LAW 536

Proposition 13: Law, History, and Politics

Business & Tax Law

“Proposition 13”—the famed “tax revolt” initiative championed by Howard Jarvis and approved by California voters in June 1978—added Article XIIIA to the California Constitution. By its terms, the primary effect of Prop 13 was to impose new constitutional limits on local property taxes, limiting the base and reducing the rate. In the forty plus years since the measure became law, however, Prop 13 has had a much broader effect. It has inspired numerous copycat measures in other states, transformed the state and local public sector, triggered several additional initiatives in California, and spawned a nationwide tax-cutting fervor that has defined U.S. tax politics ever since. The aim of this seminar is to explore the origins and operation of Proposition 13 as well as its numerous and far-reaching effects. The course will begin with an examination of the measure itself, as well as the enabling legislation enacted shortly after it was passed. Topics to be covered include the political origins of Prop 13, its effect on local government finance (especially school finance), how Prop 13 benefits some property owners while disadvantaging others, state and federal constitutional challenges, and proposals for reform (including the “split roll” measure slated to appear on the November 2020 ballot). The course is, at bottom, a detailed investigation of California history and politics over the past half century, as played out through pitched ongoing battles over how to fund public goods.

See Full Course Details