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Groups Challenge CA’s ‘Tax on Lobbyists’

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Advocacy groups have challenged California's Assembly Bill 583, which will ask voters to decide whether elections for Secretary of State should be publicly financed. Some of the money would come from a proposed $350 annual fee on lobbyists. The plaintiffs say that "tax" is unconstitutional.

The bill at issue, AB 583, from the 2008 session, would send the public financing question to voters on the June 8, 2010 ballot. Lead plaintiff the Institute of Governmental Advocates claims AB 583 would impose "an unconstitutional tax on lobbying."

"If approved, the funds for the publicly financed elections would derive, in part, from a new flat tax imposed on lobbyists, lobbying firms, lobbyist employees and lobbying coalitions of $700 per two-year legislative session," according to the federal complaint.

Plaintiffs - which include attorney Timothy Yaryan, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and the California Professional Firefighters - say the Vermont Supreme Court struck down a similar proposal in 2001, in Vermont Society of Association Executives v. Milne (Vt. 2001) 779 A.2nd 20.

The plaintiffs in this case sued Secretary of State Debra Bowen. They are represented by Thomas Hiltachk.

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