Republican activists and an anti-tax organization filed a lawsuit Thursday to scrap a new law that revised the rules for California’s recall elections, accusing Democrats of a blatant attempt to help an embattled state senator keep his job. The court challenge to the law, enacted as part of last month’s new state budget, comes after critics of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) submitted some 85,000 voter signatures to force a special election on whether he should be removed from office. “For them to come in and try to pass a law undercutting a legitimate exercise of direct democracy, we feel that the court’s not going to like that very much,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Newman, elected to the Senate in 2016 after narrowly defeating his GOP opponent, became the target of the recall campaign after voting in April for a $52-billion transportation package that includes both new fuel taxes and an additional annual fee for vehicle owners.
That effort then prompted legislative Democrats to add a provision to the state budget, extending the amount of time between a recall petition effort and the actual election. The new law also gives voters a chance to remove their signatures from the petition, as Democrats have accused supporters of the Newman recall effort of misleading voters into thinking a special election would be focused on repealing the new gas tax.