Attorney addresses legal hurdles facing Brigg’s Initiative for new Charger’s stadium

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Dean Spanos and his stadium point man Fred Maas talked to a group of San Diego business leaders Tuesday evening about moving ahead with a stadium tied to convention center space Downtown.

The potential legal challenges of the Citizen’s Initiative, otherwise known as the Briggs Initiative, were detailed for us in a 9-page analysis by attorney Scott Williams of the Seltzer Caplan Law Firm.

Williams says the initiative tries to do too much, it tries to do something for everyone and that’s its primary flaw.

“It attempts in one swelled swoop to address so many different issues that need attention but that can’t be done in a single initiative.”

The chairman of San Diego tax fighters, Richard Rider, agrees.

“By whatever convoluted standards they’re using, this is at the very least four probably six different issues, and you can’t roll those up into one big ball and put that before the voters,” Rider said.

The California constitution initiatives have limits designed to keep things understandable to the voters.

“They need to understand exactly what it is they’re being asked to vote on. The Brigg’s Initiative is 35 single spaced pages long and would be exceedingly difficult for a layperson to understand.”

For example, it raises the hotel tax on the one hand, and addresses the redevelopment of the Qualcomm site on the other. How are they related?

“What if a voter supports one and doesn’t support the other? Then they’re being placed in a very unacceptable position, and that’s the point of the single subject rule. Let’s keep it simple and if you have multiple subjects lets have multiple initiatives.”

“If people don’t truly understand what they’re voting for how can you say that it represents their will?”

 Another significant issue is whether the initiative can be passed with a simple majority, as it proposes, or by a 2/3rds vote. If the money goes into the general fund it’s a simple majority vote.

The hotel operators who are paying the tax can divert part of it to tourism marketing and convention center expansion. These are specific purposes.

“So the practical affect is that this tax increase is going to go to specific purposes thereby rendering it a special tax.”

Special taxes require a 2/3rds vote.

“The fact that it goes into and out of the general fund based on the initiative, I think that makes it a special tax.”

“Clearly this is not going into the general fund, ergo it’s a special tax, ergo it requires a 2/3rds vote.”

The electorate has to understand all aspects of the initiative.

“If the initiative is so complex that it’s not totally understood then you can’t say the collection of petition signatures or the vote in favor of the measure when it’s on the ballot is truly the will of the electorate.”

“It’s for a stadium but not for a stadium and therein lies some misdirection and I think they’re trying to put one over on the voters.”

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