California Proposition Guide: Part 3
Proposition 61: STATE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASES. PRICING STANDARDS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
This is perhaps the most confusing and most expensive proposition on the ballot and further research into this proposition only makes it more complicated.
In a nutshell, this proposition wants to tie the prices that California pays for prescription drugs, for things like MediCal, to the VA’s announced price for drugs.
The VA administration negotiates and publishes the maximum prices that it will pay for prescription drugs. Note, this isn’t the amount it actually pays, but what it has decided is the maximum allowable price. This proposition would adopt this pricing structure for drugs purchased by the state of California. This would not affect drug prices for individuals who do not get prescriptions through MediCal or some other State-provided healthcare.
The analysis of this by various newspapers and other agencies make it more complicated. There is no indication that this would actually have the desired effect. Drug companies could simply increase the price that they change the VA and therefore charge California more. Also, California may be paying less than these prices already and that price would go up. This also helps explain why there is a major division between people who have come out in favor of the proposition (Bernie Sanders, among others) and those who have come out against it, (basically every newspaper in the state.)
All in all this is a very complicated proposition, with no real good solution.
While I am no ally of the pharmaceutical industry, and cutting into their profits is something I am very much in favor of, I think I will be voting NO on this one. This isn’t a NO vote because I oppose the sentiment but because I think this is something that fundamentally shouldn’t be left to the proposition system. This is the type of issue that is best handled by a legislative body and bureaucratic system analysing the issues and figuring out the best solution. However, I can see why someone would vote yes on this proposition and I don’t really buy the argument that drug companies would raise prices with the VA just to get back at California. I just think the issue is too complex for a proposition. That said, all the polling suggests that it will pass.
Proposition 62: DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Proposition 66: DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
I am going to talk about Prop 62 and 66 as a pair because, as there are no restrictions on the propositions that can be proposed, occasionally we get propositions that are contradictory.
Prop 62 eliminates the death penalty, making the maximum sentence in California life in prison, while Prop 66 essentially fast-tracks the implementation of the death penalty by limiting the number of appeals and removing the requirement for some appeals to go directly to the California Supreme Court.
Prop 62 would also apply retroactively, anyone on death row would automatically be re-classified to life in prison.
Since these propositions are contradictory if both of them pass, the proposition that got the most overall votes would go into effect.
I will be voting YES on Prop 62, and NO on Prop 66.
I believe that there are moral, economic and institutional reasons to be against the death penalty. I believe that killing a person is fundamentally immoral regardless of who is doing the killing, who is getting killed and why. In addition the economic cost of instituting the death penalty is prohibitive and this would fix that problem. Yes it does cost the state to keep someone in prison for life, but it is actually less than having and instituting the death penalty. While Prop 66 does address an element of this problem through its limitation of appeals, it does not fully mitigate the economic cost. Also institutionally, the burden of proof required to ensure that you are not executing an innocent person is prohibitive and I would rather get rid of the death penalty altogether than risk executing an innocent person.
Proposition 63: FIREARMS. AMMUNITION SALES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
This proposition adds a number of additional elements to California’s regulation of firearms. Currently California has regulations in place that prevent felons, individuals who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, and individuals with restraining orders against them, from owning firearms. In addition to this the state mandated background checks and maintains a list of gun owners in order to facilitate the removal of firearms from individuals who become prohibited from owning them.
There are also regulations on ammunition as well. These regulations essentially mirror the restrictions on firearms.
This proposition would increase the regulations. It would require individuals to purchase a permit from the state in order to purchase ammunition, this permit would be for a four-year period and could cost up to $50. This permitting process would allow the state to ensure that individuals who are on the prohibited list are not purchasing ammunition.
In addition to this, it would eliminate some of the grandfather clauses that exist regarding large-capacity magazines. Individuals have not been allowed to purchase large-capacity magazines in the state since 2000. However there are a number of grandfather clauses that allow individuals who have purchased magazines prior to 2000 to keep them. This proposition would get rid of these clauses.
I will be voting YES on this proposition. We accept state regulation on nearly everything that we do in our lives, from the houses we live in, to the cars we drive to the food and water we eat and drink. Thinking that firearms are exempt from this seems absurd. In addition, the classic Founder’s argument regarding the Bill of Rights does not apply. The Founders clearly intended the Bill of Rights to only apply to the Federal Government and this is a state measure. The only reason the Bill of Rights applies to the states is through an active judicial process called incorporation. So it is inconsistent to think that we should follow only what the Founders think and that the Bill of Rights should apply to the states and that state governments must follow it.
