Governor vetoes “Jeff Belle” bill that would have increased penalties for ballot statement lies

Nicknamed for county school board member; Brown “not convinced it’s a widespread problem…”

By Allen Payton

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier to increase penalties on candidates who lie on their ballot statements was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday, Oct. 15. The bill, AB 894 was introduced in response to the ballot statement by Contra Costa County Board of Education Trustee Jeff Belle during his 2014 campaign, in which he wrote that he had earned a degree in political science, when he had not been awarded one by his alma mater.

The county District Attorney’s office prosecuted Belle who could have been fined a maximum of $1,000 for the violation. However, both sides agreed to a diversion program of community service, instead. (See related article).

Belle, through his attorneys, argued that he had done all the course work to earn the degree and even walked during graduation ceremonies, but that due to not paying some fees it was never conferred on him.

Frazier, who represents portions of Eastern Contra Costa County where Belle resides, was elected and also represents portions, wanted to increase the maximum penalty to $5,000. The legislation passed easily through both the Assembly and the Senate.

But, the governor didn’t believe it was necessary, stating in his veto message for the bill, that he was “not convinced that this is a widespread problem in California elections or that this bill would be much of a deterrent.”

That leaves in place the current maximum fine for lying on a ballot statement that is sent to all voters in a district. It also means that there is a greater, maximum fine of $1,000 and penalty of up to three years in prison for lying on a candidate’s nomination papers which remain with the elections official and is not made available to the public. Frazier considered that backwards.

An attempt to reach the Assemblyman for comment for this report was unsuccessful.

Belle’s term in office ends in 2018 and the election will be held next November.

One Comment to “Governor vetoes “Jeff Belle” bill that would have increased penalties for ballot statement lies”

  1. C.S. says:

    Maybe it would have been better if the Assemblyman used more politicians that have lied on their candidate ballot … to convince the Governor why he should not veto AB 894

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