There are seventeen propositions on the California ballot. The text, the arguments, and other such items are spread out over 233 glorious pages of the California Voter Guide. I suspect many people don’t have time to read 233 pages. I’m not a lawyer, and thus will not be able to detail the actual text. I will skim them for anything alarming, and I will try to summarize the 233 pages – and which propositions to support and be scared of, and why – in a single diary. Much more manageable.
I am going to analyze all seventeen of California’s propositions for this post. Some of these are amazing, some are ridiculous. Some are crucial, while others are terrifying. And some are just deceptive. All are important to consider, as always — elections matter.
(First: The other item in this Voter Guide is the pair of candidate statements for US Senate. I will be voting for Kamala Harris, but Loretta Sanchez is also a fine candidate. You really can’t make a bad choice here, and there’s not a whole lot to say. We’re getting a Democratic woman of color in the Senate no matter what. If I discuss this at all, it will be when I discuss candidate races and local propositions on my ballot.)
(Second: Notational comment for parenthetical shorthands. I = Initiative. CA = Constitutional Amendment. S = Statute.)
Prop 51. “School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities. (I:S).” This proposition allows for a $9 billion bond to fund construction projects for K-12, community colleges, charter schools, and vocational training facilities within the state. This bond will help. I am slightly uncomfortable with the attached rider that prevents changes being made to the allocation rules. Sometimes flexibility is important. On the other hand, sometimes corruption can result from being able to make changes. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties of California endorse this bill, though it is opposed by the Governor. This bond adds about a 7% increase in the debt ratio for California, likely manageable. I hesitantly give a YES to this for now, but I am still listening.
Prop 52. “Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. (I:CA/S).” Right now hospitals pay a Quality Assurance Fee to the State of California. This money ends up getting returned, in most cases, and in many cases with an increased return to the hospital, in the form of Medi-Cal grants and federal matching funds. Without this passing, the fee will expire in 2018. This measure will also lock in the fee, requiring a two-thirds majority to remove or change the fee. By all reports, the fee seems to be a success for California, allowing them to save money and still keep hospitals funded. The primary argument against seems to be involving the funding potentially not actually going to provide health care. But this is an irrelevant argument for two reasons. First off, assurance of financial responsibility remains in the same function it has always remained; this makes no comment on that. Second, the PPACA puts a hard 15% cap on administration anyway. This is an easy YES vote.
Prop 53. “Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval. (I:CA).” This would require voter approval for any project using revenue bonds that totaled more than 2 billion dollars, adjusted for inflation. On the surface, requiring approval for spending is a good idea. But we already have a large number of propositions consistently on the ballot. I’m writing this because I know 17 is sometimes too many to ask voters to wade through, even despite California’s excellent voter guide. Only being able to fund projects through elections seems dangerous. It will encourage projects being broken up into smaller projects – the proposition claims to prohibit this but I fail to see how that is possibly enforceable, except perhaps through constant wasteful litigation trying to force projects together. It also prevents action that can’t wait for an election to happen. (Opponents claim an election can be called whenever. But that also costs more money, and special elections are bad due to low turnout, etc.) So we have an expanding court system, an expanding ballot, and inhibited ability to get funding where we need it to go. I am voting NO on this.
Prop 54. “Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. (I:CA/S).” There are two parts to this bill. The simple part is requiring all proceedings, except select closed-door proceedings, to be recorded and posted to the Internet, and left available for 20 years. This seems like a good idea and I don’t think many would have much issue. The thornier part of the bill is one to require any bill be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before it can be voted on, except in cases of a declared state of emergency. In theory, I like this. In practice, this is written badly enough that even a minor change that does not impact the actual content can force a 3-day delay, allowing legislators a far too effective tool to prevent passage of legislation. Because a proposition must be considered in its entirety, I will vote NO.
Prop 55. “Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare. (I:CA).” Prop 55 extends the Prop 30 tax hike on the rich to help fund education and healthcare. I’m not affected by this, except in the positive to have more healthcare and education funding. And neither is anyone else earning less than $250,000. This is not a tax increase; the tax hike already was approved. Failure to approve this would be a tax cut to the rich, and a loss of funding to education and healthcare. A clear YES vote for me.