Proposition 64: MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
This one is pretty straightforward. It legalizes marijuana for recreational use in the state of California. If this law passes you would be able to: purchase marijuana at a state licensed facility, have up to 28.5 grams of marijuana on your person at any one time, grow up to six plants in your home, give up to 28.5 grams away to any other adult. This proposition defines adult as an individual above the age of 21. The state would also collect a tax on the sale of marijuana which would go to youth programs, environmental cleanup and inhibited driving prevention. It would also make anyone who was previously committed of a marijuana-based offense eligible for resentencing.
I will be voting YES on this proposition. It is pretty clear that the legalization of marijuana has positive effects on states, at least economically speaking. The cases of Colorado and Washington, among others have proven that this is viable and public opinion has shifted to the extent where the role of marijuana as a “hard drug” does not really apply anymore.
Proposition 65: CARRYOUT BAGS. CHARGES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Proposition 67: BAN ON SINGLE–USE PLASTIC BAGS. REFERENDUM.
These propositions are related, but also in contradiction so I will deal with them as a pair.
Proposition 65 requires that stores charge a fee of 10 cents per bag and directs the use of this money to environmental issues. Proposition 65 does not ban single-use plastic bags outright, but merely posits a probationary 10 cent charge on their use.
Proposition 67 does ban single-use plastic bags, mandating their replacement with either multi-use bags or easily recyclable alternative. It also mandates a cost of 10 cents per bag,but allows the individual retailer to keep these fees. However this proposition is tricky because California already has a law on the books that prevents the use of single-use plastic bags and this proposition is worded in such a way that a no vote on Prop 67 can be interpreted as a repeal of this existing law.
Let me attempt to make this a bit clearer:
There are a number of scenarios that could occur.
Scenario 1) Prop 65 and Prop 67 both pass: Plastic bags would be banned and the revenue from the sale of bags would be allocated to whichever prop got more votes.
Scenario 2) Prop 65 and 67 both fail. No ban on plastic bags and the existing law preventing their use would probably be overturned, but it would take a court decision to be final.
Scenario 3) Prop 65 passes and Prop 67 fails. There would then be no statewide law passed, but the prohibitive fee would still exist and the money would be given to environmental agencies.
Scenario 4) Prop 65 fails and Prop 67 passes. All the provisions of Prop 67 go into effect, a plastic bag ban, but the stores get to keep the revenues of the 10 cent fee.
This is like a perfect example of a real life game theory, prisoner’s dilemma problem. By attempting to get the proposition you want to pass, (Prop 67) you endanger the entire thing. I will say, whatever happens, this is going to be something that people who study voting behavior are going to write books on from years to come.
Therefore my action, and my advice is to vote YES on BOTH propositions and hope that Prop 65 gets more votes. While this is a less than ideal solution, it is important for this ban to pass overall and voting yes on both gives the greatest chance of this happening.
California Proposition Guide: Part 2
Proposition 56: CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
This proposition adds a $2 excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Currently the tax on tobacco products is set at $.87 per pack, and this would raise it to $2.87 per pack. These is also a calculation that would apply this tax at a similar rate to “other tobacco products” like cigars, chewing tobacco and stuff like that. This would also apply this tax to the sale of e-cigarettes. Currently there is no excise tax on e-cigarettes, they only pay sales tax. This would classify e-cigarettes as “other tobacco products,” and apply the taxes to them. The bulk of the revenues from this tax are to be spend on healthcare, but some of the money will be spent on school programs to prevent smoking and other administrative things.
However, it is clear that the goal of this proposition is to get people to stop smoking, rather than to raise revenue.
This one is tough. On the one hand, this is a regressive tax. Smokers tend to be low income so punishing them by drastically increasing the cost of cigarettes seems unfair. However, the cigarette industry has been a sleazy industry for essentially its entire existence, so I don’t feel to bad about helping to put them out of business. Also I think that e-cigarettes should be considered cigarettes as well. All in all I think that the positives of this outweigh the negatives so I will be voting YES.
Proposition 57: CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Some background on this. In 2011 there was a class action lawsuit brought against the state of California charging that the state's overcrowded prisons was a violation of the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment.) This case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against the state of California and ordered that the state reform its prison system.
The state basically dragged its feet over this issue, requiring a revision of the court case forcing California to deal with this problem. Since then we have passed a number of propositions and other laws including a revision of the “three strikes” law, and another proposition encouraging rehabilitation for drug offenders rather than prison time.
This proposition continues this effort by streamlining the parole process and making it harder to charge juveniles as adults.
