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Higher Voter Approval May Be Required For Chargers Stadium Plan

A concept design of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego is shown in this undated photo.
Manica Architecture
A concept design of a proposed Chargers stadium in downtown San Diego is shown in this undated photo.

Higher Voter Approval May Be Required For Chargers Stadium Plan
Higher Voter Approval May Be Required For Chargers Stadium Plan GUEST: Michael Smolens, government and politics editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Our top story on Midday Edition, when San Diego's go to the polls in November to vote on public funding for a Chargers Stadium, does the funding have to be approved by 50% or a two-thirds majority? The answer is we don't know. We are unlikely to know before the election date takes place. This is because the California Supreme Court has it -- has agreed to hear a case that examines that question when it comes to voting on tax increases proposed by citizens initiatives. We are not expecting their decision before the election takes place in this could put the Chargers initiative in quite a pickle. Union Tribune politics editor Michael small and says he has gazed into the pickle jar and joins us today. Thank you for being with us. For the charges it is a bitter pickle. [ LAUGHING ] Michael, tell us in your words what has happened here? What is the latest on the story? First of all, to take a step back, the Chargers launched this process under the understanding, in their view, they were going to need a two thirds vote. What happened after they started moving towards this proposal to increase hotel passes to fund the Stadium and convention center and Convention Ctr., Annex project downtown, out of nowhere seemingly, is sort of surprised everybody what a state appellate court ruled on a marijuana case in the city of upland. It doesn't get more obscure than that. Relating to the charges. That indeed the tax increase issue does not need a two thirds vote as we had always thought the law seemed to say, but only a simple majority. That not only opened the door for a lower threshold for the charges but think of every tax increase we might be having in the future and lower bond thresholds that set the stage. Everybody was very cautious. The kind of figured this would likely go to the state Supreme Court. What happened yesterday at the state Supreme Court, I agree to review it, and that sets aside the appellate court ruling. In the view of just about everybody, including the city attorney of San Diego, two-thirds majority is what the charges would need on this ballot measure. Okay. That is a feeling I got reading the article in your newspaper. The uncertainty of how the Supreme Court's will rule on this appellate court ruling ultimately means the Chargers simply have to get a two-thirds majority. I guess there is a lot of logistical weeds I haven't picked through. I guess that if they got a simple majority and if there is the potential for weight or whenever in the cool -- and if the court upholds that unusual ruling, or Surprise rolling out of upland, maybe that would work. Like I said, they had always said they expected two thirds to be there threshold. It didn't really change their approach. And then there is the other matter of two-thirds majority is virtually impossible to get in the town -- in the town these days. I have a question about that later. Here's another issue I think we need to consider, I what time did the Chargers have to decide whether they are going to move to LA as the NFL has given them the option to do? They had, I thought, a year to work out a deal here. I forget the exact date. The beginning of 2017 sticks in my mind, but then there was a potential extension if they got a measure on the ballot and approval and they would get another extension to see if that deal would work out. If it didn't they would still have that option to move to LA. Now, we have all been reading with great interest about how suddenly the Oakland Raiders, who also have the option for LA, if San Diego didn't take it, is now hot on moving to Las Vegas. If that comes through what happens to this deal and this time I? Does the timeline and Andy it is the Rams in Inglewood or does that change the equation of it? I don't know. Clearly there is a lot up in the air. Let's go back to what you said about a minute ago. You have been covering this town and tax referendum in this town for lunchtime., Chargers get two thirds of San Diego voters to approve public funding for a new stadium? They can. Is going to be extraordinarily difficult. I haven't really gone through the history, but a lot of tax increases for things like fire coverage and public safety have not met the threshold in San Diego. I think in some cases people didn't think there were guarantees it would actually be used that way. For the TransNet tax, the sales tax we approved in 2004 in several years ago, and extension, did get the two-thirds majority. It can be done. Here you are dealing with something that isn't really a public service, it is something that we all enjoy for the most part, the Chargers and the NFL being here. There's tax money involved in that threshold is awfully tough to meet. Was also going on is there's going to be a very well-funded, well coordinated opposition campaign. As we know, very few politicians have actually signed on to support the Chargers at this stage. With that I don't know if it's impossible, but it is a daunting task. Michael small and is the politics editor for the San Diego Tribune. Very much. Thanks for having me on.

The California Supreme Court has decided to block and review an appellate court ruling that said tax hikes from initiatives, such as the Chargers stadium proposal, need just a simple majority for approval.

That means a two-thirds majority requirement stands, at least until the state Supreme Court rules on the case, which can take months or years.


The Chargers said earlier this year that they were operating under the assumption that they would need a two-thirds vote.

This month, the team submitted 110,786 signatures to get its stadium and convention center initiative on the November ballot.

Michael Smolens, government and politics editor at The San Diego-Union Tribune, talks about the impact of the Supreme Court's action on KPBS Midday Edition Thursday.