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Shelter-in-home repercussions may doom 2 proposed Napa County ballot measures on watershed protections and cannabis

by Kerana Todorov
March 31, 2020



Two Napa County initiatives – one to protect the county’s watershed and the other to allow the cultivation of commercial cannabis – have been placed on the back burner because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Proponents of these initiatives said this week that they would not collect voters’ signatures to place the proposals on the ballot given the covid-19 pandemic and the statewide shelter-in-place mandate. They also do not plan to pull out the proposals.

As of Monday, Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said the initiatives had not been withdrawn.

Under state law, the proponents have until May 8 to collect 5,600 signatures of Napa County voters for the initiatives to quality for the Nov. 3 ballot.

The backers recently tried to have the Napa County Board of Supervisors place their initiatives directly on the ballot as it is allowed under state law.

However, the Napa County Board of Supervisors on March 26 said they did not want to bypass the signature gathering process.

“The initiative process has to be the initiative process,” Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said via Zoom during the special meeting.

The supervisors also stressed they did not want to take county resources away from the fight against covid-19 to place the measures on the November ballot.

“I’m not interested in spending county resources on this at this time,” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. “They need to be placed elsewhere.”

Both the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Winegrowers of Napa County urged the supervisors not to place the initiatives directly on the ballot.

California state officials have discussed extending the signature gathering deadline by having Gov. Newsom sign an executive order. It would prohibit signature gathering until the shelter-in-place order is lifted. However, no such executive order has been issued as of Monday.

Vintner and cannabis advocate Stephanie Honig has urged the Board of Supervisors to place the new cannabis measure on the ballot.

“We will wait to see what measures Governor Newsom takes. A solution could be to extend the submission date for signatures to 60 days past the end of the “shelter at home” order,” Honig said Monday.

“The inability to gather signatures is an unintended consequence to keeping us all healthy. This problem is not unique to Napa County. There are many initiatives all over the state that are facing the same challenge which unfortunately, is disruptive to the democratic process,” Honig said.

Environmental activist Mike Hackett of Angwin, a retired airline pilot, also came before the board on Mach 26 to ask that the proposed Napa County Water Sustainability Initiative of 2020, be placed directly on the ballot. The proponents, the Napa Growers and Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, had filed their papers on March 6 with the Napa County’s Elections Division. He apologized to the bring the matter during the pandemic.

“I want to first and most importantly issue an apology in this time of great international and national emergency,” he told the supervisors, adding the proposal was not a matter of life or death like covid-19.

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