For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide
By Doug Porter
There are seventeen propositions appearing on the November California ballot. The Secretary of State’s Official Voter Guide weighs in at 240 pages this year.
Today I’m going to give those propositions a quick once over. The San Diego Free Press will publish more detailed analyses in the coming weeks. And those of you fantasizing about an unbiased assessment can leave now to go chase unicorns elsewhere.
The conventional wisdom in pundit-land is so many ballot decisions will encourage weary voters to vote against everything. Fortunately, the people at Ballotpedia have researched this assumption, and it turns out to be mostly not true.
Each proposition write-up includes links to groups supporting and opposing the measure. I’m also throwing in a link to Ballotpedia pages, where you can learn more about the history and Political Action Committees involved.
Fear not, SDFreePress readers. Our General Election Progressive Voter Guide, published at about the time mail-in ballots are delivered, will boil all these ballot measures down and give you the resources to further research issues that are of interest. And it won’t crush your mailbox, leaving room for those all-important flyers from the dinosaurs of retailing.
(Here’s my Sneak Peek at the measures on San Diego Ballots.)
Prop 51 – Build It for the Children
SCHOOL BONDS. FUNDING FOR K–12 SCHOOL AND 51 COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACILITIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE
In a nutshell: If approved, the state will sell bonds to fund school construction and repairs. This is part of a long-standing funding formula involving a three-way partnership among the state, home buyers, and local school districts.
Republicans, Democrats, educators, business, and labor all love this program. Opposed to it are the usual anti-government cranks and one very prominent politician: Gov. Jerry Brown. The Gov’s point is that the compromises creating this formula perpetuate a very broken system and there are better ways of doing this. Unfortunately, that new system of funding isn’t on the ballot.
Ballot summary: Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new construction and modernization of K–12 public school facilities; charter schools and vocational education facilities; and California Community Colleges facilities. Fiscal Impact: State costs of about $17.6 billion to pay off both the principal ($9 billion) and interest ($8.6 billion) on the bonds. Payments of about $500 million per year for 35 years.
Prop 52 – Keeping Medi-Cal Funded
MEDI-CAL HOSPITAL FEE PROGRAM. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
In a nutshell: This is about how funding for state-supported health care is collected and allocated. If approved, a combination amendment to the state constitution and statute would extend indefinitely the existing system of collecting fees on hospitals to obtain federal matching funds. Changes in how future money is allocated would require two-thirds approval of the legislature. We’re told the proposition would generate three billion dollars in federal matching funds without costing the taxpayers any money.
Everybody and their mother (Republicans haven’t endorsed, but don’t oppose) is in favor of this: Chambers of Commerce, the medical profession, community organizations, Democrats and organized labor, with one huge exception–the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers West.
The SEIU-UHW has a troubled history with hospitals that goes beyond the usual bosses vs workers paradigm. They’re funding the opposition to this proposition, saying it only favors healthcare corporations and hospital CEOs.
Ballot Summary: Extends indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health care services, care for uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage. Fiscal Impact: Uncertain fiscal effect, ranging from relatively little impact to annual state General Fund savings of around $1 billion and increased funding for public hospitals in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually
Prop 53- More Governance by Referendum
REVENUE BONDS. STATEWIDE VOTER APPROVAL. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
In a nutshell: A wealthy man from Stockton has coughed up $4 million to put this measure on the ballot because he thinks long term debt is immoral. And because he dislikes Gov. Brown’s big infrastructure ideas. (Other projects would be impacted)
Revenue bonds differ from general obligation bonds (which require voter approval) in that they’re authorized by a majority in the legislature based on the idea they’ll be paid off with user revenues from whatever project they finance. In the real world, these bonds are a source for funding not-very-sexy projects, like prison construction.
If passed voter approval would be required for any revenue bond exceeding $2 billion. Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council think this is a terrible idea, citing its potential to tie up local projects and lack of flexibility in case of natural disasters.
