A bill that would create two Senate elections on the November 2022 ballot to protect the state from a possible Constitutional issue, was passed by the Assembly 60-16 on Monday.
Assembly Bill 1495, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), was created to address an issue over the timing of former Senator and Vice President Kamala Harris’ resignation from the Senate and the appointment of Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) by Governor Gavin Newsom.
According to the bill, Senator Padilla’s appointment through January 2023, when he would either get a new Senate term or someone else replaces him, violates the the Constitution. Due to the wording that Governor’s appointees between elections can only keep their position until they are filled by election creates as two month hole, as there is an election in November 2022 and the new term doesn’t begin for another two months.
AB 1495 specifically details that the Governor would need to consult with the California Secretary of State to see if it would be practical to hold another election to fill the possible vacancy and would authorize the Governor to issue a writ of election for special statewide primary and general elections if the Governor determines it is practical. If accepted, all ballots, sample ballots, voter information guides, and ballot materials would then be updated to show that one Senate election would cover the remainder of Harris’ term from November 2022 to January 2023, and the other would cover the next six-year term beginning in January 2023.
According to Assemblyman Berman, he wrote the bill to make sure that California would be covered Constitutionally and to avoid the high costs of running two separate elections for such a major position.
“This isn’t exactly a normal problem to crop up,” noted “Dana,” a Capitol staffer to the Globe on Tuesday. “But it did come up. And California would really like it so they don’t accidentally leave the Senate without a key Senator, especially a Democratic Senator in such a narrow Senate split right when tons of bills usually are voted on. So the two Senate ballot options will be up in bill form, because as anyone in elections can tell you, last minute ballot changes mess everything up. But it will also come at the cost of essentially allowing an unelected person to serve for a few months in a special vote too.”
“Padilla will ask you to vote for him twice, to try to make up for him assuming office without any vote at all”
However, despite being written to fill a possible constitutional need, AB 1495 has had a large number of Assembly members, led by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), come out in opposition the bill. Kiley, who originally pointed out the constitutional issue last year and noted the possible issues of such an early selection, points out that the extra ballot option gives Padilla more time to serve as Senator without having been formally elected as Senator and tries to solve the issue in “the most undemocratic way possible.”
“In January, Gavin Newsom installed his crony Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate. At the time, I wrote a legal memo explaining that this was unconstitutional and Newsom had to let voters pick the new Senator,” said Assemblyman Kiley in his blog recently. “Newsom ignored it, but a month later I obtained a formal 10-page opinion from the Legislative Counsel’s Office reaching the same conclusion: the Constitution required Newsom to set an election for a Senator to complete Kamala’s term.”
“I made it clear to Newsom I was prepared to file a lawsuit, and this seemed to get his attention; after all, we’d already beaten him in court once. The Speaker of the Assembly asked me for a copy of the Legislative Counsel opinion. We now know what happened next. A scheme was concocted to bail out Newsom and Padilla with AB 1495. The bill, which will be rammed through next week, acknowledges I was right: It sets an election for a Senator to fill the remainder of Kamala’s term.”
“But there’s a catch. The special election won’t take place right away. Instead, this vote for who will be our Senator through January 2023 is scheduled for November 2022. You read that correctly: we’ll be electing someone to serve for a month.
“Here’s the truly crazy part: Padilla will at the same time be running for reelection. So on your November 2022 ballot you’ll see what looks like a printing error: a race for the same Senate seat will appear twice. One vote will be for the last month of Kamala’s term, the other for a new term. Padilla will ask you to vote for him twice, to try to make up for him assuming office without any vote at all. The point, of course, is to let Newsom’s crony serve as long as possible before facing voters.”
AB 1495 is expected to be quickly passed through the Senate and approved by Governor Newsom in the coming months in order to help plan ballots for next year.