Did last week’s Los Angeles election results give any clues on where voters stand if a special statewide election is called?

On the tax front, LA City voters passed a tax on medical marijuana and apparently defeated a tax on oil production. Along with the defeat of another oil production tax increase in neighboring Beverly Hills, it should give pause to those who have clamored for a statewide oil severance tax. Voters understand that the tax will work its way on to them at the gas pump.

Whether approval of the marijuana tax provides any tell-tale sign is difficult to determine. The marijuana tax faces legal hurdles and uncertainties best described by City Council President, Eric Garcetti: “If marijuana is supposed to be medicine, you can’t tax medicine. And if it is a gross receipts tax on a business, these (dispensaries) are not supposed to be businesses.”

It may be too much of a leap to guess results from a special election on taxes from what happened in Los Angeles. The concern for those supporting a tax on the special election is that the tax that voters felt would eventually affect them directly (the oil tax) was turned down. Continuation of the car tax, sales tax, and, for many, the income tax, directly affects the voters. A PPIC poll found overwhelming opposition to these taxes marked for extension.

The tax extensions will be strongly supported by public employee unions. In the L.A. election, the question of union potency was brought up by the Los Angeles Times in regard to one particular L.A. city council race.

Incumbent and former police chief, Bernard Parks, seemingly fended off a high-powered and expensive attack from three public employee unions to hold his seat. However, it should be noted that Parks opponent, who received only 5% of the vote the last time she ran, grabbed 43% this time around. As of this writing, Parks still holds a narrow lead.

It is possible that pension reform might become part of a special election package.

Los Angeles voters changed the public employee pension system for police officers and firefighters. A new tier was set up for new hires. The measure passed with nearly 75% of the vote. While the vote is an indication that voters are ready to change pension plans, the type of change could determine the outcome. The new added tier system was relatively easy for the voters to accept since no current employees were involved.

Still, changing the pension plan for respected police and firefighters suggests pension issue changes will be receptive to voters.

To borrow a label often placed on polls, the L.A. election was a “snapshot in time.” A special election in the summer would come with its on particular circumstances. One that will have to be watched closely is voter turnout. Participation in the Los Angeles election was miserable: under 12-percent in the city; under 11-percent when you include the portions of the school district and the community college district that are outside the city limits.

The 2009 special election, which contained a measure to extend the temporary taxes, produced a low turnout of registered voters. Putting aside the recall election of 2003, only one special election out of five the state has conducted since 1973 had a turnout of more than 50% of registered voters, and that one – Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 special election – top 50% by .1%. That was an election in which public employees were motivated to go to the polls and dominated the election.

If the tax extensions are on the ballot public employees are expected to rally around the tax extension measure. The question political strategists are asking is: Will a 2011 special election follow the turnout model of 2005 or 2009?