Ballot Summary: Requires statewide voter approval before any revenue bonds can be issued or sold by the state for certain projects if the bond amount exceeds $2 billion. Fiscal Impact: State and local fiscal effects are unknown and would depend on which projects are affected by the measure and what actions government agencies and voters take in response to the measure’s voting requirement.
Prop 54 – Too Good to Be True?
LEGISLATURE. LEGISLATION AND PROCEEDINGS. 54 INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
In a nutshell: Billionaire Charles Munger’s got some reform he’d like you to support, and –trust me– it looks terrific at first glance.
He’s spent near $8 million of his own money to change the state constitution to require that all bills be available for public and legislative review at least 72 hours before they’re voted on; that all open proceedings of the Legislature must be recorded by the Legislature and those recordings be made available to the public, and that members of the public be allowed to record and broadcast or post on the internet recordings of any open Legislative proceeding.
It would put an end to the insidious process known as ‘gut-and-amend’ –where old legislation gets repurposed– and then get voted on before the public, or even legislators, can react. Bad things can happen. And the politically impossible also becomes possible. Is this another reform like term limits that ends up being more symbolic than real?
A broad coalition from the League of Women Voters to the Small Business Action Committee supports Prop 54. Although the Democratic Party and the California Labor Federation oppose it, they’re apparently not willing to spend any money opposing it.
Ballot Summary: Prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless published on Internet for 72 hours before vote. Requires Legislature to record its proceedings and post on Internet. Authorizes use of recordings. Fiscal Impact: One-time costs of $1 million to $2 million and ongoing costs of about $1 million annually to record legislative meetings and make videos of those meetings available on the Internet.
Pro 55 – Keep the Rocket Scientists Coming
TAX EXTENSION TO FUND EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
In a nutshell: Having stemmed the budgetary bleeding brought on by the recession, supporters of K-12 and Community College education are looking to keep funding at a level that prevents future cuts.
As SDFP’s Jim Miller says, “It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the huge negative impacts that this would have on our ability to serve our students and evolve to meet the challenges of the future.”
Republicans and anti-tax groups oppose 55 because it says a promise that the 2012 tax increases would be temporary would be broken. And it’s harder to push a privatization agenda when schools are funded.
The coalition supporting Prop 55 includes school districts, unions, Democrats, community groups, and healthcare providers. Opposing it are the California Republican Party and a handful of anti-tax groups.
Ballot Summary: Extends by twelve years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000, with revenues allocated to K–12 schools, California Community Colleges, and, in certain years, healthcare. Fiscal Impact: Increased state revenues—$4 billion to $9 billion annually from 2019–2030—depending on economy and stock market. Increased funding for schools, community colleges, health care for low-income people, budget reserves, and debt payments.
Prop 56 – You Smoke, You Pay. They Lie
CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
In a nutshell: Increases the state’s take every time a tobacco product is sold. Money gets used to fund anti-smoking programs. The big winner, in what’s being considered an unusually well-crafted measure, would be the Medi-Cal program, which would receive between $710 million and $1 billion in 2017-18.
The medical profession (and they’re not poor!) in all its manifestations has gone all-in on funding the Yes on 56 campaign. This support is predicated on the wide swath of negative health impacts tobacco use has in society, and the increasing evidence supporting the concept that taxing bad stuff decreases its use.
The tobacco industry has raised twice as much to oppose it. Expect to see massive amounts of advertising trying to convince you that paying more for tobacco products will hurt poor people and enrich “special interests.” Don’t like the tax? Don’t use their products.
Ballot Summary: Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Fiscal Impact: Additional net state revenue of $1 billion to $1.4 billion in 2017–18, with potentially lower revenues in future years. Revenues would be used primarily to augment spending on health care for low-income Californians.
Prop 57 – The Prison Industrial Complex Isn’t Happy
CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING. 57 INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
In a nutshell: This is Gov. Jerry Brown’s incarceration reform program. Perhaps the best argument FOR it is the ballot argument being used by the Prison Industrial Complex against it: A NO vote on this measure means: There would be no change to the inmate release process. The state’s prison system could not award additional sentencing credits to inmates. Certain youths could continue to be tried in adult court without a hearing in juvenile court.
