2016 is pretty wild for California voters because we have 16 general election propositions to vote on. We can amend our state constitution by popular vote, which is exactly as amazing and terrible as it sounds. If you're just looking for the official voter guide, that's available on the California Secretary of State's website, here. The pull-outs below are direct from the voter's guide; each is the official summary of the bill. [more] links are to editorials I substantially agree with.
So, without further ado, here are the different propositions and why you should vote yes or no on them.
October 24 is the deadline to #RegisterToVote for the November 8, 2016 General Election. Register online at: https://t.co/jAVuYZy5oY pic.twitter.com/NsXfN9k0Cd— CA SOS Vote (@CASOSvote) September 23, 2016
SCHOOL BONDS. FUNDING FOR K–12 SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACILITIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new construction and modernization of K–12 public school facilities; charter schools and vocational education facilities; and California Community Colleges facilities. Fiscal Impact: State costs of about $17.6 billion to pay off both the principal ($9 billion) and interest ($8.6 billion) on the bonds. Payments of about $500 million per year for 35 years.
Vote NO. It sounds like a great idea, as our schools could definitely use additional funding for facilities, but this isn't the way to do it. For one, it's first-come first-served, which means the schools who most need the funding won't get it. It's important to note that our school funding system is itself badly in need of reform, and we're slowly working towards getting that done in the next year or two. This bill means we'd be paying for the mistake of funding pre-reform until ~2050. This is something where we should spend money, but this bond isn't the way to do it. [more]
MEDI‐CAL HOSPITAL FEE PROGRAM. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Extends indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health care services, care for uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage. Fiscal Impact: Uncertain fiscal effect, ranging from relatively little impact to annual state General Fund savings of around $1 billion and increased funding for public hospitals in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Vote YES. Currently, hospitals (and some other healthcare facilities) in California pay a fee that helps pay for certain healthcare programs which primarily target poor Californians. It also generates "matching funds" from the federal government, based on how much funding the fee brings in. The proposition additionally prevents the funds from being used for anything other than healthcare, because some of the money was used in the California General Fund in 2013 and it didn't go over very well. [more]
REVENUE BONDS. STATEWIDE VOTER APPROVAL. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Requires statewide voter approval before any revenue bonds can be issued or sold by the state for certain projects if the bond amount exceeds $2 billion. Fiscal Impact: State and local fiscal effects are unknown and would depend on which projects are affected by the measure and what actions government agencies and voters take in response to the measure's voting requirement.
Vote NO. We already have to vote on any general obligation bonds, which are bonds repaid by our tax dollars. Passing this proposition would expand that to include any revenue bonds over 2 billion dollars, where revenue bonds are repaid by usage fees on the project (example: bond to build a bridge, bond is paid back by a toll on the bridge). It would require all of California to vote on local infrastructure projects where the bond is over 2 billion dollars, even though the local municipality expects the bond to be repaid by usage fees (and other funding sources). [more]
LEGISLATURE. LEGISLATION AND PROCEEDINGS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless published on Internet for 72 hours before vote. Requires Legislature to record its proceedings and post on Internet. Authorizes use of recordings. Fiscal Impact: One-time costs of $1 million to $2 million and ongoing costs of about $1 million annually to record legislative meetings and make videos of those meetings available on the Internet.
Vote YES. In my opinion 72 hours is not long enough, but I will take it. There is a history of rewriting a bill or inserting completely unrelated language into a bill the morning of a vote, and this prevents that. [more]
TAX EXTENSION TO FUND EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Extends by twelve years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000, with revenues allocated to K–12 schools, California Community Colleges, and, in certain years, healthcare. Fiscal Impact: Increased state revenues—$4 billion to $9 billion annually from 2019–2030—depending on economy and stock market. Increased funding for schools, community colleges, health care for low–income people, budget reserves, and debt payments.
Vote YES. Extends a tax in place since 2012 that keeps our schools and community colleges well funded. Up to 2 billion of the funds can be spent on Medi-Cal, which primarily benefits low income children.
CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Fiscal Impact: Additional net state revenue of $1 billion to $1.4 billion in 2017–18, with potentially lower revenues in future years. Revenues would be used primarily to augment spending on health care for low–income Californians.
CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Provides juvenile court judge decides whether juvenile will be prosecuted as adult. Fiscal Impact: Net state savings likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually, depending on implementation. Net county costs of likely a few million dollars annually.
