Welp, as if it were even possbile (sic) to make matters worse, the California ballot referendum process finally exposes itself for the true absurdity that is with the year's record 17 [ SEVENTEEN!] voter ballot initiatives.
I'm going take a few minutes to review each of these propositions, and offer my opinions thereof, but suffice to say that there's no greater example of our broken republic than an election that asks voters to decide on whether to ban plastic bags for the general public while requiring porn stars to wear them.
HERE WE GO:
PROPOSITION 51: This is a statewide school funding bond, to the tune of $9-billion. The way I see it, there's never a bad time to generate more money for our schools, and the big benefit in this referendum is that it distributes money statewide based on the needs of particular districts. A majority of school funding is generated by local property taxes. The problem there is that wealthier districts regularly generate more funds for their own schools. Prop 51 will help gear dollars to less-affluent districts that already struggle to find adequate funding to keep students active, interested and well educated.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 51.
PROPOSITION 52: Prop 52 extends an existing program in which fees paid to the state by hospitals trigger "matching fund" contributions from the federal government to fund Medi-Cal services for the less fortunate (i.e the destitute, the indigent, the uninsured). Prop. 52 would also require a 2/3 vote of the electorate to end the program.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 52.
PROPOSITION 53: Proposition 53 requires statewide voter approval for any public infrastructure bond measure that exceeds $2-billion. The wrinkle here is that Prop 53 relates to "Revenue Bonds," as opposed to "general obligation" bonds. Revenue Bonds are those that require additional fees (such as toll roads or parking fees) or taxes. General Obligation bonds are those that are paid by the State from its general operating budget. Prop 53 would take control away from voters in specific districts, municipalities and counties etc... but putting even local issues on the statewide ballot. Why should voters in San Jose be helping to decide spending priorities in San Diego?
VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 53.
PROPOSITION 54: Proposition 54 would keep the State Legislature from passing any bill unless and until the full debate in the issue has been published on the Internet (text and video) for 72 hours. This "holding period" will allow citizens to view deliberations, learn more about the issue under consideration and contact their legislators with their own opinions on the matter prior to any vote being cast.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 54.
PROPOSITION 55: The so-called "millionaires' tax," Prop 55 will extend an existing income tax increase first passed in 2012. The measure keeps in place current tax levels on individuals earning more than $250k and couples earning more than $500k. The existing plan, a true progressive income tax plan, generates as much as $9-billion per year.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 55.
PROPOSITION 56: Prop. 56 would increase the state's cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack. The current statewide cigarette tax is 87-cents per pack, which is in the lower half of tobacco taxes nationwide. The increased tax is predicted to generate an additional $1-to-$1.4-billion in additional revenue, although the real benefit will come in health care savings as smokers decide the habit is not worth the cost and put down their cigarettes. This is a tax the people would rather not collect.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 56.
PROPOSITION 57: This measure will make it easier for "nonviolent felons" to earn time off based on good behavior, verifiable examples of rehabilitation and true efforts at advanced education. Additionally, Prop 57 takes the decision on whether to charge juvenile defendants as adults out of the hands of prosecutors and instead allows judges to make that ruling.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 57.
PROPOSITION 58: Prop 58 seeks to repeal 1998's unfortunate Prop 227, which required that all instruction in California schools be conducted only in English. Prop 58 would be community-based, seeking parental/citizen input into deciding how language programs are geared to a particular community. The measure would still require that English proficiency be the primary goal of education, but would allow school districts to use dual-language immersion programs to reach students of different backgrounds. In a state as ethnically-diverse as California, I see no reason why dual-immersion programs can't benefit English and Spanish-speaking children alike.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 58.
PROPOSITION 59: Prop 59 simply encourages California's elected officials to work toward overturning the US Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, which for all intents and purposes ruled that political contributions are "free speech" and cannot be limited by law. The Citizens United ruling has led to massive and unfettered spending by corporations and individuals with virtually unlimited assets, which can only drown out the voice of voters with more limited resources.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 59.
PROPOSITION 60: As much as it pains me to even begin discussing this ridiculous proposition (after all, my mother is going to consult this post), I have to say if there was ever a ballot initiative that exposed the folly of the entire California system, this one is it. [It's only slightly more egregious than Prop 65, but we'll get to that later.]