Expect lots of scare arguments (RAPE! BOMBS! CRIME!) from those opposed to Prop 57 in op-eds and other free media, because the anti-people aren’t actually spending money (at least at this point). The choice comes down to choosing a path offering the opportunity for rehabilitation or building more prisons.
Ballot Summary: Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Provides juvenile court judge decides whether juvenile will be prosecuted as adult. Fiscal Impact: Net state savings likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually, depending on implementation. Net county costs of likely a few million dollars annually.
Prop 58 – Two Languages Are Better than One
ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: This allows school districts to decide which methods work best to instruct kids with English language challenges. (The requirement that students master the English language remains.) Undoes the worst of Proposition 227, passed back in the days on anti-immigrant sentiment. Many Latinos considered minimizing the amount of bilingual educational classes to be a racist and unfair attack on their children.
Local legislators Marty Block and Lorena Gonzalez were among those shepherding this to the ballot. Support comes from educators and teachers throughout California. Opposition comes from the original supporters of Prop 227 (including Silicon Valley billionaire Ron Unz) who say the English first policy has improved educational outcomes.
Ballot Summary: Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Requires instruction to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible. Authorizes school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers. Fiscal Impact: No notable fiscal effect on school districts or state government.
Prop 59 – Corporations Are Not People
CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS. LEGISLATIVE ADVISORY QUESTION.
In a nutshell: This asks voters to add our state’s support to those proposing a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that held corporations to be the same as people and eliminated laws limiting limits on political spending.
I’d be inclined to lend some credence to the opposition argument saying Prop 59 is nothing but a feel-good gesture, except that they go on to claim this is an attack on the First Amendment. Sorry fellas, Citizens United is the judicial equivalent to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.
Ballot Summary: Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending by corporations and unions are unconstitutional. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments.
Shall California’s elected officials use all of their constitutional authority, including, but not limited to, proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings?
Prop 60 – Censorship by a Thousand Lawsuits
ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE
In a nutshell: This is an attempt to regulate the pornography industry. The underground nature of this business attracts entrepreneurs who don’t like rules. But the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian parties all agree this statue amounts to overkill, given that adult film productions in California are already subject to current state and local workplace health and safety requirements. Most troubling about this is the provision allowing any citizen to file lawsuits directly against adult film performers, on-set crew, and even cable and satellite television companies who distribute the films.
Ballot summary: Requires adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Requires producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. Requires producers to post condom requirement at film sites. Fiscal Impact: Likely reduction of state and local tax revenues of several million dollars annually. Increased state spending that could exceed $1 million annually on regulation, partially offset by new fees.
Prop 61 – Follow the Drug Money
STATE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASES. PRICING STANDARDS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: Through its various healthcare programs, the State of California purchases huge amounts of prescription drugs. Right now, it’s the wild west out there with different agencies paying different prices and big pharma laughing all the way to the bank. The one government agency with an actual program evaluating the costs of drugs is the Veterans Administration. Guess what? They pay a lot less much of the time.
The big boys in the drug industry have no shame about the profits they make, and you can expect a $100 million campaign against Prop 61, mostly because if California can get this deal, a lot of other states will follow suit. Expect to hear lots of doom and gloom sob stories about medicine shortages and research no longer possible.
Just remember, the makers of the EpiPen, used to save lives in several allergic reactions, jacked the price of their product from $100 to $600, because they could. The product was developed from taxpayer-funded research and cost just a few dollars to manufacture.
Ballot Summary: Prohibits state from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at a price over lowest price paid for the drug by United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Exempts managed care programs funded through Medi-Cal. Fiscal Impact: Potential for state savings of an unknown amount depending on (1) how the measure’s implementation challenges are addressed and (2) the responses of drug manufacturers regarding the provision and pricing of their drug.
Prop 62 – Fire the Executioners
DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: Death penalty, yes or no? Proponents of the death penalty have their own proposition (66) and hope for voters to support streamlining the process of state-sanctioned executions as opposed to banning them.
