California Ballot Initiatives/Propositions 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love…..with excercising their right and civic duty to vote. With less than two weeks until Election Day, I figured I should write a post about how I’ll voting on the damned propositions here in California.

I say “damned” because, as I’ve said countless times before, the ballot initiative is a horrible way to make law; the whole point of having a republic and legislature is that we vote for people to represent us and make our laws, people who are (supposed to be) educated and spend numerous hours debating policy at the Capitol. It shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone that the average Joe or Jane don’t exactly make the best lawmakers.

But until California either gets a new constitution, makes the process of placing an initiative on the ballot much more difficult, or does away with it altogether, I will faithfully be voting in every election I’m able to vote in for the rest of my life. 🙂

Here’s a short ‘n sweet summary of how and why I’m voting on Propositions 30 through 40. I strongly urge you to do your own research yourself, cutting through the political junk mail and making your own decisions. But seeing how this is my blog, you have the privilege of reading how I’m voting. Enjoy 😉

 

Proposition 30: “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” This is big fat YES. California’s education system is in shambles (thanks in large part to 1978’s Prop 13) and is in dire need of more funding. Prop 30 temporarily (seven years) increases the income tax of wealthy individuals ($250,000 and above) and raises the sales tax by 1/4 of a cent for four years. This translates to $6 billion ANNUALLY over the next seven years for the state’s public school system. It should be noted that none of this revenue will go toward administrative costs but completely to schools, 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges. If Prop 30 fails, tuition at colleges will go up and the amount of classes available will go down. Vote Yes!

Proposition 31: “State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.” Definitely NO. This creates a two-year budget cycle that is much more complicated and devastating to state services; expenditures over $25 million must be met with cuts to programs that effect several million people in the most populous state in the US. Prop 31 would result in an even more broken state incapable of funding programs effectively (think of how it is now….times 10). Vote No!

Proposition 32: “Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.” Here’s a big fat NO. This initiative sounds appealing and fair – it bans all corporate and union donations to political campaigns. Sounds good, right? Get money out of politics! HOWEVER, millionaires and billionaires can still give unlimited amounts of cash to candidates of their choice. This proposition is a huge win for rich conservatives and a huge loss not only for liberals but people who work for a living because unions pretty much always donate to Democratic and populist campaigns. Don’t be fooled. Vote No!

Proposition 33: “Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.” No, No, NO. Given how Corporations crashed the economy in 2008 and do everything they can to undermine reform, how many people think they should have even more power to over charge you for something like car insurance? Anyone? Prop 33 penalizes those who have never had car insurance before by charging them more. Vote No!

Proposition 34: “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.” YES. I, like most industrialized, liberal democracies in the world, am against the death penalty. This issue is too controversial to write about in a single paragraph. For now, I’ll simply say that the government should not remove violent criminals from society only to kill them after they no longer pose a threat to anyone out of revenge and adherence to a barbaric tradition.

Proposition 35: “Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES. I’ll admit I was torn on this issue at first, mainly because the federal government already handles human trafficking cases. But, given how horrible and unimaginable human trafficking is (and thankfully it is rare), I definitely support increasing the penalty on sex and labor trafficking. Current law gives traffickers who force minors into prostitution only eight years. Prop 35 brings that up to a life sentence. Those same traffickers are currently fined only $100,000. Under Prop 35, that goes up to $1.5 million. Prop 35 requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and provide all law enforcement with information on their Internet access and online identities. Prop 35 is a definite Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 35.

Proposition 36: “Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES! If there’s one thing that has led to a gargantuan increase in California’s prison population and budget, it has been the infamous Three Strikes Law. The fatal flaw: If someone committed two felonies and then a third, they were sentenced to life imprisonment even if the third felony conviction was not violent. California has the largest prison population of any state in the country and more and more of the state’s budget is sunk into building and maintaining new prisons. Prop 36 changes the current law of life imprisonment convictions only to VIOLENT offenses, including rape, murder and child molestation. It also authorizes re-convictions of previous life imprisonment convictions if those convictions weren’t violent or involved rape, child molestation, possession of drugs or illegal use of firearms. California would save anywhere from $7o-$90 million annually.

Proposition 37: “Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.” YES! This seems like common sense, but actually, food producers aren’t required to show which of their foods are genetically modified. It is estimated that this law would cost, at most, $1 million annually (it is expected to only add a few hundred thousand dollars to the state budget). The biggest opposing force to this statute: Monsanto. Enough said. Vote No!

Proposition 38: “Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.” Surprisingly, this is getting a NO vote from me. Increasing our historically low taxes slightly to exclusively fund education programs is an excellent idea, especially considering Prop 13 (1978) drastically reduced state revenues. However, this statute conflicts with the desperately needed Prop 30, and under California law, when two propositions conflict, which ever has more votes trumps the other proposition. THAT’S why I’m voting No.