Prop 60 is California's now notorious "Adult Films Condoms" initiative. Pardon me for saying so, but this is one of the most ridiculous things I can ever think of putting to the voters. Aside from the fact that it affects an incredibly small minority of CA citizens, the measure would also create a state agency to "monitor" compliance (use your imagination on how that office would work) and it would also allow for private citizens to serve as whistle-blowers if they viewed films in which condoms were not used. [Quote: "I watched it twice, just to make sure."]
VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 60.
PROPOSITION 61: This is a tough one. I read the materials on this thing through and through and I'm still torn. Prop 61 would prohibit the state from buying any prescription drugs (geared toward MediCal patients) at any price greater than that paid by the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs. This sounds like a noble cause, yet the fear is the drug companies are so nefarious that they will simply stop offering the same drugs in CA or they will, even more insidiously, raise prices at the VA so they can raise them in California. We are a huge state, and though we have enormous economic clout, we also present a huge target for shysters and gougers (of which Big Pharma is both).
Bernie Sanders, Governor Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome and a whole host of other liberal heavy hitters are all in favor of this proposition, I'm just not so sure it's going to work out the way everyone hopes it will. I AM VOTING YES ON PROPOSITION 61 WITH MY FINGERS CROSSED.
PROPOSITION 62: This one is easy, as I can rely on the argument I've been making my whole adult life (and probably for many years before that, as my family can proud attest):
"I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. If ever there exists the possibility of executing an innocent person, then the death penalty cannot stand. In order that the innocent will not die, occasionally monsters must live."
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 62.
PROPOSITION 63: Yet another controversial cultural hot-button issue, Prop 63 seeks to impose certain legal requirements on people who buy ammunition for their firearms. The proposed measure requires background checks of ammo buyers, prohibits possession of large capacity magazines and, perhaps most importantly, makes it a felony to steal any handgun. Current law absurdly limits the felony theft law to firearms valued at over $950. Who decided on that figure? Anything less is a misdemeanor. While I will confess that I don't understand why "responsible gun owners" cannot see their way clear to agree on what I consider to be common sense gun laws (I don't want to take your guns away!), I have to encourage people to VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 63.
PROPOSITION 64: What's the 420, bro? It's simple, some people like pot more than wine, whiskey or beer.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 64.
PROPOSITION 65: Believe it or not, this is the most egregious initiative ever placed on the California ballot. Now, stay with me here, because this gets complicated. You see, a group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance [APBA], which is a consortium of four plastic bag manufacturing companies -- none of which is located in California -- got this initiative on the ballot. It purports to ban free plastic bags at CA retail outlets, and gear any fees generated by bagless customers who need to purchase a bag to "environmental causes."
Here's the catch: The APBA also got Proposition 67 on the ballot. Prop 67 bans plastic bags as well, but under Prop 67 all the proceeds from any plastic bag purchases go back to the retailers, rather than to environmental groups. The catch is, if Prop 65 gets more votes than Prop 67, then Prop 65 wins out and the plastic bag ban itself is basically null and void. How's that for a Catch-22? Virtually every environmental group in the state of California is opposed to Prop 65 (which would ostensibly steer money into their own coffers), because they understand it's a poison pill that could kill the golden goose: which is fewer plastic bags released into the environment. Strange, but true.
VOTE NO ON PROPOSTION 65.
PROPOSITION 66: Proposition 66 is the executioner's alternative to Prop. 62.
VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 66.
PROPOSITION 67: Proposition 67 is the right plastic bag ban. Sure, retailers will receive the proceeds from single-use bag purchases, but it also encourages them to support the measure and the practice of limiting the use of "disposable" plastic bag.
VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 67.
SAN LUIS OBISPO LOCAL MEASURE J:
Measure J is a local sales tax of 0.5% that will help fund local infrastructure projects. The revenues will not be a part of the General Fund and will be specifically targeted to local transportation projects such as road repairs, public transportation projects and bicycle and pedestrian safety project.
VOTE YES ON MEASURE J.