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Tax Law

California Court Rules that New Parcel Tax Needed Two-Thirds Vote

A California Superior Court ruled that a City of Oakland ballot measure seeking to impose a 30 year parcel tax to fund educational programs required a two-thirds vote. Ballot measure AA was the result of a citizens’ initiative. In publicly circulated materials prior to the election, the City Attorney indicated that passage of Measure AA required approval by two-thirds of voters. However, after Measure AA received only 62.7% of the vote, the Oakland City Council passed a resolution stating that Measure AA had passed. The City contended that the two-thirds requirement did not apply because Measure AA was not imposed by a local government because it was a voter-sponsored initiative. The court classified the tax proposed in Measure AA as a “special tax,” meaning a tax dedicated to a specific purpose, and held that special taxes are subject to the state constitution’s two-thirds voting requirement regardless of whether they are proposed directly by local governments or by voter initiatives. The court further concluded that Measure AA was not enforceable because the City’s pre-election materials “unambiguously advised voters that Measure AA would require two-thirds of the votes to pass,” and to subsequently enforce the tax “would constitute a fraud on the voters.”


Jobs and Housing Coalition v. City of Oakland, Order on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, Case No. RG19005204 (Ca. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty., Oct. 15, 2019)