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SB-1394 Petitions: compensation for signatures.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/09/2018 09:00 PM
SB1394:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 09, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 1394


Introduced by Senator Newman

February 16, 2018


An act to add Section 102.5 to the Elections Code, relating to elections.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1394, as amended, Newman. Petitions: compensation for signatures.
Under existing law, a person who is 18 years of age or older may circulate an initiative, referendum, or recall petition. Existing law requires an initiative petition to contain specified language advising the public of its right to ask whether the person circulating the petition is a paid signature gatherer or a volunteer.
This bill would provide that it is a misdemeanor for a person to pay or to receive money or any other thing of value based on the number of signatures obtained on a state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition, and it would prescribe civil and criminal penalties for this crime. By creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Existing law, The False Claims Act, provides that a person who commits any one of several enumerated acts relating to the submission to the state or a political subdivision of the state a false claim for money, property, or services, as specified, shall be liable to the state or political subdivision for certain damages and for a civil penalty, as specified. Existing law authorizes the Attorney General to bring a civil action for damages resulting from fraudulent claims against the state or a political subdivision, and it also authorizes an individual person to bring this type of claim and to share in the recovery.
This bill would create a similar scheme to permit both the Attorney General and a person to bring a civil claim under this section, and for the person bringing the action to share in the recovery.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the communication of accurate information by signature gatherers is important to the integrity of the elections process. The intent of this bill is to prohibit the compensation of signature gatherers in a manner that gives signature gatherers an incentive to deceive voters in order to obtain their signatures.

SEC. 2.

 Section 102.5 is added to the Elections Code, to read:

102.5.
 (a) It is unlawful for a person to pay or to receive money or any other thing of value based on the number of signatures obtained on a state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition.

(b)Violation of this section is a misdemeanor, as follows:

(1)

(b) A person who pays an individual based on the number of signatures obtained on a state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine equal to the greater of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or fifty dollars ($50) times the number of signatures gathered, or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(2)An individual who is paid based on the number of signatures obtained on a state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition shall be punished by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(c) (1) If the Attorney General finds that a person has violated or is violating subdivision (a) of this section, the Attorney General may bring a civil action against that person.
(2) (A) A person may bring a civil action for a violation of subdivision (a) to recover the civil penalty described in subdivision (b). The person bringing the action shall be referred to as the qui tam plaintiff. Once filed, the action may be dismissed only with the written consent of the court and the Attorney General, taking into account the best interests of the parties involved and the public purposes behind this section. A claim for a violation of subdivision (a) shall not be waived or released by any private person, except if the action is part of a court approved settlement of a civil action brought under this section.
(B) On the same day as the complaint is filed pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of this subdivision, the qui tam plaintiff shall serve by mail with “return receipt requested” the Attorney General with a copy of the complaint and a written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses.
(C) Within 60 days after receiving a complaint and written disclosure of material evidence and information alleging violations of this section, the Attorney General may elect to intervene and proceed with the action.
(D) (i) If the Attorney General initiates an action pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subdivision, or assumes control of an action initiated pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of this subdivision, the office of the Attorney General shall receive a fixed 33 percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, which shall be used to support its ongoing investigation and prosecution of fraud.
(ii) If a qui tam plaintiff initiates an action pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of this subdivision, the qui tam plaintiff shall receive at least 17 percent, but not more than 50 percent, of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim, depending on the extent to which the qui tam plaintiff substantially contributed to the prosecution of the action.
(iii) The portion of the recovery not distributed pursuant to clauses (i) and (ii) of this subparagraph shall be paid to the Secretary of State for the purpose of supporting voter registration efforts.
(E) (i) If the state, through the Attorney General, or the qui tam plaintiff, prevails in or settles an action under this section, the qui tam plaintiff shall receive an amount for reasonable expenses that the court finds to have been necessarily incurred, plus reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. All expenses, costs, and fees shall be awarded against the defendant and under no circumstances shall they be the responsibility of the state.
(ii)  If the Attorney General does not proceed with the action and the qui tam plaintiff conducts the action, the court may award to the defendant its reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses against the party that proceeded with the action if the defendant prevails in the action and the court finds that the claim was clearly frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.
(F) A qui tam plaintiff shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make him or her whole, if that qui tam plaintiff is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of his or her employment because of lawful acts done by him or her, or associated others, in furtherance of an action under this section or other efforts to stop one or more violations of this section.
(G) If a person brings an action under this paragraph, no other person may bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.

(e)

(d) This section does not prohibit the payment for signature gathering not based, either directly or indirectly, on the number of signatures obtained on a state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition.

SEC. 3.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.