Proposition 39: “Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.” YES! This would raise state revenues by $1 billion annually, and that number is expected to grow. It does this by requiring multistate corporations that do business in California to calculate their income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. Common sense, right? Current law essentially allows them to choose the plan that works best for them. Just a little FYI, corporate taxes, state and federal, are at historic lows. The billions of dollars gained to the Golden state would fund the future: new clean, renewable energy projects and community colleges. Vote Yes, Yes, YES!

Proposition 40: “Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.” YES, but only because this is simply annoying. I was against this “citizen’s commission” when it was on the ballot years ago and I’m still opposed to it now. My view: leave redistricting of state senate districts to the legislature where it has always been. But since we have this law, let’s allow it to work. The commission made a decision following the census. Let’s not waste more money and tie more hands by rejecting the plan from the very commission we supposedly love so much. Vote Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 40.

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My Two Cents on the 2010 California Ballot Propositions

I am not a fan of the ballot proposition but since I’m a voter I will take positions on them.

Prop 19 – “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” – NO

I oppose this but not for the obvious reason; it would create a regulatory fiasco with city governments able to set their own taxes and regulations. Marijuana needs to be decriminalized, not only because it’s a victimless crime with less adverse effects than alcohol and smoking but also because it would reduce the amount of time, energy and money that goes into prosecuting people with marijuana. Legalize it…but not this way.

Prop 20 – “California Congressional Redistricting Initiative” – NO

Back in 2008, Prop 11 established an independent commission (made up of people of different parties and loyalties) that would be responsible for carving out districts for the California Assembly and Senate. Now, supporters of Prop 20 want that commission to be responsible for carving out congressional districts as well. It sounds fair but I have major problems with it:

First: How much money will this commission cost? There is no set price tag.

Second: The commission would be selected by the legislature. So much for an “independent” commission.

Third: The commission would be unaccountable to the public. We would not be able to appeal or challenge newly drawn districts.

*This proposition also conflicts with Prop 27 (see Prop 27)

Prop 21 – “Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act” – YES

This would place an $18 license fee on most vehicle registrations (excludes vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act). 85% of the money raised by this surcharge would go toward maintaining California’s public parks and beaches, saving the state $130 million a year. Saving the state’s public recreational areas is worth the fee.

Prop 22 – “The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act” – NO

This proposition would prevent the state from tapping into the funds of local governments in California. It sounds great: Keep the state from robbing local government. However, even if the state is in a fiscal crisis (like the one we’re in now) and some cities have surpluses, Prop 22 would prevent the state from taking funds. This ties down the hands of a legislature that can only work with a fraction of the budget as it is.

Prop 23  – “Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006” – NO

As the title says, AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) would be suspended under Prop 23. This is a mistake. We need to continue cutting down carbon emissions to lessen the effects of global warming on our planet and to help make our air cleaner. The time for action is now. Our future depends on decisions like these.

Prop 24 – “Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks” – YES

This would prevent recent, governor-approved tax breaks from benefiting the top 2% of corporations in California, saving the state roughly $1.3 billion annually. This is simply another way for big business to evade taxes.

Prop 25 – “Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act” – YES

Currently, California is one of a few states that requires the approval of 2/3 of the legislature to pass a budget. As we’ve seen, this has been disastrous and cost the state billions of dollars (California has not passed a budget on time for 23 years). Prop 25 brings approval down to a simple majority (at least 51%).

Prop 26 – “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act” – NO

If you think that the budget is terrible now, wait until Prop 26 in implemented. This would reduce tax revenues for the state, reeking havoc on public services and programs.

Prop 27 – “Elimination of the Citizen Redistricting Commission” – YES

This initiative would eliminate the voter-approved Citizen Redistricting Commission (Prop 11 2008 – “Voters First Act”) and return redistricting power to the California Legislature.

What advantage does the legislature have over this commission? The Legislature answers to us; the Citizen Redistricting Commission (CRC) does not. If we disagree with the way a district is constructed, we can appeal and challenge it or vote our representatives out of office. We lose this with the CRC. We have no control over who is chosen for the commission; we do over the Legislature.

*If both Prop 20 and 27 pass, which ever has more votes becomes law.

Even though I’ll be voting on these initiatives, I’m still against propositions. One of the many reasons why California is in such a horrible condition is because the voters have become the law makers. California voters restrict the powers of the Legislature and then wonder why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

The beauty of a representative democracy (republic) is that it produces effective and just government. We elect professionals to govern in place of us. If our representatives are doing poorly, we have the power to vote them out or demand their resignations…or impeachments.

Pure democracy produces chaos, ignorance and inequality. Whether driven by fear, anger or prejudice, the general public can enact disastrous policies that destroy budgets or deny a minority population their rights. Plato was onto something…

Hopefully, California will lead the nation by abolishing the initiative process.

Until then, vote intelligently.