$18 minimum wage initiative unlikely to appear on 2022 ballot after judge ruling

California voters will not get the chance to decide whether to raise the state’s minimum wage to $18 an hour in November after a superior court rejected a request to place it on this year’s ballot.

Last week, several supporters of a ballot initiative that would incrementally raise California’s minimum wage to $18 an hour asked a court for a writ of mandate to compel Secretary of State Shirley Weber to place the measure on the 2022 ballot after it failed to qualify by the June 30 deadline. The measure is currently qualified to appear on the November 2024 ballot after counties finished verifying signatures this month.

In a court filing, proponents of the initiative claimed COVID-19 made it difficult to collect signatures resulting in signatures being submitted to county registrars “later than expected.” The filing also stated that the Secretary of State “failed in its duty to inform counties” that the measure was intended for the 2022 ballot by communicating to counties that they had until mid-July to verify signatures – missing the June 30 deadline for measures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

District Judge James Arguelles denied the petitioner’s request to compel Weber to place the measure on the 2022 ballot on Friday.

In a tentative ruling filed before Friday’s hearing, Arguelles ruled that the petitioner’s claim that Weber failed to complete a “ministerial duty” to advise counties to complete signature verification by June 30 “lacks merit.”

“The burden was on Sanberg (and all others proposing statutory initiatives) to conform to the June 30 deadline if he wished to place the initiative on the November 2022 ballot,” Arguelles wrote. “Sanberg’s failure to do so did not somehow reallocate the burden to Weber.”

Arguelles also rejected the petitioner’s claim that COVID-19 interfered with the signature collecting process and said that granting the request “would likely interfere substantially with the conduct of the November 2022 election.”

After Friday’s ruling, entrepreneur Joe Sanberg, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán and Orange County Democratic Chair Ada Briceño issued a joint statement Friday denouncing the ruling and announcing that they plan to pursue “legislative paths” to increase the Golden State’s minimum wage.

“Workers cannot wait another two years for a raise,” the statement said. “They are barely earning enough to afford next month’s rent. As the cost of living in the Golden State continues to skyrocket, it is vitally important that our state leaders step up to the plate and fight for those Californians living on the bleeding edge of poverty.”

The proponents also called the decision a “gross double standard,” noting that Arguelles is the same judge who granted petitioners four extra months to complete signature gathering for a recall effort targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom.

At this point, it appears Californians will have the opportunity to vote on this measure in 2024. According to a recent analysis from Michael Reich, co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley, the initiative would “raise pay for about 4.8 million California workers by 2025 would have a minimal effect on the number of jobs.”

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