will be able to collect the remaining signatures by this summer’s deadline for 2018,” she said. “One of the benefits of setting a very ambitious timeline is that we have already surpassed the halfway signature mark and established a solid campaign operation, strong momentum and growing public awareness about the failed promise of the high-speed rail project and how to best fix California’s broken water system.”

Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance
Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance

Additionally, Bettencourt said the signature gathering process for the water priorities initiative will become more productive and affordable now that the April 26 deadline has passed.

“The new deadline is turning out to be a blessing in disguise because the unusually large number of ballots in circulation had driven up costs to a ridiculous level,” she said. “The 2018 ballot will likely be less cluttered and provide Californians more time to focus and appreciate the benefits of the proposal.”

Recent polls show Californians strongly support terminating the Governor’s priority high-speed rail project and using its funds to provide people with more water.

“Our donors and volunteers are excited that we have a clearer path and more time to solve a problem that frankly has been 50 years in the making,” said Bettencourt. “This also provides our community leaders with enough time for Sites and Temperance to go through their approval process under Proposition 1.”

Information about the measure is available online at CaWater4All.com.

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About the California Water Alliance The California Water Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the nature of water and promoting long-term, sustainable solutions that meet the health and security needs of families, cities, businesses, farmers and the environment. To learn more, visit www.CaliforniaWaterAlliance.org.

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About the California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee The California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee (FPPC ID#1381113), sponsored by the California Water Alliance, a non-profit IRC §501(c)(4) organization, is a state primarily formed ballot measure recipient committee organized to qualify two or more state ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot. It is permitted to accept unlimited, non-tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and any other lawfully permissible sources. For more information and restrictions, please visit http://cawater4all.com/

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Included at bottom of press release: Paid for by California Water Alliance Initiative Fund, with major funding by California Westside Farmers State PAC and Chris J. Rufer, Sacramento, CA

ALRB Discharges Farmworker Vote, Part 2 Exclusive Interview with Attorney Raimondo

Anthony Raimondo, “Let the People Vote!”

 

In an exclusive interview with Fresno attorney Anthony Raimondo, California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh discussed the significance to farmworkers of yesterday’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decision to “set aside” Gerawan farmworker votes from the ALRB-sanctioned November 2013 election to decertify the UFW. Raimondo is the attorney for the UFW union decertification petitioner, Silvia Lopez, an employee of Gerawan Farming, a Fresno County diversified tree fruit operation.

California Ag Today: The central California agricultural industry is flabbergasted this week following the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s decision to set asideand not countthe ballots of 2,600 Gerawan farmworkers cast in 2013. What is your take on this decision?

Anthony Raimondo, Fresno County-based attorney
Anthony Raimondo, Fresno County-based attorney

Raimondo: It is unfair because from the outset, we have argued all along that this entire process has been unfair and has denied the workers their “day in court” and their due process. From the first day that Silvia Lopez walked into the ALRB office in Visalia, the greatest opposition to her filing for an election has been the ALRB itself.

We had a judge who couldn’t stay awake for the hearing. We have board members who are—shall we say at the least—biased. In the case of ALRB board member, Genevieve Shiroma, we have a person whose entire career is intertwined with the UFW’s primary paid lobbyist. There’s no way these folks can be objective in a case that has this kind of stakes in the UFW.

And this case is all about money. If they can get a contract with Gerawan, the UFW will essentially double its revenue and double its membership overnight.

California Ag Today: What is at stake for the UFW?

Raimondo: There is a clear reason why the State would end up spending $10 million on this case: They want to silence these workers and save the UFW. There is no union organizing in the field; the UFW has abandoned organizing. They’re not out there getting the workers to support and join the union.

They’re in the courtroom and in the back halls of Sacramento, making deals to take control of these workers’ future, whether the workers want it or not.

Ag LawCalifornia Ag Today: In denying the ballot votes to be counted, the ALRB said it was unfair that the employer—Gerawan in this case—gave the workers a pay raise without permission of the state government or the UFW.

Raimondo: But even with this illegitimate process, the only thing that the Board actually found was that the employer violated the law—not the workers.

So the Board is going to punish the employees by destroying their ballots, like some sort of third-world dictator. What control does the farmworker have over what the company does? What can the workers do to protect their right to vote if their right to vote can be thwarted by what a third party—the company—does?

The workers’ right to vote shouldn’t be in the hands of the company, or of the union, or of anybody else. The California Constitution says that when people cast votes in our state, those votes must be counted. That’s apparently true, unless you’re a farmworker.

California Ag Today: And the agricultural industry is asking, “How can the State of California and the state ALRB get away with this?”

