Hello! This voting guide covers statewide propositions on the California ballot, for the 2020 presidental election. As before, I make a specific Yes or No recommendation as to how you should vote, and a short explanation of why I think so. I also [link] to an editorial or article that I substantially agree with. The pull-outs at the top of each section in the page are the official summary of the proposition from the California Secretary of State.
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Without further ado, here are the different propositions and why you should vote YES or NO on them.
AUTHORIZES BONDS CONTINUING STEM CELL RESEARCH. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Authorizes $5.5 billion state bonds for: stem cell and other medical research, including training; research facility construction; administrative costs. Dedicates $1.5 billion to brain-related diseases. Appropriates General Fund moneys for repayment. Expands related programs. Fiscal Impact: Increased state costs to repay bonds estimated at about $260 million per year over the next roughly 30 years.
Vote YES. Stem cell research promises treatments (mitigations or cures) for a wide range of challenging diseases. Proposition 71, passed by voters in 2004, alloted 3bn for similar purposes. The money has run out, but generally we'd like the research to continue. The bill is (as always) a bit of a grab-bag, but any discoveries are licensed to the people of California and we get royalties for their use. [more]
INCREASES FUNDING SOURCES FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES BY CHANGING TAX ASSESSMENT OF COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL PROPERTY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Taxes such properties based on current market value, instead of purchase price. Fiscal Impact: Increased property taxes on commercial properties worth more than $3 million providing $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion in new funding to local governments and schools.
Vote YES. This is an absolutely massive property tax raise on businesses with over 3 million dollars in land (sorry). It changes "commercial" properties so they are taxed based on their current fair market value, NOT the original purchase price. Property tax is about 1.1% per year, and is currently assessed based on the purchase price. If a company bought land in the 1970s, they are paying a really low tax rate. The tax rate adjusts upwards at up to 2% per year, but that is 2% of that initial low cost. The funding from this proposition goes directly to public schools (K-12 + community colleges). This proposition also cuts one kind of tax on small businesses (equipment and computers). The proposition cuts out one part of the absolute shitshow that is prop 13 (from 1978), which has gutted our ability to pay for anything via taxes (which is why income taxes and similar in-your-face taxes are so high in CA). [more]
ALLOWS DIVERSITY AS A FACTOR IN PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, AND CONTRACTING DECISIONS. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in order to address diversity by repealing constitutional provision prohibiting such policies. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state and local entities. The effects of the measure depend on the future choices of state and local government entities and are highly uncertain.
Vote YES. We voted (in 1996) to ban affirmative action in California. This un-bans it. It doesn't do anything other than un-ban it. All other legal requirements for equal protection and non-discrimination remain in place. [more]
RESTORES RIGHT TO VOTE AFTER COMPLETION OF PRISON TERM. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Restores voting rights upon completion of prison term to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term. Fiscal Impact: Annual county costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, for voter registration and ballot materials. One-time state costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for voter registration cards and systems.
Vote YES. This one is very simple: once someone has completed serving time in prison for the crimes they committed, they will get their right to vote reinstated. This is as it should be. [more]
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. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Fiscal Impact: Increased statewide county costs likely between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million every two years. Increased one-time costs to the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Vote YES. Currently 17 year olds can pre-register to vote if they will turn 18 by election day. This would additionally allow their full participation in the primary (instead of solely the fall election). This one is a tossup for me. [more]
CHANGES CERTAIN PROPERTY TAX RULES. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Allows homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or wildfire/disaster victims to transfer primary residence’s tax base to replacement residence. Changes taxation of family-property transfers. Establishes fire protection services fund. Fiscal Impact: Local governments could gain tens of millions of dollars of property tax revenue per year, probably growing over time to a few hundred million dollars per year. Schools could receive similar property tax gains.
Vote NO. The proposition does two things: it makes residential tax portability state wide and expands who it applies to, and also kills the tax carve-out for people who give their kids a house. I have previously advocated against tax portability, which allows you to buy a new house (with this bill, it can even be a more expensive house) and bring your low tax rate with you. This is an unearned benefit of having bought your house in 1970 (or whatever), and this proposition lets you take that tax benefit anywhere in the state (with an adjustment up or down based on the value of the new house relative to the old one). Second, this proposition kills an existing tax benefit where a family member giving a house (even one not used as a primary residence) to their kid does not incur a "tax rate assessment" at that time. So, if prop 19 passed, transferring a low-tax-rate home to a child would incur a tax reassessment and the kid would pay market rate taxes (still only 1.1% per year, but based upon current market value of the home instead of the purchase price in 1973 or whenever it was bought). [more]
RESTRICTS PAROLE FOR CERTAIN OFFENSES CURRENTLY CONSIDERED TO BE NON-VIOLENT. AUTHORIZES FELONY SENTENCES FOR CERTAIN OFFENSES CURRENTLY TREATED ONLY AS MISDEMEANORS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Limits access to parole program established for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term of their primary offense by eliminating eligibility for certain offenses. Fiscal Impact: Increase in state and local correctional, court, and law enforcement costs likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually, depending on implementation.
Vote NO. This proposition will increase prison populations and lengthen sentences for absolutely no reason at all. It will also adds requirements for people convicted of certain crimes (some misdemeanors) to have their DNA registered in a state database(no.) and increases punishments for property crimes to a felony in a bunch of cases (no.). It also reduces the value ($950->$250) for when a property crime is considered a felony, especially in "repeat" theft cases. It's a giveaway to prisons for no appreciable public safety benefit. [more]
EXPANDS LOCAL GOVERNMENTS' AUTHORITY TO ENACT RENT CONTROL ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Allows local governments to establish rent control on residential properties over 15 years old. Local limits on rate increases may differ from statewide limit. Fiscal Impact: Overall, a potential reduction in state and local revenues in the high tens of millions of dollars per year over time. Depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or more.