This proposition allows individuals who have committed nonviolent felonies to come up for parole easier. Sometimes individuals serve time in prison for multiple crimes committed at the same time, these crimes get designated the “primary offense” and the “secondary offense.” This would allow individual to come up for parole after serving the entirety of their time for the “primary offense.”
This also makes it more difficult to try a juvenile as an adult as it would require a hearing in juvenile court prior to transferring them to an adult court. Relatively few juveniles get tried in adult court a year (roughly 600) but this would make it more difficult to do.
The overcrowding of the California prison system has been a major problem in California for a long time. I will be voting YES on this proposition because I think the financial impacts are worth it, we spend almost $70,000 per year, per inmate in the state of California. Also, it is important to note that this proposition doesn’t make it any easier to get parole, it just makes it easier to come up for parole.
Proposition 58: ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
This proposition also needs some context. Currently bilingual education in the state is restricted. If a student wants to participate in bilingual education their parent needs to sign a specific waiver that allows them to do so. This would change this restriction so that a student can participate in bilingual education without such input. This is because in 1998 we passed a proposition (Prop 227) that required all non-English speakers to take a rudimentary English class before being enrolled in mainstream education. As KPCC reports, this means that students who could read and write at a 5th grade level in Spanish, were forced out of their classrooms for an entire year to learn kindergarten-level English. This happens because Spanish speaking parents are often hesitant to sign a waiver for their child to allow them into bilingual classes.
This proposition would get rid of this requirement and expand bilingual education.
I am going to be voting YES on this proposition. I think expanding access to bilingual education will have a positive effect on all children, not just the children that are learning English. Prop 227, which this repeals represents an outdated notion of language and how we should be embracing our diverse community.
Proposition 59: CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS. LEGISLATIVE ADVISORY QUESTION.
This one is a bit odd. It is an advisory question, meaning that it does not require anyone to do anything. It basically encourages the state legislature of California to support a Federal Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Citizen’s United Supreme Court Decision. This is the decision that famously declare that corporations were to be treated as individuals for the sake of political fundraising, essentially creating Super PACs. However, there is no Constitutional amendment that has been proposed and there is no indication that there will be. This is basically a poll to encourage members of the State Legislature to support efforts to overturn the decision.
While this proposition is essentially pointless, I don’t like the Citizen’s United decision and I think that it is one of the more harmful Supreme Court decisions in recent history, so if this proposition sends a message that the State of California is unhappy with this decision, I’m all for it. I’m voting YES.
Proposition 60:ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Ah, now we are getting into the controversial ones. This bill requires adult film actors to use condoms in their films. It also involves some other minor requirements regarding testing and vaccinations for the prevention of STI’s, but the condom issue is the big one. There is a minor fiscal requirement that goes along with this that might cost the state $1 million per year for enforcement, but that cost might change.
I think passing this proposition would be a bad idea. What would happen if we passed this proposition is that the adult film industry would not comply and would simply move elsewhere. We have already seen this happen when LA County passed a similar proposition in 2014. The adult film industry simply moved inland to the San Fernando Valley. This would just drive a multi-billion dollar industry out of the state. It's a bad idea and wouldn’t even have the desired effect if it passed. I’m voting NO.
California Proposition Guide: Part 1
Proposition Guide 2016:
Welcome to another edition of my proposition guide. The goal of this guide is to try to explain the propositions that are on the California ballot in a way that isn’t excessively detailed, but also provides more information than some of the more concise guides that you see online. Also, if you are reading this, you probably know me personally, so it is a bit easier to take advice from someone you know rather than a random person on the internet. Also, this is like my job and stuff, so I better know what is going on.
Initial Question: What is a Proposition and why should I care?
A proposition (also called a referendum or an initiative) is California’s foray into the realm of direct democracy. Without getting too technical the basic idea is that in California we have this crazy idea that says that we can directly influence public policy. This can take three forms. We, the people of California, can either vote on a brand new law or amendment to the California Constitution, vote on a change to the California Constitution that was proposed by our state legislature, or veto a law that our state legislature passed. What this means in practice is that we get a direct say in the laws that are made in California. This is perhaps the most direct expression of democracy that you are going to get in a modern representational democratic system. If we vote on a proposition and it passes, it becomes a law. There are no additional restrictions. Propositions just become laws. This means there is no excuse to not vote in California! This is entirely removed from party politics, it goes against any sort of partisan bickering that goes on in Sacramento. It is your direct line to getting things done in California.
So let's get into it.
This year there are 17(!) propositions on the ballot. That can be a bit overwhelming, but stick with me. We can do this!
