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Chargers Likely Facing Two-Thirds Majority for Stadium Approval

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

With the State Supreme Court set to review a previous ruling, the San Diego Chargers will likely need two-thirds approval via referendum on a tax increase for a new stadium

In order to finance a proposed stadium/convention center project –known as Convadium— in downtown San Diego, the Chargers are seeking a hotel tax increase from 12.5% to 16.5%, which was to have been approved by a simple majority in November. This was facilitated by an appellate court ruling in March that found that any tax increase from a citizens’ initiative only requires a simple majority of votes, and not two-thirds approval as it does for initiatives by government agencies.

For the Chargers, the issue with a State Supreme Court review may have less to do with its eventual ruling and more with timing. The two-thirds threshold stands until the higher court weighs in, a decision that seems unlikely to arrive by November. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

When the state Supreme Court decides to review a case, it typically takes many months — if not years — for a ruling to come.

For example, the state Supreme Court announced in July 2014 that it would review a lower court ruling that text messages by city officials are not public records, and arguments still haven’t been scheduled in that case San Jose v. Superior Court.

The state Supreme Court may eventually uphold the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s ruling that tax increases require only majority approval if they are placed on the ballot by citizens’ initiative instead of by a government agency. But it will almost certainly be too late for the Chargers and others pursuing citizens’ initiatives this fall.

Once the court decides to hear arguments, a briefing schedule is set and then the court has 60 days after it hears oral testimony to render its decision. So it doesn’t seem that even the most optimistic timeline would bring a decision before November.

The article goes on to mention various opinions from state legal experts. Some predict that the Supreme Court will overturn the appellate court’s decision on the basis of two previous propositions that state that a tax increase to fund specific projects must be approved by a two-thirds majority, regardless of it is a citizens or government initiative.

The timing leaves the Chargers with a fairly grim outlook. Though team officials previously stated that they would be prepared to push for a two-thirds majority, the Chargers have already faced their fair share of opposition, and meeting the two-thirds threshold is certainly a taller task than the simple majority, especially when dealing with a $1.8 billion project.

To be placed on the ballot, the Chargers had to collect a minimum 67,000 signatures from eligible voters. The team submitted close to 111,000 signatures which, even after the soon-to-be-completed verification process, should give them more than enough support to land the proposal on the ballot.

RELATED STORIES: Chargers: 111,000 Signatures Means November Vote on New Stadium; Chargers Push San Diego Downtown Stadium at Rally; Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design Renderings Released; City Attorney Criticizes Citizens’ Plan; Chargers Meeting With Citizens’ Plan Advocates; Convadium Facing Local Scrutiny; Chargers Begin Stadium Initiative; Chargers Pitch “Convadium”

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August Publications