Ballot summary: Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution. Fiscal Impact: Net ongoing reduction in state and county criminal justice costs of around $150 million annually within a few years, although the impact could vary by tens of millions of dollars depending on various factors.
Prop 63 – The Ammopocalypse
FIREARMS. AMMUNITION SALES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: In addition to requiring background checks for ammo purchases, this measure ACTUALLY TAKES GUNS AWAY from violent felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill. The Second Amendment types–y’know the ones who can take care of Hillary, wink, wink– are frothing at the bit about this one.
Having said that, Prop 63 is a political stepping stone for a certain 2018 gubernatorial candidate. Unfortunately, solutions to gun violence require federal solutions, and we all know that’s not going to happen anytime soon, despite the fact that a majority of Americans and gun owners support regulation.
Ballot summary: Requires background check and Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. Prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. Establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by specified persons. Requires Department of Justice’s participation in federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Fiscal Impact: Increased state and local court and law enforcement costs, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to a new court process for removing firearms from prohibited persons after they are convicted.
Prop 64 – Here Comes the Reefer Man
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: The use, possession or sale of pot will be taxed (& taxed some more) and regulated. More than a century of propaganda fueled by mostly racist fears will have run its course. The urge to get intoxicated (by whatever) is, for better or worse, baked into our DNA. That doesn’t mean it’s a requirement. Despite the claim that marijuana is nearly legal in California, statistics prove otherwise.
Ballot summary: Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation. Fiscal Impact: Additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes. Reduced criminal justice costs of tens of millions of dollars annually.
Prop 65 – Revenge of the Plastic Bag Monsters
CARRYOUT BAGS. CHARGES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
In a nutshell: there are two propositions on the November ballot concerning the use of carryout plastic bags. This measure is sponsored by the plastic bag industry as a way to punish businesses that supported a ban by redirecting the funding easing the transition costs into an “environmental fund.” They’re hoping voters don’t notice that no credible environmental group supports this idea. It is nothing less than a dirty trick being played on voters.
Ballot summary: Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through mandated sale of carryout bags. Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund to support specified environmental projects. Fiscal Impact: Potential state revenue of several tens of millions of dollars annually under certain circumstances, with the monies used to support certain environmental programs.
Prop 66 – Killing Them Softly
DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTE
In a nutshell: This makes state-sanctioned executions easier. The people and organizations against ending the death penalty (Prop 62) want you to believe that streamlining the process will make it more palatable. The ACLU says more innocent people will die under Prop 66.
Ballot summary: Changes procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Fiscal Impact: Unknown ongoing impact on state court costs for processing legal challenges to death sentences. Potential prison savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
Prop 67 – Just Ban The Damn Bags, Already
BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAGS. REFERENDUM
In a nutshell: The California legislature passed a bill (SB 270) phasing out single use plastic bags by retailers. The plastics industry spent millions to get this on the ballot to overturn that law. They even created a second proposition to screw over retailers if this measure fails. Nearly 150 localities in California have already banned these bags; San Diego’s ban is “on hold” until the results of this election are in.
Ballot summary: A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, a statute that prohibits grocery and other stores from providing customers single-use plastic or paper carryout bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags. Fiscal Impact: Relatively small fiscal effects on state and local governments, including a minor increase in state administrative costs and possible minor local government savings from reduced litter and waste management costs.
Effective as of the day after Labor Day (Sept 6), there will be enough days for me (and others) to write 50 (M-F) columns before election day, which means just about every one will feature either ballot measures or candidates. So I will have a lot more to say. Stay tuned.
On This Day: 1929 – The Trade Union Unity League was founded as an alternative to the American Federation of Labor, with the goal of organizing along industrial rather than craft lines. An arm of the American Communist Party, the League claimed 125,000 members before it dissolved in the late 1930s. 1946 – Superman returned to radio on the Mutual Broadcasting System after being dropped earlier in the year. 1964 – California officially became the most populated state in America.
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