Proposition 51: SCHOOL BONDS. FUNDING FOR K–12 SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACILITIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Proposition 51 is a law that provides funding for K-12 schools and Community Colleges. This law provides for selling $9 billion in bonds to pay for education. Most of this money would go to K-12 schools ($7 billion) for “new construction, modernization, career technical education facilities, and charter school facilities,” with most of the money going towards new construction and modernization. The additional $2 billion would go to community colleges for essentially facility improvements and construction.
The way that the State would fund this is through bonds. Bonds are essentially stock that you can buy in the government. As an individual, you buy a bond and then the government ensures that you get a rate of return on your bond. This rate fluctuates with the market but averages about a 5% rate of return. With this in mind, this measure would cost about $17.6 billion over 35 years. The state would pay 500 million a year, or .5% of current annual budget for this.
Personal Opinion: I will be voting YES on this proposition. Being an educator, and someone who is very tied to our community college system I think we are very due for some infrastructural spending in this area. Generally speaking, education spending usually has a very advantageous rate of return with every dollar spent on education being repaid many times over through increased production or increased wages. I think this is a good deal and should be approved. My only hesitation is the funding for charter schools, which I do not believe in. However they are almost an afterthought, receiving only 500 million total, so the benefits outweigh the costs in this case.
Proposition 52: MEDI‐CAL HOSPITAL FEE PROGRAM. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
This proposition essentially takes an existing law that is scheduled to expire on January 1st, and extends it in perpetuity. It is common for laws to be written with expiration dates, to be reviewed for effectiveness at a later date.
However, this is a bit confusing because it involves two separate aspects, one related to healthcare and one related to the proposition system as a whole.
In regards to healthcare: Currently private hospitals, which make up ⅔s of all the hospitals in the state, pay a fee to the State to help pay for the federal low income health care agency, known in CA as Medi-cal. Basically this law requires the private hospitals to chip in. This proposition makes this fee permanent.
But the state doesn’t use all of this money for Medi-Cal, some of this money is diverted for different things. What this bill also requires is that anytime the State wants to divert some of this fee money, they have to pass a proposition. The second half of this law is asking if you want to vote on more propositions.
So, if you want to have private hospitals keep paying these fees for Medi-Cal and you, directly, want control over the state diverting any of these funds, vote yes.
If you don’t want hospitals paying these fees and you don’t want control, vote no.
If you want a different combination of the two...um… well figure out which one is more important and vote that way.
Personal Opinion: While I am generally slightly cold on the proposition system (institutions are great ya’ll), I think the positives of this bill outweigh the negatives. I will be voting YES. Private hospitals benefit from Medi-Cal, so they should help pay for it. Voting on more propositions is inconvenient, but it is how we’ve decided to work in CA.
Proposition 53: REVENUE BONDS. STATEWIDE VOTER APPROVAL. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
This brings up basically the same issue as the last prop. Do you want more propositions or less? This bill requires that any time the state wants to pass a bond measure over $2 billion, it requires a statewide vote.
In other words. If the state wants to sell more than $2 billion in bonds (see Prop 51 for what bonds are) then it has to pass a proposition.
So, if you want more propositions, vote yes.
If you want to let the state legislature figure that stuff out, vote no.
I generally think that the proposition system, especially with regards to budgetary matters, is problematic, so I will be voting NO. I’m not sure I trust the general mass of people more than the state legislature to figure out budget things.
Proposition 54: LEGISLATURE. LEGISLATION AND PROCEEDINGS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Now we are getting into the fun ones! This is the internet bill prop.
This prop would require the legislature to post any bill on the internet 72 hours before they vote on it. It would also require them to record all legislative proceedings and post those on the internet too. It would cost about $1 million a year.
While I get some of the opposition to this bill, that it might slow down legislation (often simple bills are voted on by “voice vote” where everyone just agrees, and this would make that harder) the $1 million is peanuts to a state like CA and I have heard arguments that it would make some political science research easier and I’m all about that. So I’m voting YES.
Proposition 55: TAX EXTENSION TO FUND EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
So in 2012 we voted on a tax increase on high-income earners, or people who earned over $250,000 a year ( $500,000 for joint filing, $340,000 for head of household). This prop makes that increase permanent. Most of the money goes to schools, or Medi-cal, but that is not set in stone. This goes into the general budget where it is allocated. Basically we voted on a prop in 2012, and this is just continuing the thing we voted on in 2012.
So, if you think our current tax rate on high income earners works well, vote yes.
If you think the tax rate on high income earners should be reduced, vote no.
I am going to be voting YES on this proposition. This tax rate hasn’t drastically impacted California since 2012, so I see no reason why it shouldn’t be continued. In addition to this, my desire for more school funding means that I am opposed to any reduction in this budget.