Vote YES. This is a continuation of the controversial realignment program begun in 2011. California was ordered to reduce populations in state prisons because the level of overpopulation was violating prisoners' human rights. Realistically, people committing nonviolent crimes should not be jailed. Period. This prop changes sentencing of minors so that the judge, instead of the prosecutor, determines if a minor should be tried as an adult (this increases leniency, which is good). It allows for early release of nonviolent offenders, so long as they have served the full term of their primary offense (the worst thing they were convicted of doing). It allows the California Department of Corrections to utilize a credit system to allow for early release, based on good behavior, rehabilitation programs completed, and education achieved while imprisoned. [more]
ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Requires instruction to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible. Authorizes school districts to establish dual–language immersion programs for both native and non–native English speakers. Fiscal Impact: No notable fiscal effect on school districts or state government.
Vote YES. This repeals large parts of Proposition 227, passed in 1998, which required all students in California be taught English solely in English. That policy results in low level of ESL students actually learning English. Often students fall behind early, and never catch up. This bill returns control over how best to teach students English to the communities doing the teaching.
CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS. LEGISLATIVE ADVISORY QUESTION.
Asks whether California's elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending by corporations and unions are unconstitutional. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments.
Shall California's elected officials use all of their constitutional authority, including, but not limited to, proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings?
Vote YES. We use the euphemism "money in politics", but elsewhere it's just called bribery. This vote is purely advisory until an actual amendment to the US constitution appears. [more]
ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Requires adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Requires producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. Requires producers to post condom requirement at film sites. Fiscal Impact: Likely reduction of state and local tax revenues of several million dollars annually. Increased state spending that could exceed $1 million annually on regulation, partially offset by new fees.
Vote NO. The adult film industry already has a ridiculously stringent self-regulatory regime that is stricly enforced by every company in the valley. There is no reason to intervene into an industry which already has performer safety completely under control. [more]
STATE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASES. PRICING STANDARDS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Prohibits state from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at price over lowest price paid for the drug by United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Exempts managed care programs funded through Medi–Cal. Fiscal Impact: Potential for state savings of an unknown amount depending on (1) how the measure's implementation challenges are addressed and (2) the responses of drug manufacturers regarding the provision and pricing of their drugs.
Vote YES. The bill is a little nuts, in that it says to match these prices but doesn't say how. It's probably not a good idea. It will only affect ~12-15% of Californians directly (the rest are exempt from the bill). Pharmaceutical companies are funding all opposition, while AARP, The Nurses Association, VoteVet, and others support it. [more]
DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmates' wages that may be applied to victim restitution. Fiscal Impact: Net ongoing reduction in state and county criminal justice costs of around $150 million annually within a few years, although the impact could vary by tens of millions of dollars depending on various factors.
Vote YES. It means we're not responsible for executing people any longer, and saves a bit of money while we're at it. Life in jail without parole is retribution enough.
FIREARMS. AMMUNITION SALES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Requires background check and Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. Prohibits possession of large–capacity ammunition magazines. Establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by specified persons. Requires Department of Justice's participation in federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Fiscal Impact: Increased state and local court and law enforcement costs, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to a new court process for removing firearms from prohibited persons after they are convicted.
Undecided. Leaning YES. It seems reasonable. I'm unsure why it's necessary to license ammunition, as gun buyers in California are already subject to instant background checks. However, I like the rest of the bill. [more]
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation. Fiscal Impact: Additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes. Reduced criminal justice costs of tens of millions of dollars annually.
Vote YES. This is a very good bill, and builds on the lessons learned through other states' legalization pushes. I have (seriously) a single quibble with the bill. That's it. [more] [more]
CARRYOUT BAGS. CHARGES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through mandated sale of carryout bags. Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund to support specified environmental projects. Fiscal Impact: Potential state revenue of several tens of millions of dollars annually under certain circumstances, with the monies used to support certain environmental programs.
Vote NO. This bill is a spoiler for proposition 67. In California, if we have two propositions (and both pass), the one with more votes will win (the other is ignored/struck down). The bag ban (prop 67) is better than any benefit this proposition might have, and the fact that 65 takes profit from grocers makes it a poison pill for them (I'm willing to bet money this will have unintended consequences, if it passes).
DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Changes procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Fiscal Impact: Unknown ongoing impact on state court costs for processing legal challenges to death sentences. Potential prison savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
Vote NO. Designed to make death penalty appeals go more quickly (sets time limits on certain parts of the process, stops appellants from repeatedly appealing), but really only succeeds in diminishing habeas corpus rights of Americans.
BAN ON SINGLE–USE PLASTIC BAGS. REFERENDUM.
A "Yes" vote approves, and a "No" vote rejects, a statute that prohibits grocery and other stores from providing customers single–use plastic or paper carryout bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags. Fiscal Impact: Relatively small fiscal effects on state and local governments, including a minor increase in state administrative costs and possible minor local government savings from reduced litter and waste management costs.
Vote YES. It's inconvenient, and I'm sorry. Be sure to get cloth bags (not plastic ones that disintegrate in the sun), so they last forever.