2020 California Prop Guide: Part 2
Prop 18: Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and Be Otherwise Eligible to Vote
Currently, if you are 16 or 17 you can pre-register to vote in California. This means that you can register when you are 16, and then after you turn 18, you are immediately able to vote in the next election, whenever that may be.
This proposition makes a minor adjustment, and allows some 17 year-olds to vote in primaries, and special elections, if they turn 18 before the next general election.
The basic idea is something like this. Let’s imagine that you are 17 years old in 2020, but you have a birthday in September or October, where you will be turning 18. This means that you will be eligible to vote in the November election, but you were unable to vote in the March Primary. In a way, this means that you were unable to fully participate in the 2020 election because you were not able to participate in the primary process.
This proposition changes this so that you could vote in the primary, if you turn 18 before the general election.
Basically, why not? It encourages political participation at a younger age and gives first time voters a complete electoral experience. We already pre-register them, and primary elections are a good way of getting young people involved.
Prop 19: Changes Certain Property Tax Rules
Alright, so we are back to property taxes. Fun!
Again, remember the old system. Property tax allocated at time of purchase, at 1.1% of purchase price. Then increasing by 2% a year.
Importantly, if you inherit a property from a parent or grandparent, you also inherit the old tax calculation.
Also importantly, if you are over 55, severely disabled, or have had property impacted by a natural disaster, there is a special rule that means that you are eligible to move into a house that is not more expensive than your existing home and keep your old tax rate.
A quick example. Imagine you purchased a house in 2010, for 100,000 (yes this is insane, but it makes the math easy!) Your home would be assessed at the time of purchase for 1,100 a year. Then in 2001, it would go up 2%, or $22, to $1,122 and so on until 2020 when your yearly property tax would be $1340.90. But according to the OC Register (https://www.ocregister.com/2019/11/29/redemption-decade-california-home-price-gains-double-the-nations/) home prices have increased 120% in that time. (The Register looks at the time between 2009 and 2019, but close enough!) This means that your $100,000 house is now worth $220,000., So if you bought it today, the property tax would be $2420.
So, the special rule means that if you are over 55, have a severe disability or had your house burn down in a wildfire, you could now move into a $220,000 home, and keep your old tax rate of $1340. Currently the rule states that you can only do this once, so if your new home burns down in a second wildfire, you are out of luck!
Ok, so what does this prop do?
Several things for people who are part of the special rule (Over 55, severely disabled, natural disaster).
1) You can buy new home anywhere in the state (some counties had restrictions on this special rule).
2) You can buy a more expensive home. Your taxes would go up, but not as much.
3) You can use the special rule three times, rather than only once.
It also changes the rules for inherited property.
Inheriting the old tax calculation would only happen if:
1) The home is used as a primary residence for the child or grandchild (you actually have to live in the inherited home)
2) It is a farm.
3) If you do not use the inherited property as a primary residence, OR, if the value of the home or farm exceeds the taxable value by more than $1 million, then the property is taxed as if you just purchased it.
So if we imagine that your grandparent somehow bought a home in San Francisco for $100,000, but it’s now worth $5 million, if you inherit the property, you have to pay taxes on it as if it were worth $5 million, not $100,000. Note: your grandparent’s property taxes would not go up, only yours if you inherit it.
Again, California’s property taxes are bonkers, but this is a good move. With the increase in wildfires and climate change, moving because of natural disasters is going to become more common. Also, it doesn’t affect people living on a fixed income, actually giving them more flexibility, perhaps allowing them to move and free up more real estate.
And then the inheritance laws have allowed for some massive loopholes where people pay very little tax on massively valuable property, so closing that is a good thing.
Prop 20: Restrict Parole for Certain Offenses Currently Considered to Be Non-Violent. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors.
And now we return to California’s prison system.
In general, this is a prop that makes California’s sentencing and parole system stricter and more punitive. There are a lot of little things going on in this prop, but here are the general concepts.
It increases the penalties for theft, making it easier to charge individuals with felonies for things like shoplifting or petty theft. This is either by changing definitions of laws, or by creating new types of crime, “Serial Theft,” and “Organized Retail Theft.”
It changes parole requirements, making it harder to release someone on parole, and easier to send them back to prison. This is done in a number of ways, from changing what is considered at parole hearings, or making judges look at the cases (rather than the parole board itself), or making an individual serve more prison time before coming up for parole.
It expands DNA collection to people who have been convicted of misdemeanors.
Again, California’s prison system is a mess, and in general the state has slowly been moving in the right direction, from attempting to lower prison populations, to reforming three strikes laws, to legalizing marijuana. This prop moves in the wrong direction, creating an overly punitive parole process and expanding the ability of prosecutors to upgrade misdemeanors to felonies, a thing that disproportionately impacts minorities.
Prop 21: Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property
California currently has a patchwork rent control system. First individual cities have the ability to manage rents, which several cities (LA, San Francisco, San Jose) have done. Second the Costa-Hawkins law limits who rent control can apply to. It cannot apply to single-family homes, and it cannot apply to housing built after Feb. 1 1995. It also cannot tell a landlord what they must charge in rent, only set limitations. Third, a state law limits rent increases to 5% plus inflation, or 10% (whichever is lower) per year. This applies to housing over 15 years old.
This prop would modify Costa-Hawkins, and allow rent control to be applied to most property over 15 years old. It would not apply to single family homes owned by people with two or fewer properties. It would also allow cities to limit how much a landlord can increase rent when a new renter moves in. But, communities that do this, must allow rent increases of up to 15% for three years.
Basically it provides some additional limitations on raising rent, mostly by applying the law to more people and applying it to new tenants.
Housing pricing is one of the biggest challenges facing California. Increasing rent control is one small way of trying to fix this problem. I think there are larger actions that could be taken, including revamping zoning restrictions, but I think this is a good thing, even if its underdone. I’m not going to stand in the way of a small good thing.
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