SACRAMENTO, CA: The California Assembly voted today to pass SB 254, The Overturn Citizens United Act in a 48 to 26 vote.  The bill now goes to the California Senate. SB 254 would place a voter instruction on the November ballot that would ask Californians if their representatives should “use all of their constitutional authority…  to overturn Citizens United v FEC and other applicable judicial precedents.”

“We are very pleased that the Assembly advanced this bill towards the ballot,” said Michele Sutter, co-founder of MOVI, Money Out Voters In. “Californian voters were silenced in 2014 and I hope we’re allowed to speak in 2016 to overturn Citizens United.

“People across the nation are rising up to call for a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution which will end the big money dominance of our elections and the fiction of corporations being treated as people with constitutional rights,” says John Bonifaz, the Co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People.  “With today’s vote in the California Assembly, we are now one step closer to ensuring that the people of California will have their voices heard this November on this critical question of our time.  We the people, not corporations and big money interests, shall govern in America.”

“Money is not speech, and corporations are not people. Full stop. This is obvious to anyone not on the payroll of an enormous corporate outfit,” explained Eddie Kurtz, president and executive director of the California-based Courage Campaign.  “As we’ve seen recently in the People’s Report Card of California, Sacramento is drowning in millions of dollars from corporations, leading to more and more legislators voting for the best interest of those corporations, not their constituents. Now is the time to let Californians help lead that movement to overturn Citizens United and formally weigh in on the most vital political issue of our time.”

“If our democratic system of representative government is to survive, the deeply damaging Citizens United and related rulings must be overturned,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. “Billionaires should not have thousands of times more free speech than the average American just because they have so much more money to spend on elections.”

“Today’s vote moves California closer to reclaiming our democracy and undoing the corrosive impact of Citizen’s United,” said Jon Fox, senior democracy campaigner at Friends of the Earth.“It’s clear that we must act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and we can’t do that while big oil and gas giants like Chevron and Exxon keep pumping money into our politics to block the policies we need to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the safety of our communities.”

“The need to limit the influence of extremely wealthy and corporate donors is clearer than ever during this election cycle. At the urging of their constituents, the legislature put Prop 49 on the ballot back in 2014, and we are counting on the legislature to do what it takes to allow Californians to hold a vote on the 2016 ballot.” Emily Rusch, Executive Director, CALPIRG.

“Voters across the political spectrum are clamoring for something to be done about the problem of big money in our political system.,” said Sylvia Moore, Southern California Organizer for California Common Cause. “Everyone should have an equal voice in our democracy – not just those with access to the biggest pocketbook.”

Californians were poised to vote on a similar measure in 2014 when the CA Legislature passed SB 1272, The Overturn Citizens United Act” and that bill became law and qualified for the ballot as Proposition 49.

But Californians did not vote on Prop 49 in 2014.  The California Supreme Court ordered Prop 49 removed from the ballot while the Court considered the measure’s legitimacy.  The California Supreme Court had never before in the history of California removed a ballot measure enacted by the CA Legislature.

In January 2016, the CA Supreme Court ultimately ruled 6 to 1 that Proposition 49 was a legitimate exercise of legislative authority, but neglected to order the measure restored to the November 2016 ballot, as the CA Legislature had requested, insisting instead that the legislature pass a new bill.

In her dissent from her colleagues at the time Prop 49 was removed from the ballot, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakayue cautioned her colleagues against taking the “extraordinary step” that would “disenfranchise voters.”

In the October 2015 hearing on the Prop 49 case the Chief Justice responded to the often cited “ballot clutter” argument against the voter instruction measure saying “[W]hat does ballot clutter matter if it leads to substantive law?”

Substantive law is exactly what California’s last voter instruction measure led to.  It was 1892 and the question posed to the electorate concerned the direct election of Senators.  Californians passed that voter instruction and 21 years later the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified.

California voters are hoping that their representatives in the CA Legislature and Governor Brown give them the opportunity again to instruct their representatives on a matter of grave concern to all Americans.

Please direct all press inquiries to Edward Erikson at [email protected] 

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