Kurt Oneto

Office: Sacramento
1415 L Street
Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95814

Kurt Oneto is a Partner practicing a wide range of government, tax, and regulatory matters with a specific focus on statewide initiative and referendum campaigns.  He has extensive experience representing clients before state agencies involved in licensure disputes, procurements, and regulatory hearings, has litigated numerous California state and local tax cases, and has served as counsel and legal strategist to over 50 ballot measure campaigns both in California and more than a half dozen other states.

Mr. Oneto is a recognized expert in California’s state initiative and referendum processes, and serves as a member of the firm’s government law, regulatory, and litigation practice groups. 

Prior to joining Nielsen Merksamer, Mr. Oneto served as a legislative analyst with the California District Attorneys Association and as a legislative aide to a member of the California State Senate.


  • Proposition 11 (2018): Author of successful statewide initiative statute that modifies California labor laws to ensure that private paramedics and EMTs are available without interruption to respond to emergency calls.
  • Initiative I-1634 (2018): Principal coauthor of successful statewide initiative statute in the State of Washington that prohibits local governments from taxing groceries.
  • Zeiderman v. Padilla, No. 34-2016-80002412 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): As counsel to the campaign opposing Proposition 56 on the November 2016 statewide ballot, successfully challenged the Attorney General’s title and summary in order to clarify the measure’s adverse impact on state school funding.
  • Proposition 22 (2010): Principal coauthor of successful statewide initiative constitutional amendment that protects local agency property tax and transportation revenues from state raids.
  • McKenzie v. Bowen, No. 34-2010-80000621 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): As counsel to the campaign supporting Proposition 22 on the November 2010 statewide ballot, successfully challenged the Legislative Analyst’s estimate of Proposition 22’s fiscal effect on state and local government revenues contained in the ballot title and summary and ballot label.
  • Yes on 25, Citizens for an On-Time Budget v. Super. Ct. 189 Cal. App. 4th 1445 (2010): Developed the legal strategy which forced the Attorney General and proponents of Proposition 25 (2010) to concede that Proposition 25, if enacted, could not be used to circumvent the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for the adoption of new or higher state taxes.
  • Shaw v. Chiang, 175 Cal. App. 4th 577 (2009): Part of litigation team that successfully challenged the state Legislature’s diversion to the state General Fund of over $1 billion in revenues dedicated by the voters to local and state public transportation projects
  • Assembly Bill 483 (Ting, 2013): Principal drafter of legislation that adds a section to the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act to define the terms “specific benefit” and “specific government service” for purposes of California Constitution, Article XIII C.
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen, 212 Cal. App. 4th 1298 (2013) (depub. 2013 Cal. LEXIS 4525): On behalf of amicus curiae, successfully argued that the state Legislature cannot use the budget process to adopt bills on a majority vote that the state Constitution otherwise requires to be adopted by a two-thirds vote.
  • Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork v. Concolino, No. 34-2014-80001748 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): Part of litigation team that successfully defended the rejection of a proposed ballot measure that would have halted the construction of a new arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
  • State Dept. of Personnel Administration RFP # 700-11-13 (2012): Part of legal team that successfully defended a contract award of $30 million to Aon Hewitt to administer California state employee 401(k), 401(a), and 457(b) retirement plans against a bid protest brought by a competitor.
  • Gonzalez v. Bowen, No. 34-2008-00016638 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): As counsel to the campaign opposing Proposition 7 on the November 2008 statewide ballot, developed and then successfully defended the ballot argument against Proposition 7 that the measure discriminated against small renewable energy companies.
  • Voter Turnout and Ballot Measure Success in California (LAP Lambert Publishing, 2013). ISBN-10: 9783659398254