Raimondo: It’s appalling what they’ve done here. It really is appalling. They’ve decided that the best way to control the behavior of an employer is to punish the workers who have no control over that employer.

You know there’s no reason that, if they believe that that election was tainted, they can’t run another election. I’ve spoken to Silvia, and Silvia’s not afraid of letting the people vote. I wonder if the UFW is as brave.

Let the people vote.

California Ag Today: Is the ALRB and the UFW requesting a new vote?

Raimondo: No, they want the farmworkers to stand off to the side and be quiet while the UFW makes the deal through political moves to take their money.

California Ag Today: What’s next?

Raimondo: We are planning, on Silvia’s behalf, to file briefs in the ongoing mandatory arbitration case that is sitting before the California Supreme Court. The UFW has a brief due and the Court has not yet set a hearing date.

We’re hoping that the Supreme Court will be kind enough to give us the opportunity to speak in that case, as the Court of Appeal did. So that case still provides us with a very real chance to vindicate the workers’ rights.

In the election case that was just decided, we are planning on filing a petition for reconsideration with the Board. We think that they need to think twice before they destroy people’s ballots.

California Ag Today: The ballots have not been destroyed at this point, right?

Raimondo: We don’t know. That’s a question only the ALRB can answer.

From my view, I would hope that they were not rushing to have a bonfire today.

I would think that because these votes are precious and irreplaceable, the Board would show the restraint to withhold taking any action on the ballots until the parties have had the opportunity to pursue the various legal options that we have to challenge this decision and make sure they are doing the right thing.

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Resources:

ALRB Decision and Order Case No. 2013-RD-003-VIS, 39 ALRB No. 20, April 15, 2016)

Agricultural Labor Relations Act Employee Questions & Answers ELECTIONS

Petitioner Silvia Lopez’s Petition to Disqualify Board Member Shiroma, ALRB Case No. 2013-RD-003-VIS (39 ALRB No. 20)

California LABOR CODE SECTION 1140-1140.4

Pick Justice

California Water Priorities Ballot Measure Review Completed

Legislative Analyst Completes Review of California Water Priorities Ballot Measure

California Water Alliance (CalWA) executive director Aubrey Bettencourt announced TODAY that California Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and Director of Finance Michael Cohen reported their findings to Attorney General Kamala Harris regarding CalWA’s proposed constitutional and statutory amendment for November’s General Election ballot.

In its report to Attorney General Harris, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) found that the water priorities ballot measure “would not significantly increase or decrease the state’s anticipated debt payments.”

“We are pleased that the LAO agrees that our measure performs as we intended and has no undesirable fiscal effects,” said Bettencourt. “From the outset, we wrote it to avoid any new taxes, new debt, new user fees, or other costs to the state’s taxpayers.”

The measure would redirect up to $10.7 billion in previously-authorized High-Speed Rail Project and 2014 Water Bond general obligation bond authority to fund construction of specific water-storage related projects throughout the state and amend the state’s constitution to prioritize uses of water, putting people’s needs first.

By helping to solve California’s water storage infrastructure needs, the initiative would remove unspent bond funds from the High-Speed Rail Project approved by voters in 2008, now listed as the least important infrastructure priority according to the recent Stanford Golden State Poll. Dealing with the state’s water problems is the majority of voters’ top priority, according to the same poll.

CalWA sponsored the measure with State Senator Bob Huff and Board of Equalization Vice-Chair George Runner, its proponents.

The LAO also found the net effect of the measure on federal funds and its impact on state and local governments were unknown. The LAO also reported the measure could cause unknowable changes in other state capital projects.

 Bettencourt said that Attorney General Harris is expected to finish her review within a week and release an official title and summary for the measure, the first step in circulating petitions to qualify the measure for placement on November’s ballot.

“The people of California will be given the ability to reprioritize the state’s direction for the needs of today—from a high speed train to water storage,”  Bettencourt said. “They will soon be able to sign the measure’s petition and help us in our efforts to qualify this important initiative measure for a vote of the people,” she concluded.

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About the California Water Alliance

The California Water Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the nature of water and promoting long-term, sustainable solutions that meet the health and security needs of families, cities, businesses, farmers and the environment. To learn more, visit www.CaliforniaWaterAlliance.org.

About the California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee

The California Water Alliance Initiative Fund Committee (FPPC ID#1381113), sponsored by the California Water Alliance, a non-profit IRC §501(c)(4) organization, is a state primarily formed ballot measure recipient committee organized to qualify two or more state ballot measures for the November 2016 ballot. It is permitted to accept unlimited, non-tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and any other lawfully permissible sources. For more information and restrictions, please visit http://cawater4all.com/

Paid for by the California Water Alliance Initiative Fund |  455 Capitol Mall Suite 600, Sacramento, CA 95814