Today, Proposition 98 will be sent to the printer with a ballot title that omits any reference to the fact that Proposition 98 prohibits rent control in California. Although Attorney General Jerry Brown acknowledges that banning rent control is a key feature of Prop. 98, the AG refuses to put the words "rent control" in the title of the ballot measure, a decision that has prompted outrage among California tenant advocates.
Tenants Together, a new statewide organization for renters' rights in California, filed suit to force the Attorney General to change the ballot title to explicitly reference rent control. Tenants Together was joined by California Alliance for Retired Americans in the lawsuit.
In response to the lawsuit, the Attorney General acknowledged that rent control is a primary provision in Prop. 98, stating: "The Attorney General agrees with petitioners that the prohibition on rent control is one of the chief points and purposes of Proposition 98".
The case was heard in Sacramento County Superior Court on Friday. Judge Timothy Frawley agreed that rent control is a key component of Prop. 98, but refused to force the AG to include the phrase "rent control" in the title. Judge Frawley commented at the hearing that if he had been tasked with writing the title, he might have written it differently, an obvious critique of the AG's choice to omit the phrase "rent control" from the title. However, the judge ultimately concluded that the choice of whether to include "rent control" in the title was within the Attorney General's discretion.
Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, commented: "We are disappointed that the Attorney General would insist on using this misleading ballot title. Prop. 98 bans rent control. The title of the ballot measure should make that clear, so voters will know what they are being asked to decide."
Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival in Los Angeles stated: "It is extremely disheartening that Attorney General Jerry Brown chose to write a title and summary that will mislead the voters of California, including more than 14 million renters - many of whom are seniors, disabled, middle class and low wage workers, struggling to keep a roof over their families heads. Even the judge presiding over the matter suggested he would have written it differently, but his hands were tied by a legal technicality. Now the need is even greater for renters throughout the state to mobilize and help get the word out to voters that Prop. 98 is an attack on renters."
Nan Brasmer, President of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, added: "Regardless of the ruling, we're moving full steam ahead to educate voters about the hidden provisions and dangers of Prop. 98. We know voters strongly oppose Prop. 98's provisions that would abolish rent control and renter protections. Voters are smart, and we're confident they'll see through the landlords' smokescreen and vote No on 98 on Election Day."