Citizens United case tests power of state lawmakers

Occupy the CourtsShould state voters should be able to weigh in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision?

That answer to that question lies in a thorny legal issue that the California Supreme Court is taking up today. That is whether state Legislatures have the power to put advisory measures before voters at all.

Proposition 49 would allow voters to say whether they believe Citizens United should be overturned. The landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling upended state campaign finance laws, allowing for limitless outside spending on political contests anywhere in the country. It’s changed the landscape of American politics.

The decision has been widely panned by Democrats and groups that push to cleanse American politics of corporate money and the influence of deep-pocketed campaign contributors. SCOTUS1

The Democratic-led California Legislature doesn’t like it either. Lawmakers initially voted last year to put Proposition 49 on the ballot as a symbolic gesture that would send a message to Washington. But a conservative taxpayers group sued – saying that legislators don’t have the power to put advisory measures on the ballot.

The state Supreme Court put the measure on hold until the legal case was resolved, which prevented it from appearing on the ballot this year.

Today, the state high court will be hearing arguments from lawyers for the Legislature and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. on the issue.

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The state constitution does not spell out whether lawmakers have the right to introduce non-binding initiatives. Legal scholars see the California case as an important test of separation of powers in state governments.

The L.A. Times reports that the state Supreme Court will have 90 days after today’s arguments to decide whether the measure can appear on next year’s ballot.