Proposition 59 was placed on the ballot by the California legislature in passing Senate Bill 254 by Senator Ben Allen in response to requests from hundreds of thousands of Californians. It is similar to Proposition 49, which had been placed on the ballot in 2014 when the legislature passed SB 1272 by Senator Ted Lieu. The Money Out Voters In Coalition organized more than 55,000 e-mail petitions and 178,000 faxes to the legislature to press for the passage of SB 1272. Hundreds of citizens attended hearings in the state Capitol and dozens joined a march from Los Angeles to Sacramento that culminated in a non-violent direct action to demand that our elected officials take action to get big money out of politics
In August of 2014, the California Supreme Court temporarily removed Prop 49 from the ballot, but after full consideration of the issue, the Court ruled in January of 2016 that it made a mistake in doing so. The California state constitution guarantees voters the right to instruct their elected officials and we have used voter instructions to win passage of federal constitutional amendments before.
So far, 17 states and nearly 700 local governments have called upon Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United. More than 150 members of the House of Representatives and 42 U.S. Senators have co-sponsored constitutional amendments to overturn Citizens United. In 2012, Montana voters passed an instruction measure similar to Prop 59 by a margin of 75%. Colorado voters passed a similar measure by a margin of 74%. Voters in Washington state, like California, will decide in 2016 whether or not to instruct their members of Congress to take action on this issue.
Here is the full text of SB 254, which placed the voter instruction back on the ballot:
An act to submit to the voters a voter instruction relating to campaign finance, calling an election, to take effect immediately. LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST SB 254, Allen. Campaign finance: voter instruction. This bill would call a special election to be consolidated with the November 8, 2016, statewide general election. The bill would require the Secretary of State to submit to the voters at the November 8, 2016, consolidated election a voter instruction asking whether California's elected officials should use all of their constitutional authority, including proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, as specified. The bill would require the Secretary of State to communicate the results of this election to the Congress of the United States. The bill would require the Secretary of State, if prohibited by court order from submitting the voter instruction to the voters at the November 8, 2016, statewide general election, as specified, to submit the voter instruction to the voters at the next occurring election. This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an act calling an election. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Overturn Citizens United Act. SEC. 2. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following: (a) The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are intended to protect the rights of individual human beings. (b) Corporations are not mentioned in the United States Constitution, nor have we decreed that corporations have rights separate from "We the People." (c) In Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson (1938) 303 U.S. 77, United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in his dissent, "I do not believe the word 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations." (d) In Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) 494 U.S. 652, the United States Supreme Court recognized the threat to a republican form of government posed by "the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public's support for the corporation's political ideas." (e) In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, the United States Supreme Court struck down limits on electioneering communications that were upheld in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) 540 U.S. 93 and Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce. This decision presents a serious threat to self-government by rolling back previous bans on corporate spending in the electoral process and allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions, and public debate. (f) In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor noted in their dissent that corporations have special advantages not enjoyed by natural persons, such as limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets, that allow them to spend huge sums on campaign messages that have little or no correlation with the beliefs held by natural persons. (g) Corporations have used the artificial rights bestowed on them by the courts to overturn democratically enacted laws that municipal, state, and federal governments passed to curb corporate abuses, thereby impairing local governments' ability to protect their citizens against corporate harms to the environment, consumers, workers, independent businesses, and local and regional economies. (h) In Buckley v. Valeo (1976) 424 U.S. 1, the United States Supreme Court held that the appearance of corruption justified some contribution limitations, but it wrongly rejected other fundamental interests that the citizens of California find compelling, such as creating a level playing field and ensuring that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have an opportunity to have their political views heard. (i) In First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) 435 U.S. 765 and Citizens Against Rent Control/Coalition for Fair Housing v. City of Berkeley (1981) 454 U.S. 290, the United States Supreme Court rejected limits on contributions to ballot measure campaigns because it concluded that these contributions posed no threat of candidate corruption. (j) In Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC (2000) 528 U.S. 377, United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens observed in his concurrence that "money is property; it is not speech." (k) A February 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 80 percent of Americans oppose the ruling in Citizens United. (l) Article V of the United States Constitution empowers and obligates the people of the United States of America to use the constitutional amendment process to correct those egregiously wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court that go to the heart of our democracy and the republican form of self-government. (m) Article I of the California Constitution guarantees the right of the people to instruct their representatives, petition government for redress of grievances, and assemble freely to consult for the common good. (n) The people of California and of the United States have previously used ballot measures as a way of instructing their elected representatives about the express actions they want to see them take on their behalf, including provisions to amend the United States Constitution. (o) California's United States Senators and Representatives would benefit from having instructions from California voters about the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United and other judicial precedents in taking congressional action. SEC. 3. A special election is hereby called to be held throughout the state on November 8, 2016. The special election shall be consolidated with the statewide general election to be held on that date. The consolidated election shall be held and conducted in all respects as if there were only one election and only one form of ballot shall be used. SEC. 4. (a) Notwithstanding Section 9040 of the Elections Code, the Secretary of State shall submit the following voter instruction to the voters at the November 8, 2016, consolidated election: "Shall California's elected officials use all of their constitutional authority, including, but not limited to, proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings?" (b) Upon certification of the election, the Secretary of State shall communicate to the Congress of the United States the results of the election asking the question set forth in subdivision (a). (c) The provisions of the Elections Code that apply to the preparation of ballot measures and ballot materials at a statewide election apply to the measure submitted pursuant to this section. SEC. 5. (a) Notwithstanding the requirements of Sections 9040, 9043, 9044, 9061, 9082, and 9094 of the Elections Code or any other law, the Secretary of State shall submit Section 4 of this act to the voters at the November 8, 2016, statewide general election. (b) Notwithstanding Section 13115 of the Elections Code, Section 4 of this act and any other measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature for the November 8, 2016, statewide general election after the 131-day deadline set forth in Section 9040 of the Elections Code shall be placed on the ballot, following all other ballot measures, in the order in which they qualified as determined by chapter number. (c) The Secretary of State shall include, in the ballot pamphlets mailed pursuant to Section 9094 of the Elections Code, the information specified in Section 9084 of the Elections Code regarding the ballot measure contained in Section 4 of this act. SEC. 6. If the Secretary of State is prohibited from complying with Sections 4 and 5 of this act until after November 8, 2016, by court order pending resolution of an unsuccessful legal challenge to the validity of this act, then the Secretary of State shall submit Section 4 of this act to the voters at the next occurring election. SEC. 7. This act calls an election within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect.