During past elections I had written brief voter guides, mostly for my friends. I have fallen out of the habit of preparing these over the past few elections, primarily due to being more busy, my friends being better informed, and fewer complex propositions that need to be explained. This year, however, with 18 initiatives on the ballot, I felt this would be a useful guide. So here are this elections 18 California propositions, and why I’m either supporting or opposing each one.
Proposition 51 — School Construction — YES — This $9 billion bond issuance provides for the construction and modernization of K-14 schools throughout California. Specifically, it provides for $3 billion for construction of new schools, $3 billion for modernization of existing schools, $2 billion for community colleges, $500 million for charter school facilities, and $500 million for career technical education facilities. These bonds will cost California approximately $500 million per year over the next 35 years. In order to access these funds, school districts will need to provide matching funds, such as through local bond measures such as Measure S in Orange Unified School District or Measure K in the Brea Olinda Unified School District.
A lot of the money from Proposition 51 and its local counterparts will go towards deferred maintenance. This is simply not how we should be funding and maintaining our public schools. However, since we have chronically underfund our schools over the past four decades, this infusion of cash is absolutely necessary. This isn’t the best solution for improving our schools for the long term, but it’s the best solution that’s politically feasible right now. Until we can convince people to raise their taxes to fund schools from current revenue, we’re going to be left with funding school facilities by bonding against future revenue.
Proposition 52 — Hospital Fees — NO — Proposition 52 would require voter approval for the State to make changes to the fees hospitals are charged in order for the State to raise the funds necessary to receive Federal Medicare money. This is adding a requirement for ballot-box governing, instead of allowing California’s legislature and governor do their jobs. We are a Republic, and should not be engaging in additional direct democracy, it has not served us well in the past.
Proposition 53 — Revenue Bonds — NO — Just like for Proposition 52, this creates a requirement for additional ballot-box governing. Proposition 53 requires that the voters must approve any State bond issuance over $2 billion. This is an effective curb to large-scale infrastructure projects, such as High Speed Rail and upgrades to the California State Water Project.
Proposition 54 — Last-minute Lawmaking — YES — Proposition 54 requires that all bills in the legislature be available for public review at least 72 hours before being voted on, and that recordings of legislative sessions be posted online within 24 hours. Often times, many bills that are negotiated late in the sessions are voted on just hours after being written. This 72 hour delay ensures that legislators (or their staff) have enough time to read and understand the bill before voting on it.
Proposition 55 — High-earner Tax — YES — In 2012, California voters approved a temporary supplemental income tax on individuals earning more than $250,000/year. Proposition 55 would extend those supplemental income taxes for an additional 12 years, expiring in 2030 instead of 2018. Since 2012, this tax has raised approximately $6 billion/year in additional revenue, with 89% going to K-12 schools and 11% going to community colleges.
Proposition 56 — Tobacco Tax — YES — Raising the taxes on smoking will decrease the number of smokers. The current state tax is only $0.41, one of the lowest in the nation, and hasn’t been raised since 1997. The additional money raised will go to MediCal, allowing more low income individuals to be able to get affordable healthcare.
Proposition 57 — Criminal Sentencing — YES — Proposition 57 increases non-violent felons ability to get out of jail on parole, and allows judges, instead of prosecutors, to determine if juveniles should be tried as adults. This is an interesting proposition because it tackles two different problems. Thankfully, I support both of them independently of the other, making this a relatively easy yes vote.
Overall, I think it’s a good idea to let people in jail earn their way back into society. The more paths they have to do so, the better off we all are. For people to respect the laws we as a society impose, they must feel they are a member of that society. Overall, jail does more to alienate people from society than to make them feel a part of it. We have gone so far down the road of using jail for punishment and to serve as an example that it has become counter-productive, evidenced by the high rate of recidivism.
The second part of Proposition 57 is even easier to support. Most of the time, prosecutors are more interested in appearing tough on crime than doing what’s appropriate for the citizens they serve. Judges, on the other hand, often are much more impartial, charged with taking both sides of a trial into account. Until this proposition was put on the ballot, I didn’t realize that this was something left up to prosecutors, and once I knew I found it fairly horrifying.
Proposition 58 — Bilingual education — YES — Proposition 58 undoes Proposition 227, which was approved by voters in 1998. Proposition 227 requires that schools only use English in the classroom. Proposition 58 will allow teachers to use whatever language is most suitable for teaching their students.
Proposition 59 — Campaign Money — YES — Proposition 59 doesn’t change the law, it simply encourages California officials to use the power of their office to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, up to and including a Constitutional Amendment. Citizens United is the court case that allowed for corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing the political process. Money in politics is not the most pressing issue we face, but it is an issue that must be addressed before we can begin to address many of the other issues that are pressing. Overturning Citizens United, and ratifying a Constitutional Amendment to do so, is the only way to get money out of politics.
Proposition 60 — Condoms in Films — YES — Proposition 60 requires that actors in adult films wear condoms. Condoms are basic health and safety equipment for adult film actors, no different than gloves for people handling food or hard hats for construction workers. In addition, increasing the prevalence of condoms in adult films will increasing the willingness of young men to wear condoms themselves.
Proposition 61 — Prescription Drugs — YES — Proposition 61 is a clear example of why we should not have ballot-box governing. This is a law that is far too complex and has too much potential for unforeseen consequences to leave up to mostly uninformed voters. That being said, I support Proposition 61 one primary reason, drug companies have contributed nearly $85 million towards defeating the proposition. Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson have each contributed over $7 million, with a number of other drug manufacturers contributing millions more each. If they are that concerned about Proposition 61 passing, it’s probably a good law.
Proposition 62 — Repeal the Death Penalty — YES — Proposition 62 repeals the death penalty in California, simple as that. People currently on death row would have their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole. I’ve been an opponent to the death penalty since the execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001. When he was executed for blowing up the Oklahoma Federal Building, the viewing room adjacent to the execution chamber wasn’t large enough for all of the people who lost family members in the bombing and wanted to watch his execution. To accommodate everyone who couldn’t fit in the viewing room, they put McVeigh’s execution on closed circuit television so everyone could watch from an adjacent room. This made me realize that much of the impetus behind executions is related to revenge, not any form of justice. Revenge does not have any place in the justice system. The justice system should be about keeping society safe, and helping criminals repay their debt to society. The justice system should be able to keep society safe without killing criminals, if it can’t there are other more pressing problems than the crimes themselves, and once a criminal has been executed there is no way for them to repay their debts. At least with life imprisonment, there is some chance that they can make a positive contribution to society later in life. The death penalty is no better than revenge killings by gangs, it’s only given the veneer of morality through legality, but it is no more virtuous.
Proposition 63 — Gun Control — NO — This is another law towards a piecemeal approach to gun control. The law will do nothing to reduce gun violence in California. If we want to reduce the number of people killed using guns, we need to have a comprehensive approach to gun control, and that needs to start with a serious discussion about the merits of the Second Amendment in modern America.
Proposition 64 — Legalizing Marijuana — YES — Proposition 64 legalizes recreational marijuana in California. Colorado and Oregon have been able to earn substantial taxes by legalizing pot without substantial negative side-effects to society. California should follow suit and help lead the charge to the decriminalization of marijuana use.
Proposition 65 — Plastic Bag Ban Money — YES — Proposition 65 and Proposition 67 both deal with the ban on single-use plastic bags that was approved signed into law by the Governor in 2014. Proposition 65 and 67 are in conflict with one another, and if they both pass, whichever one gets more votes will be put in place. Proposition 65 was championed by the plastic bag industry to penalize the grocery industry, which supported the initial plastic bag ban. Proposition 65 diverts money that grocery retailers collect to a special fund administered by the California Wildlife Conservation Board. While I do not love the motives behind Proposition 65, I do think that it’s a good diversion of money.
Proposition 66 — Death penalty procedures — NO — If both Proposition 62 and Proposition 66 pass, the proposition with more votes will go into effect. Proposition 66 keeps the death penalty in place, and puts statutory limits on how long death penalty cases can be appealed. The goal of Proposition 66 is to speed up the execution of people sentenced to death, thereby saving the state money. Interestingly, the largest donors opposing this initiative are tech millionaires, including Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs widow), and Paul Graham.
Proposition 67 — Ban Plastic Bags — YES — In 2014, the California legislature passed SB 270, which banned single-use plastic bags in California. Proposition 67 is a referendum on that law, sponsored by the plastic bag industry. It is clear that single-use bags are harmful to the environment, and that reusable bags are more efficient. Many people simple do the easiest thing possible in life (myself included), and right now when going to the grocery store using single-use plastic bags is the easiest thing. It’s not much more difficult to use reusable bags, and it would greatly help the environment by reducing the amount of waste, litter, and energy needed to produce the bags.