Prop 56. “Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement. (I:CA/S).” This bill would increase the cigarette tax by $2/pack to fund the above mentioned things. I’m definitely not a fan of smokers, and support the things this funds. However, the current tax is .88/pack and I find what amounts to over a 200% increase in tax, when California is not in crisis, to be extreme. I don’t find the typical arguments against to hold water, but we do not need to increase any tax by this much. I will vote NO, though I’m definitely open to persuasion here.
Prop 57. “Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. (I:CA/S).” Proposition 57 has two parts. First, it would allow for the granting of parole to individuals convicted of nonviolent felonies. Nonviolent is not well defined, so we can assume it refers to all felonies not specifically defined as “violent” under California law. It does not require that such parole be granted, only that they get a hearing. As such, I am not particularly worried that it will result in more dangerous individuals being on the street. Ultimately, law enforcement personnel still get to make this decision. Additionally, it requires all juvenile offenders be given a hearing before being transferred to adult court. The arguments for and against this measure in the voter guide fail to discuss this bit at all. I think it’s very important, and I think it’s tremendous. I, for one, think that very few circumstances exist which would ever consider trying someone as an adult. Being subject to laws without a voice in them makes our treatment of children a mockery of democracy. While there are valid reasons for this policy, it is quite complex and outside the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that anything that limits or prevents children being tried as adults is a good thing in my book. This measure is endorsed by the Governor. I respect the concerns regarding part 1 but I am not concerned myself. I will vote YES.
Prop 58. “English Proficiency. Multilingual Education. (I:S).” This is a partial repealing of the Proposition 227 requirement of 1998 that required all English learners to be in English immersion programs absent some very strict requirements. Essentially, this opens California schools up to teaching bilingual education on a more comprehensive level again. I think this is a good way to provide more educational options to more students and gives school districts more choices. Opponents complain that this bill would also now only require a simple majority vote of the Legislature to make more changes. But that’s not a bad thing: that’s how most laws are passed, period. I will vote YES on this measure.
Prop 59. “Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protects. Legislative Advisory Question.” This measure asks whether California should support a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision that has been responsible for so much political carnage ever since its inception. The Legislature is asking us to consider the question, it doesn’t mandate any action whatsoever. Opponents claim it tinkers with the First Amendment. Well, in that Citizens United itself was a ridiculous interpretation of it, sure. This is a very clear YES vote.
Prop 60. “Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements. (I:S).” This bill requires regular health checkups for adult film workers and for condoms to be used during production of adult films. These sound reasonable. It also holds producers and distributors liable for violations of these requirements. This is reasonable. It allows ANY RESIDENT OF CALIFORNIA to file suit to enforce these violations. This is insane. I can just smell the frivolous lawsuits from here. I can smell the industry being harassed from here. I can smell LGBT individuals working in the industry having to deal with this crap from every bigot with an axe to grind. The core concept is decent, but the clear poison pill in the measure requires me to vote NO.
Prop 61. “State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. (I:S).” This bill would require the state to pay no more than the lowest price paid by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs. This affects only individuals who get their medicine through a state agency, such as employees of the state, prisoners, CSU and UC students, and (with some exceptions) those enrolled in Medi-Cal. I’m all for restricting the price of drugs. But this doesn’t do that at all. It restricts the *State* from paying too much. It doesn’t oblige the manufacturer to provide the product at that rate. The manufacturers might well hike prices to the VA or just refuse to do business with the State. Okay idea, but an implementation that fails to understand how business actually works. I have to vote NO.
Prop 62/66 (contradictory, discussed together). “Death Penalty. (I:S).”/”Death Penalty. Procedures. (I:S).” Proposition 62 removes the death penalty for California. It also requires lifetime prisoners to work and increases victim restitution for those prisoners. Proposition 66 moves habeas corpus petitions to trial courts, requires habeas corpus petitions and direct appeals to have the entire process completed within five years, limits filing time to one year, prevents multiple petitions from being filed on the same case, requires appointed attorneys to accept capital cases, and increases victim restitution (to a greater extent than 62). It also allows death row inmates to be held at any state prison, rather than only San Quentin (men) or Chowchilla (women), makes a few minor tweaks to resources available to the courts, and requires a method be enacted to resume executions, which have not been performed since 2006. I do not find our current implementation of the death penalty to be a good idea. I look at both measures and I see good ideas here. But I am worried about 66’s potential to fail people in an overcrowded court system. As such, I have to vote YES on 62 and NO on 66, though leaving a strategic blank on 66 is a possibility if I can be convinced the speed-up is better than what we have.
