California State Assemblymember, Paul Fong (D-Mountain View) introduced a bill (AB 80) yesterday which would shift the state's presidential primary in 2012 and in future presidential cycles from the first Tuesday in February back to June. Details are scant at this point (as you might have been able to tell from the bill link above), but there are few things that can be said of this despite not having the text of the bill at which to look.
First of all, California did this during the 2008 cycle as well. In September 2004, then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that moved the Golden state's primary from its March position back to June. Now, keep in mind that California has always been one the states that has traditionally held both its presidential primary and its primaries for state and local offices at the same time. Record low turnout in both 2002 and 2004 served as the impetus for the move. However, in 2007, when states began moving and clustering their primaries and caucuses for 2008 in February, California followed suit (see California section). But this time the state assembly decoupled the presidential primary from the primaries for state and local offices. This didn't come cheap. The early cost estimates to create the all-new, separate presidential primary placed that number at $90 million.
And that brings us to the second point. With such a high price tag and with California in poor shape economically, this current move by the assembly to "recouple" the two sets of primaries seems like a no-brainer. Of course, passing this bill would also mean that California's voice would likely go unheard at the tail end of the nomination process, a place the state's primary has not been since the 1992 cycle. This could be a point of debate once this bill is in committee (Fong is the chair of the Assembly Elections Committee.). That could be as early as February 3.
Given our post earlier today, none of the above says anything about the partisanship in the state legislature in California. It was among the states that shifted from divided to unified government with Jerry Brown's election as governor. It was also one of the few states that moved toward the Democrats in that regard. With an uncontested nomination, Democratic-controlled states may be more likely to bring their primary scheduling into compliance with national party rules because of that than their Republican-controlled counterparts in other states. We shall see. We'll have more on this point in tomorrow's post. That said, California moving back is a big deal. It is currently one of the 18 states with elections laws on the books that schedule the presidential primary in February and thus in violation of national party rules on delegate selection.
[h/t Ballot Access News for the link.]
UPDATE: Here is the text of AB 80. As expected the bill combines all sets of primaries on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June and would move the presidential primary to that position from the first Tuesday in February.