Vote YES. This proposition replaces costa-hawkins, the bill from 1995 that functionally (but not completely) bans rent control in California. It will exempt people who own 2 or fewer homes. The proposition also changes how "vacancy decontrol" works -- currently when a rent controlled unit is vacated, the landlord can immediately bring it to market-rate rent (if this sounds like a good reason to be an asshole to tenants -- you're right! it is.). Prop 21 changes the law so that landlords can make 15% rent rate increases for each of the next 3 years after a new tenant moves in. This Proposition does not itself institute rent control, it merely allows communities (cities and counties) to decide if they want to do rent control, and how. [more]
EXEMPTS APP-BASED TRANSPORTATION AND DELIVERY COMPANIES FROM PROVIDING EMPLOYEE BENEFITS TO CERTAIN DRIVERS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Classifies app-based drivers as "independent contractors," instead of "employees," and provides independent-contractor drivers other compensation, unless certain criteria are met. Fiscal Impact: Minor increase in state income taxes paid by rideshare and delivery company drivers and investors.
Vote NO. This is a carve-out paid for by Uber and Lyft which allows them to continue to illegally misclassify their employees as independent contractors. People who work for Uber, Lyft, and other such app dispatch services are employees under California State Law, and are owed things that employees are owed -- schedules, retirements, breaks, and so on. One of the current "advantages" Uber and Lyft (and others) enjoy over the traditional versions of these services is that they intentionally do not follow state employee classification law (which means they "get to" save on taxes, breaks, and various other benefits owed to employees). Independent contractors ("free lancers") are not owed the same level of worker protections as employees are, and rightly so -- traditionally they are somebody you would bring in to do a job that is outside your own business' domain expertise. A contractor, if you will. Transporting people from point A to point B is what Uber does, and the company tells people when to work and how (go here, pick up person, take them there), and that makes the workers an employee under California State Law. [more]
ESTABLISHES STATE REQUIREMENTS FOR KIDNEY DIALYSIS CLINICS. REQUIRES ON-SITE MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Requires physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant on site during dialysis treatment. Prohibits clinics from reducing services without state approval. Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on payment source. Fiscal Impact: Increased state and local government costs likely in the low tens of millions of dollars annually.
Vote YES. Dialysis clinics in California are almost all owned by one company, and the company sucks and doesn't treat patients well. They want to make money, not do dialysis treatment at excellent cost and quality, and so there are rampant issues with the quality of care and the cost of those services. Every time a bill threatens to upend the status quo the company screams bloody murder (who wants voters to mess with their excellent income stream). We voted on a price-cap and funding measure in 2018 (it did not pass), and so this is another round of trying to corral the company, but this time through health standards at the state level. Many of the newspaper editorial boards are against this bill (just like they were against the last one). [more]
AMENDS CONSUMER PRIVACY LAWS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Permits consumers to: prevent businesses from sharing personal information, correct inaccurate personal information, and limit businesses’ use of "sensitive personal information," including precise geolocation, race, ethnicity, and health information. Establishes California Privacy Protection Agency. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs of at least $10 million, but unlikely exceeding low tens of millions of dollars, to enforce expanded consumer privacy laws. Some costs would be offset by penalties for violating these laws.
Vote YES. If you remember, or have seen references to "CCPA" the California Consumer Privacy Act, this is a modification and expansion of that law. CCPA gives us concrete privacy rights just for being from California (not broad protections, but specific things you can prohibit businesses from doing with your data). It also allows you to demand a business delete your data, and produce a copy of your data for you.
This proposition is a fixup of CCPA -- it narrows who has to comply, but expands what they must do. It provides some technical fixes to the original law, in addition to the expansions. I would generally characterize it as more reasonable than the existing CCPA (which was criticized as overbroad in who it applied to -- probably correctly). It's also worth noting the original CCPA was a law and not an initiative statute -- voting on it (and passing it, if we do) makes the legal rights we have more durable against companies lobbying to water them down. [more] - Also, [here] is the EFF's criticism of the law.
REFERENDUM ON LAW THAT REPLACED MONEY BAIL WITH SYSTEM BASED ON PUBLIC SAFETY AND FLIGHT RISK.
A "Yes" vote approves, and a "No" vote rejects, law replacing money bail with system based on public safety and flight risk. Fiscal Impact: Increased costs possibly in mid hundreds of millions of dollars annually for a new process for release from jail prior to trial. Decreased county jail costs, possibly in high tens of millions of dollars annually.
Vote YES. This one is thorny. Cash bail sucks, and we should not use it. Our held principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty means the default should be no pre-trial detention (except for limited, and obvious, circumstances). Once convicted, right, they go to jail. The problem with this bill is it replaces principles with an algorithm. This is also, almost universally, bad. Currently, around 2/3 of people in California jails are there because they cannot pay bail, and are awaiting their court date in a jail cell. That's a huge problem, because they should not be in jail (until convicted). This bill also exempts misdemeanors from risk assessment, meaning people are automatically released before trial (as it should be).
I think a long term risk of this change is that it engenders the idea that the algorithms making these risk assessment decisions are neutral or unbiased -- but as always, they are only as neutral or unbiased as the data going into them (which is to say, not at all). I read this as changing a transparently racist system into an opaquely racist system. [more]