Prop 63. “Firearms. Ammunition Sales. (I:S).” This bill regulates ammunition similar to the firearms that use them (requiring dealers to have licenses, buyers to prove they are allowed to purchase it, etc.) and provides a ban on firearms with high-capacity magazines. It also changes reporting requirements for stolen ammunition and/or firearms, and increases the penalty for theft of firearms to a felony. It’s actually a very complicated measure with a lot of minor changes and tweaks being made to firearm laws. If I went in more detail I’d end up copying from the legislative analyst. These are some common sense reforms that will reduce gun violence in our state. I am voting YES.
Prop 64. “Marijuana Legalization. (I:S).” Exactly what it says on the tin. The legal age for usage would be 21. Restrictions are similar to that of alcohol and tobacco usage. Sales would, of course, be taxed, and heavily. Some exemptions in the tax are present for medical marijuana usage (already legal in California). What’s interesting is that the tax is not going to the state general fund, but rather into prevention and cleanup programs related to marijuana usage. Specifically, after the regulatory agency takes what it needs to fund itself, the taxes would go 60% to youth programs, inclunding substance use disorder education, prevention, and treatment. 20% to clean up and prevent environmental damage from illegal growing. and 20% to programs designed to reduce DUI and a grant program to reduce impacts on public health and safety from this measure. It would reduce sentences for marijuana-related crimes (although those currently incarcerated would only “likely” have their sentences reduced). One interesting apparent contradiction is how proponents claim advertising to children is not allowed under this measure, while opponent specifically claim that it is. The actual text demands a reasonable expectation that “at least 71.6 percent of the audience” is 21 years or older. Why that number? Don’t ask me. In any case, I think legalizing marijuana is important, to help end the disastrous war on drugs. Maybe certain things here could be better, but overall I will easily vote YES.
Prop 65/67 (potentially contradictory/discussed together). “Carryout Bags. Charges. (I:S).”/”Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags. Referendum.” I will start with Prop 67 as 65 is dependent on 67. Proposition 67 is a referendum on SB 270, the law that banned grocery stores from using plastic bags for carryout, citing the waste and environmental threat they portend. (Some cities and counties in California already ban plastic bags, this would enforce such a ban statewide.) If this measure passes, reusable bags must be sold at a minimum price of 10 cents (though certain purchases and low-income buyers are exempt), and stores would keep this revenue… unless 65 passes. Prop 65 redirects the funds from the sales of reusable bags to a State Environmental Fund that would provide grants to various environmental projects. Here’s the problem with that: Bags aren’t free. Stores need that revenue to actually get the re-useable bags and sell them. If 65 passes with a greater percentage than 67, there’s also the chance that the courts will kill 67 due to the contradictory propositions rule. I’m not convinced these are completely contradictory, as they also seem to support each other. Nonetheless, 65, despite the stated intent, is an end-run-around attempt to kill SB 270. I will vote NO on 65 and YES on 67, to give us our plastic bag ban.
In summary: At this point, my votes are most likely to be: YES on 51, YES on 52, NO on 53, NO on 54, YES on 55, NO on 56, YES on 57, YES on 58, YES on 59, NO on 60, NO on 61, YES on 62, YES on 63, YES on 64, NO on 65, NO on 66, YES on 67.
That was a lot of analysis, a lot of work. Whew. I hope this helped any Californians interested in hearing from me and considering their ballot, especially those without the time to sit and read every legislative analysis! I hope this also provided information to readers out-of-state who are certainly not going to take that time for items they don’t have a vote on. I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts on these matters in the comments, especially on the few propositions I am least certain about.
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