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San Diego City Council Approves Changing Ballot Funding Disclosures

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San Diego City Council Approves Changing Ballot Funding Disclosures
The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure meant to strengthen disclosure requirements for groups gathering signatures for ballot initiatives.

Update 2:50 a.m. Tuesday:

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure meant to strengthen disclosure requirements for groups gathering signatures for ballot initiatives.

Groups formed in the city of San Diego to support or oppose an issue will have to disclose donations of $100 or more within 10 days of the start of gathering signatures. Both donations and expenditures of of $1,000 or more will have to be disclosed within 24 hours.

Councilman Todd Gloria, who introduced the proposal, said while the referendum process was originally designed to combat corruption, it had become a tool used by wealthy corporate interest groups to manipulate voters. He said the heightened disclosure requirements passed by the council were “the first step toward giving this tool back to average citizens.”

The new rules will only apply to groups formed at the city level. Councilmen Scott Sherman and Chris Cate both expressed reservation at the motion’s effectiveness, suggesting special interest groups could simply form a county-wide committee to circumvent the stricter regulations.

Gloria said his staff is working with state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins to bring similar legislation to the state level.

Original Story:

San Diego City Council members Tuesday are scheduled to vote on a change to the referendum process aimed at increasing transparency.

The proposal would change disclosure requirements for groups formed to support or oppose a ballot initiative. Those groups would have to disclose donations of $100 or more within 10 days of the start of signature gathering, and donations of $1,000 or more within 24 hours. Expenditures of $1,000 or more would also have to be disclosed within 24 hours.

Councilman Todd Gloria, who introduced the proposal, said it had become clear in recent referendum campaigns that voters are often unaware of who is behind those efforts.

"We want to provide a level of transparency so that when folks are asked to sign a petition, they know exactly who is supporting that measure," Gloria said.

A number of City Council votes in recent years have been either put on hold or overturned by ballot initiatives, including Gloria's minimum wage increase passed by the City Council in 2014. That measure will be up for a popular vote in June 2016, after opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

Gloria said Tuesday's vote would be the first of several in the City Council meant to make the referendum process more transparent. He said he would soon also propose requiring petitions to carry the "paid for" disclosure currently only required for campaign advertisements.

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