Proponents of a proposed Napa County watershed and oaks protection ballot measure want to take their case to the California Supreme Court.
Whether the state Supreme Court will accept the case remains to be seen, given it hears less than 5 percent of civil case petitions. At issue is whether the county correctly disqualified the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative from the November 2016 ballot on a technicality.
A victory would mean proponents wouldn’t have to once again gather more than 3,700 signatures from local registered voters to qualify the measure for a future ballot. The proposed measure seeks to strengthen protections for watershed oaks and streams and would affect mountain vineyard development.
Still, proponent Mike Hackett doesn’t expect a Supreme Court decision would be made in time for the 2018 elections. He said Wednesday that supporters are willing to collect signatures again.
“One hundred percent,” Hackett said.
In trying to convince the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the California First District Court of Appeal, proponents say the stakes extend beyond Napa County.
“The First District’s opinion upholding the county’s action will wreak havoc in elections law,” their request for state Supreme Court review said.
Last year, Napa Valley Vintners, Winegrowers of Napa County, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Napa County Farm Bureau stated their opposition to the proposed ballot measure. They said the county already has strong watershed protections.

Current Time0:00
Duration Time0:00
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
The legal issue centers on the state’s “full text” law for petitions being circulated to qualify measures for the ballot. California law requires that potential signers be able to read a proposed initiative so they can know what they are signing.
Last year, Oak and watershed initiative proponents went to shopping centers and other places to gather signatures with a text of their proposed measure. But their papers only referred to sections of the county’s existing Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan and didn’t include a copy.
The county concluded that the initiative would make parts of the Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan mandatory in certain cases. For that reason, the county concluded, the petition needed to include the appropriate Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan sections.
With that decision, what promised to be a ballot box battle royal over a controversial issue never happened. County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur rejected the initiative petition on the advice of county counsel.
Initiative proponents said that the measure merely refers to the county oaks guidelines. California law allows petitions to cross-reference existing laws without including copies of them.
“As this case shows, establishing a uniform definition of ‘text’ is no academic exercise,” their Supreme Court filing said. “County’s unprecedented interpretation of ‘text’ was used to keep the proponent’s initiative off the November 2016 ballot.”
Proponents for the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative include local residents Hackett and Jim Wilson. They are represented by the San Francisco-based law firm Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger.

To order my book about the loss of American place go to: