Antony’s CA 2016 General Election Voting Guide For Civic Heroes

Hey everyone. Election Tuesday is in just a few days (November 8)! And, like you, I was humbled and intimidated by this year’s Official Voter Information Tome (OVIT), which measures in at 223 pages, 17 Propositions, and 0.8 pounds. So, I have taken it upon myself to once again sift through the mess and oh you’re skipping ahead to the props hey FINE


Proposition 51: “Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act”

The Summary:

Schools are important and require funding to expand and renovate. Much of this funding comes from selling bonds. Right now there isn’t any funding left, because voters have not approved new state facility bonds since 2006.

2006? You know what else happened in 2006? New Horizons was launched (towards Pluto). Twitter was launched (towards your smartphones). Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. Borat was a NEW MOVIE.

Anyway, like I said there is no funding left; in 2012 the Office of Public School Construction sort of stopped accepting applications for new construction. If there were funding, the state would match (50/50 for new construction, 60/40 for modernization) local costs for a project. This bond would allow the state to sell $9 billion in general obligation bonds for modernization and new construction for K-12 and community college facilities.

The Controversy:

Schools can and have been raising money locally by selling bonds this whole time (and these measures tend to pass overwhelmingly). So schools in well-funded areas are doing ok. That being said, other schools are in need of help. Indeed, Prop 51 allocates money specifically for HVAC, safety and security improvements, dealing with asbestos, and fixing roofs, for buildings more than 25 years old. For new construction the school must demonstrate that they currently or are projected to have insufficient space for students. How easy it is for a school to demonstrate (or fabricate) this need is uncertain, but I have my doubts.

The issue is, the way the system is currently set up, applications are considered by the Office of Public School Construction in the order they are received, meaning funds don’t necessarily go to needy schools, but to schools who have the machinery to submit applications the fastest (Community colleges obey a different system wherein schools that raise more local money are given more consideration).

So, on the one hand, needy schools are struggling to get funds to renovate and expand. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recognize this. On the other hand, additional funding is not guaranteed to go to these schools, and school enrollment overall is projected to slow or shrink, as Governor Jerry Brown argues. And on a third hand, the major backers of the bill are businessmen and real estate developers looking to cash in on that sweet sweet $9 bil.

The Verdict: Medium No

Putting more money into an imperfect fund allocation system is probably not going to fix our neediest schools, but will add (slightly) to our indebtedness. Better to harangue the state legislature into fixing the system, then adding the money.

Proposition 52: Amendment to Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program

The Summary:

When the state puts up funds for Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid), the federal government typically (given that certain requirements are met) steps in and matches those funds. In 2009, the Legislature came up with a neat trick: they started charging private hospitals a hospital fee, and added that money for Medi-Cal, such that in 2015 private hospitals paid $4.6 billion to the state, the state paid $3.7 billion of that into Medi-Cal (saving the rest in the General Fund), and the federal government was bamboozled into matching that with $4.4 billion. Thus California public and private hospitals received a total of $8.1 billion (net $3.5 billion). The federal government would also have contributed bigly to the $95 billion total cost of running Medi-Cal in 2015.

The Legislature has since renewed this fee four times. This bill makes the fee permanent and more difficult for the Legislature to amend (for example, in response to a funding scare in 2012).

The Controversy:

What was that about a funding scare? Well I guess in 2012 there was a budget crisis, so the Legislature thought “hey why don’t we appropriate more of the money from that hospital fee towards the General Fund?” and hospitals, both public and private, were not happy. So this bill is really to take that power away from the Legislature.

Is it suspicious that the bill is funded entirely by hospitals? Sure. Would the Legislature have renewed the fee for a fifth time anyway? Possibly.

The opposition claims what this bill really does is divert taxpayer dollars to help hospital CEOs and their lobbyists. That might be true, I guess? But they’re federal taxpayer dollars, and last I checked California was low on the list in terms of federal aid received (i.e. other states are getting our taxpayer dollars disproportionately).

The Verdict: Firm Yes

Even if you voted No, it’s likely the Legislature would renew the fee anyway. There are arguments to be made that perhaps the Legislature should retain the power to amend what proportion is given back to the hospitals. However, the opposition did not make those arguments.

Proposition 53: “No Blank Checks Initiative”

The Summary:

Sometimes, to pay for large projects (i.e. infrastructure), the state borrows money in the form of bonds. These bonds are typically either general obligation bonds (like Prop 51), which require voter approval, or revenue bonds, which do not require voter approval.

This measure would require voter approval on any state project (“does not include a city, county, city and county, school district, community college district, or special district”) that attempts to sell more than $2 billion in revenue bonds.

Even if voters did deny an attempt by the state to sell such bonds in such quantities, it would not necessarily tank the offending project. The state can still try to fund the project in a different way, or perhaps break it up in a way that it doesn’t hit the requirement.

Currently the only projects that would expect to be affected are the High-Speed Rail project and the WaterFix project.

The Controversy:

This proposition is primarily funded by some millionaire couple, and I typically frown upon millionaires meddling in the affairs of common men.

On the other hand, I have since come to regret voting for the High-Speed Rail project, which has so far been an expensive and lackluster implementation of a good idea. I have just educated myself on the WaterFix project — a system of tunnels to drain water from the Sacramento River and sell it to Southern California, despite SoCal’s plans to import less water, and double despite the extremely negative effects the loss of freshwater would have on the Bay ecology — and I hate it. Another project that would be affected by this measure if it hadn’t already been completed is the rebuild of the Bay Bridge, which was completed over budget, 6 years late, and already has structural issues.

The Verdict: Medium Firm No

In principle the idea of Prop 53 isn’t bad: the state should be more careful when undertaking large projects. Passing it would definitely send the state a “we’re watching you” message, but it lacks bite. The state could circumvent a negative voter ruling, obtaining funds another way. What I’d rather see is initiatives to specifically stop or at least reassess undesirable projects.

Yes, I’m rating the verdicts using tofu firmness scaling. Everyone should do this.

Proposition 54: “California Legislature Transparency Act’

The Summary:

Currently, the CA legislature’s meetings are required to be open to the public, and most of these are recorded and made available on the internet (I opened one to check. I didn’t even bother listening to the audio, I could already see it would be boring). Doing this costs about $1 million a year.

This measure would require that all public meetings be recorded and uploaded within 24 hours, and available for 20 years. Parts of these videos could then be used for any purpose (i.e. political campaign adverts), which is not currently the case. Finally, these videos would be available for 72 hours before the Legislature could take a vote, except in the case that the governor declares a state of emergency and there is a two-thirds vote to expedite the bill.

The Controversy:

This one is subtle but interesting, in that both pro and con camps have their points. Yes, Republican billionaire Charles Munger Jr. is bankrolling it. Yes, Barack Obama introduced a similar bill to the U.S. Senate in 2006, which doesn’t seem to have passed. Yes, a small number of other states have passed similar laws. Yes, most of the proceedings are already available online. Yes, Prop 54 is supported by the League of Women Voters of California, and opposed by the California National Organization for Women. No, I’m not yet sure what the difference is.

The biggest issue is with the 72 hour waiting period. Yes, it gives the public time to read the bills, but will they? Isn’t it far more likely that lobbyists will make much better use of the 72 hours than the public will?

The Verdict: Soft No

I get that greater transparency sounds good, especially if you only made it through reading “California Legislature Transparency Act”. However, I personally think the online recorded videos of legislative proceedings are already underutilized; that the 72 hour waiting period may favor lobbyists as much as, if not more than, the public; and that the state of emergency clause (which requires a two-thirds vote just to consider a vote on a bill) is extreme and kind of dangerous. But I’m not an expert. I can understand if you vote Yes.

Proposition 55: “The California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016

The Summary:

In 2012 voters passed Prop 30, which added extra tax brackets for earnings over $250k (as well as 0.25% sales tax increase) which will last through 2018. Prop 55 will extend the tax brackets (but not the sales tax) through 2030. For example, a single payer is taxed at 12.3% for income over $526,000, instead of 9.3%. It also specifies that the additional revenue from these incremental tax increases be used on education, and in good years, Medi-Cal.

The Controversy:

The text of the law is long and confusing. It definitely specifies that the money should be spent on education, and if in excess, Medi-Cal. It’s not clear to me that the Legislature can’t then divert money from the General Fund away from education and Medi-Cal in response.

The Verdict: Extra Firm Yes

What is clear to me is that the opposition’s arguments are pretty flimsy:

PROP. 55 WILL HURT SMALL BUSINESS AND KILL JOBS

Um excuse me these are the same tax rates that already have been implemented for several years.

TEMPORARY SHOULD MEAN TEMPORARY

Oh BOO HOO CRY INTO YOUR MONEY

Proposition 56: “The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016”

The Summary:

Currently there is a $0.87 state excise tax on a pack of cigarettes, and $1.37 per pack equivalent on other products that contain at least 50% tobacco. E-cigarettes are not included.

This proposition will increase the excise tax to $2.87 for cigarettes, and $3.37 for other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The rest of the (lengthy) text of the measure explains how this money will be spent (mostly healthcare).

The Controversy:

The Verdict: Extra Firm Yes

I don’t like tobacco. I think it’s crazy that you’re allowed to buy and sell something that demonstrably gives people multiple forms of cancer and respiratory disease. I mean people had a scare about bisphenol-A (BPA) a few years ago, stopped buying things with BPA, and then the FDA banned it. If I handed out free bottles with BPA in them, most people wouldn’t take them.

I’m not even sure there has been a confirmed death caused by BPA. Tobacco use, meanwhile, takes 480,000 lives per year in America. In 1.5 years tobacco kills more people than died in the Civil War. In 3 years tobacco kills more people than have died in all American wars combined. But you can STILL BUY IT.

WHY.

An increased excise tax is the least we can do to get this crap outta our state.

Proposition 57: Criminal sentences and parole

The Summary:

California prisons are overcrowded, leading to poor conditions that violate the Eighth Amendment. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision requiring California to reduce its prison population to (only) 137.5% of its maximum design capacity.

Currently when an inmate serves the minimum time of an indeterminate sentence (one which does not have a set release date), the state conducts a parole hearing to determine whether the inmate is ready for release. Inmates not convicted of violent felonies are sometimes eligible for parole after serving half their sentence. Juveniles are tried in adult court at the request of the prosecutor, at the request of the judge, or automatically, depending on the crime and the juvenile’s age.

Prop 57 will allow that “Any person convicted of a nonviolent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.” Juveniles accused of certain serious and violent crimes would have a hearing before being tried in adult criminal court.

The Controversy:

Neither party (pro or con) denies that prisons are overcrowded. Neither has issue with the revisions that affect juveniles. What is at debate, however, is the scope of the law regarding which crimes are and are not violent.

Disclaimer: I do not know the law. I can only read what is available to me.

Section 667.5 of the Penal Code defines the following as violent crimes:

(1) Murder or voluntary manslaughter.
(2) Mayhem.
(3) Rape as defined in paragraph (2) or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 261 or paragraph (1) or (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 262.
(4) Sodomy as defined in subdivision © or (d) of Section 286.
(5) Oral copulation as defined in subdivision © or (d) of Section 288a.
(6) Lewd or lascivious act as defined in subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 288.
(7) Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison for life.
(8) Any felony in which the defendant inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice which has been charged and proved as provided for in Section 12022.7, 12022.8, or 12022.9 on or after July 1, 1977, or as specified prior to July 1, 1977, in Sections 213, 264, and 461, or any felony in which the defendant uses a firearm which use has been charged and proved as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 12022.3, or Section 12022.5 or 12022.55.
(9) Any robbery.
(10) Arson, in violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 451.
(11) Sexual penetration as defined in subdivision (a) or (j) of Section 289.
(12) Attempted murder.
(13) A violation of Section 12308, 12309, or 12310.
(14) Kidnapping.
(15) Assault with the intent to commit a specified felony, in violation of Section 220.
(16) Continuous sexual abuse of a child, in violation of Section 288.5.
(17) Carjacking, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 215.
(18) Rape, spousal rape, or sexual penetration, in concert, in violation of Section 264.1.
(19) Extortion, as defined in Section 518, which would constitute a felony violation of Section 186.22 of the Penal Code.
(20) Threats to victims or witnesses, as defined in Section 136.1, which would constitute a felony violation of Section 186.22 of the Penal Code.
(21) Any burglary of the first degree, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 460, wherein it is charged and proved that another person, other than an accomplice, was present in the residence during the commission of the burglary.
(22) Any violation of Section 12022.53.
(23) A violation of subdivision (b) or © of Section 11418. The Legislature finds and declares that these specified crimes merit special consideration when imposing a sentence to display society’s condemnation for these extraordinary crimes of violence against the person.

Disclaimer: I have not followed through and analyzed each section referred to above. No one pays me to do this.

There have been some editorials that claim Prop 57 allows several nominally violent but (supposedly) legally non-violent crimes to be eligible for parole. They make this claim not by listing crimes which are not covered in the list of 23 above, but by listing crimes which are listed elsewhere in the Penal Code, such as:

1. Residential burglary (Penal Code 459 1st)
2. Felony domestic violence (Penal Code Section 273.5)
3. Felony assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code Section 245(a)(1))
4. Felony assault with a gun (Penal Code Section 245(a)(2))
5. Felony assault with an assault weapon (Penal Code Section 245(a)(3))
6. Felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury (Penal Code Section 245(a)(4))
7. Spousal rape (Penal Code Section 262(a)(3))
8. Felony battery on a police officer with injury (Penal Code Section 243©(2))
9. Felony assault with a stun gun (Penal Code Section 244.5©)
10. Felony assault with caustic chemicals (Penal Code Section 244)
11. Felony sexual battery (Penal Code Section 243.4)
12. Felony sexual battery on an unconscious victim (Penal Code Section 243.4©)
13. Felony sexual battery by restraint (Penal Code Section 243.4(a))
14. Felony battery on a school employee (Penal Code Section 243.6)
15. Discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling (Penal Code Section 246)

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on criminal law. I have not read each of these sections.

But it seems to me like many of these crimes are covered by 667.5. For example, #7 in the HuffPo list (spousal rape) sounds an awful lot like #18 in 667.5 (rape, spousal rape, or sexual penetration). #12 in HuffPo (felony sexual battery on an unconscious victim), which is also listed in the OVIT argument against Prop 57 (rape of an unconscious person) sounds like it is covered in Penal Code section 261, which is referenced in #3 of 667.5:

(a) Rape is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a
person not the spouse of the perpetrator, under any of the following
circumstances:
[…]
(3) Where a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating
or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this
condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the
accused.
(4) Where a person is at the time unconscious of the nature of the
act, and this is known to the accused. As used in this paragraph,
“unconscious of the nature of the act” means incapable of resisting
because the victim meets any one of the following conditions:
 (A) Was unconscious or asleep.

If you noticed that 261 does not cover spousal rape, please refer back to #18 in 667.5.

The Verdict: Medium Firm Yes

I have not done this cross referencing on everything in the list. But at least some of the opposition’s arguments ring false. For that reason I am confident the opposition is wrong and that if passed the measure will be used appropriately with regard to common sense, and that all nominally and legally violent criminals will be denied parole.

In any case, if the measure passes, non-violent criminals are only allowed an opportunity for parole, which of course can be denied.

Proposition 58: “California Education for a Global Economy Initiative”

The Summary:

In 2015–2016, 22% of students were classified as “English learners,” meaning they were not fluent in English. In 1998 Proposition 227 was passed, restricting instruction to be in English only. Parents of English learners can sign a waiver to request their children receive bilingual instruction. If at least 20 students have such waivers, the school must offer a bilingual class or transfer the students somewhere that has such a class. Before Prop 227, 30% of English learners were in bilingual classes; in 2008, only 5% were.

Prop 58 would remove portions of Prop 227. Schools would be allowed to use bilingual instruction for English learners. Other provisions allow/require parents to have input on the kinds of instruction programs offered, on a local, community basis.

The Controversy:

Opponents of Prop 58 argue that bilingual education is terrible. This is at least mostly true concerning bilingual education prior to the passage of Prop 227.

There is a lot of data out there regarding English learners and how their English proficiency changes with grade or with time. One study from Stanford explains that English learners underperform their English fluent counterparts because they lack access to core classes due to their status as English learners. However, they found that bilingual instruction was more effective than mono-lingual instruction:

Specifically, we found that students enrolled in bilingual programs exhibit faster academic growth than their counterparts in all-English instructional settings (Valentino & Reardon, 2015). Furthermore, students in bilingual programs and dual immersion programs are less likely to attain English language proficiency and reclassification in the short-term (in elementary school), but in the medium- to long-term they are ultimately more likely to reach English proficiency and more likely to be reclassified.

They conclude that improvements can be achieved by changing how English learners are classified and by expanding access to core classes and bilingual instruction.

The Verdict: Firm Yes

Given that I haven’t thoroughly researched the relative benefits of mono- vs bilingual instruction, I look to education researchers and teachers for the answer. It seems they all agree that bilingual study is better than mono-lingual, although English learners will still almost always be at a disadvantage.

Proposition 59: Should California’s elected officials attempt to overturn Citizens United?

The Summary:

Citizens United v. FEC is a 5–4 Supreme Court ruling which has the effect of allowing unlimited political spending by corporations.

Prop 59 asks the voters if California’s elected officials should use their authority to challenge Citizens United. If passed, it does not guarantee any action on the Legislature’s part.

The Controversy:

Yep, it has no real power to make the Legislature act. It is a purely symbolic gesture.

Regarding Citizens United, it was at best a well-meaning ruling (on Justice Kennedy’s part, since he was the deciding vote) that has been interpreted in such a way as to be utterly damaging to our democracy.

The opposition claims overturning Citizens United attacks our First Amendment rights. This is a difficult claim to make. They also claim “this measure costs taxpayers half a million dollars, or more” which is off by about half a million dollars, or more.

The Verdict: Firm Yes

Fine, it’s just a symbolic gesture. A Yes vote doesn’t necessarily do anything. But a No vote would look incredibly bad and set a poor precedent for other challenges to Citizens United.

Proposition 60: “California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act”

The Summary:

Many pornographic films are made in San Fernando Valley, a.k.a. San Pornando Valley. Cal/OSHA and Los Angeles County law both require that adult performers use condoms on set.

Prop 60 adds requirements that film producers provide certifications that condoms were used during filming, describes fines if they aren’t, and gives performers legal recourse to seek damages.

The Controversy:

Despite frequent (1 or 2 per month) testing for sexually transmitted infections, adult performers still sometimes contract these diseases.

And, despite existing regulations that require condoms, these requirements are often not met (as all of you should know. Yes, all of you).

YEAH ALL OF YOU.

Maybe without the stronger regulations, a newbie performer might feel uncomfortable asking for a condom, afraid they’ll be put out of work. Pure speculation. But at least some performers have explained why condom use is not preferred. Porn veteran Nina Hartley addresses the then-recent contraction of HIV by a performer:

There have been all kinds of false rumors spread about this system, but it has proven itself amazingly powerful for over a decade. During that time, the L.A. based het porn industry has turned up a total of two work-related infections in our entire talent pool. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles County, according to its own health department, has recorded nearly 30,000 new HIV infections during that same period.
Considering the age and demographic of porn performers, despite disingenuous claims about the danger we pose to the general public, it would appear that they pose a greater danger to us. Indeed, in the current case, it would appear that the virus was transmitted from the outside in, as the statistics would suggest.

as well as some little known reasons why condoms are not preferred:

It takes about two hours to shoot a good hardcore scene. Condoms were never intended for that kind of industrial use. […] Condoms roll down, come off, dry out, split and otherwise fail on sets about 30% of the time.
[…] All-condom players, and I’ve known many of them tend to turn up at clinics with raw internal tissues and multiple surface infections. This we call “condom rash” and it’s more than an annoyance. Intact tissues are the first line of defense against infection. If your insides are compromised by friction burns and low-grade bugs of whatever sort, you’re that much more vulnerable to whatever might be turned loose should a condom fail.

and finally:

These circumstances are unique to porn and I wouldn’t suggest the general population abandon using condoms, though I do think testing for non-sex-workers is still an excellent idea and recommend it highly, if only for your own peace of mind.

The Verdict: Soft No

Since it’s not obvious to me that condoms will protect performers, I defer simply to giving performers their choice.

Proposition 61: “The California Drug Price Relief Act”

The Summary:

Prescription drug prices are highly variable and dependent on the buyer’s bargaining power. Purchase agreements are often subject to confidentiality clauses. As such, different state agencies may pay different prices for the same drugs, and that information is unavailable to the public (and unavailable to each other).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), thanks to certain discount programs, usually gets drugs at a lower price than other payers. Prices are public, but not necessarily reflective of the lowest price actually paid by the VA.

Prop 61 would forbid the state from buying any prescription drugs at a price above that in the VA’s public database.

The Controversy:

Notably, this measure does not require drug manufacturers to offer drugs at the VA’s prices, only that the state must buy them at that price. So drug manufacturers may simply not sell those drugs to the state (but this seems unlikely). Or, they can raise the price for buyers without bargaining power (this seems likely).

What’s more at stake is the message a Yes vote would send to drug manufacturers: that the government is on the side of lower drug prices. This is not lost on the opponents, who include Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Novartis, and other pharmaceuticals.

The Verdict: Firm Yes

It’s not clear that this measure would actually save the state much money. But a No vote would be a boon to pharmaceutical companies.

Proposition 62: “The Justice That Works Act of 2016”

The Summary:

Currently, being convicted of murder carries a life sentence with possibility of parole after 25 years served. Really bad murder can carry a life sentence without possibility of parole, or the death sentence. There have been 930 such death sentences since they were first allowed in 1978.

A death penalty is automatically appealed to the California Supreme Court, and from there can be further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, along with other legal challenges. The sum total of these legal challenge proceedings can take decades. So far 5 death penalties have been overturned.

Prop 62 removes the death penalty, such that the most serious penalty is life imprisonment without possibility of parole, which would be applied retroactively. It also specifies that inmates carrying such penalties would work while imprisoned (which is currently not possible due to increased security requirements).

The Controversy:

Oh, do I even have to go over this? In theory, one can understand why death penalties exist. In practice, it seems rare that one could be infallible in giving out the death sentence. Furthermore, decades of appeals take a fiscal and emotional toll on the state and on victims’ families.

The Verdict: Soft Yes

I believe that some people, demonstrated through their actions, overstay their welcome in our world of the living. But given that justice is not infallible, and that inmates on death row can appeal and reopen victims’ emotional wounds, perhaps the death penalty is not the best solution. A life of imprisonment, I guess, does an adequate job of pulling these deviants out of society.

Proposition 63: “The Safety for All Act of 2016”

The Summary:

Currently anyone convicted of a felony, assessed to be a danger to themselves or others, or under a restraining order, cannot own a firearm, and therefore also not allowed to own ammunition.

Recently enacted laws will have the following effects. Beginning in July 2017, no one (barring some exemptions) will be allowed to possess high capacity (>10 rounds) magazines. Starting in January of 2018, a one-year license will be required to sell ammunition (with exceptions in some cases), and that most ammo sales go through a licensed dealer. Starting in July of 2019, ammo dealers will also be required to do background checks before selling ammunition, and residents will be prohibited from bringing ammunition from out of state.

Prop 63 changes the current law slightly. It removes several of the exemptions for high capacity magazine ownership, and increases the crime for non-compliance. Residents will be prohibited from bringing ammunition from out of state earlier, starting in January of 2018. Buyers will be required to obtain a license to purchase ammunition. Theft of arms becomes a felony, instead of a misdemeanor.

The Controversy:

This one’s pretty cut and dried. The opponents include the NRA and some other gun ownership groups. The proponents include seemingly everyone else.

One thing that stands out from the opposition is their claim that “Spending tens of millions of dollars year after year on useless lists of everyone who buys and sells ammunition diverts critical resources and focus away from effective anti-terrorism efforts.” The Legislative Analysts agrees that increased costs could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. It doesn’t say what the total costs would be. Anyway, sometimes lists are important, even if they cost money to maintain. The DMV keeps lists, and that’s how you can reclaim your car if it’s stolen (the DMV costs $1 billion to maintain though…).

The Verdict: Firm Yes

The gun lobby needs to know we won’t put up with their garbage anymore.

Proposition 64: “The Adult Use of Marijuana Act”

The Summary:

Currently it is illegal to own or grow marijuana both at the state and federal level, although the Department of Justice chooses not to prosecute in most cases. In 1996, medical marijuana became legal to use, and is taxed.

Prop 64 would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana (with exceptions and stipulations). It modifies/establishes the bureaucracy necessary to regulate marijuana, and establishes taxes. It reduces the punishments for illegal (underaged) possession and for selling marijuana without a license. Individuals serving sentences are eligible for resentencing.

The following are crimes: smoking while driving, in public, or where smoking tobacco is prohibited; possession on a school or youth center; growing in public; providing marijuana to anyone underaged.

The Controversy:

The best source of hard data on the results of legalizing marijuana is Colorado, which has had legal pot since 2014. What’s probably clear is that the marijuana industry has created a lot of jobs and generated $2.4 billion dollars worth of economic boost. What’s less clear are the social/health effects which seem to have been minimal. For example apparently a lot more people have been going to the emergency room because of THC overdose, but this is possibly due to them just being very stoned:

“These people are getting so anxious and uncomfortable with how they feel. They sometimes have a feeling of impending doom and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die,’ so they go to the emergency room and seek assistance,” [Dr. Kari] Franson [of University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy] said.

The effect of a No vote is just the status quo, which is not great. For example, people still grow and sell marijuana illegally, and sometimes this is done in national parks, which causes damage to those ecosystems.

The Verdict: Medium Yes

Alright, I don’t really have a horse in this race.

Look, California already has a lot of pot. It’s grown in such a way as to be harmful to our cherished national parks. Legalization seems to have worked out pretty well for Colorado. It doesn’t seem to have the same negative health effects that, say, tobacco has. Worth a shot.

Proposition 65: “The Environmental Fee Protection Act”

The Summary:

Plastic bags are not good for the environment. About 15 billion single-use plastic bags are used each year (400 per person).

Several cities and counties have implemented plastic bag fees for most stores, typically charging $0.10 per carryout bag. The stores get to keep the revenue. These laws affect about 40% of Californians.

In 2014, the state passed SB 270, which prohibits most stores statewide (in regions without bag fee laws) from providing single-use plastic bags, and requires they charge $0.10 per carryout bag. Stores again get to keep the revenue. This new state law is up for referendum as Prop 67.

Prop 65 stipulates that any revenue from a statewide bag fee be deposited in a new state fund, to be managed by the Wildlife Conservation Board, for the expressed purpose of helping the environment. Interestingly the law also stipulates that no more than $400,000 of this revenue can be spent on the concomitant biennial audits. The Legislative Analysts predicts the total revenue might be tens of millions of dollars.

If Prop 65 gets more votes than Prop 67, Prop 65 cancels Prop 67.

The Controversy:

Prop 65 is opposed by most everyone, including such esteemed environmental groups as the Sierra Club California, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save the Bay, etc. Suspicious.

Prop 65 is supported primarily by the American Progressive Bag Alliance. On their website it states “ The APBA proactively promotes product lines and leads numerous public policy initiatives that serve as the frontline defense against plastic bag bans and taxes nationwide” (emphasis mine). Suspicious.

The Verdict: Extra Firm No

It’s just a plastics consortium conspiring to confuse voters into cancelling Prop 67 and thus cancelling SB 270.

Proposition 66: “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016”

The Summary:

The death penalty can be challenged either with direct appeals or habeus corpus petitions. Both go first to the CA Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, but involve different aspects of the case.

Prop 66 would divert habeus corpus petitions to trial courts, specifically to the judge who first delivered the death sentence. Such habeus corpus petitions (HCPs) would have to be filed within one year of the sentence. Both direct and HCPs would have to be completed in five years. To meet this accelerated demand, the courts would appoint attorneys who aren’t on the ‘qualified-for-death-penalty’ list.

Passing this measure voids Prop 62, and vice versa, obviously.

The Controversy:

Seems real dodgy that someone given a life sentence is sent straight back to the judge who delivered that sentence. Court appointed attorneys who aren’t qualified to defend clients with death sentences? Oh yeah, that petition will be really fair.

And the 5 year limit? Lee Farmer was acquitted of the death penalty after serving 17 years. Troy Lee Jones was acquitted (due to an incompetent lawyer) after serving 15 years. Oscar Lee Morris spent 16 years in prison before being released because the star witness lied. Patrick Croy — 7 years. Jerry Bigelow — 8 years. Seems like 5 years is not enough time to figure out the truth.

The Verdict: Firm No

Ok, the death penalty is subject to seemingly endless appeals. But even if you believe we should keep it, Prop 66 isn’t the way to fix it.

Proposition 67: “The Last One”

The Summary:

Ok, it’s really the referendum on SB 270, the plastic bag ban. For cities and counties in CA that don’t already have similar laws, this establishes them. It bans certain stores from providing single-use plastic bags (the thin ones) and requires they charge $0.10 for paper or reusable bags. Low-income shoppers would not have to pay.

The reusable bags must have handles, survive 125 uses, hold 15 liters of volume, and be machine washable. If it’s made of plastic, it must also be made of 20% recycled material (40% starting in 2020), carry 22 pounds over 175 feet at least 125 times, and meet ASTM standards for compostable plastics D6400.

Prop 67, if passed, upholds SB 270. A No vote rejects it.

The Controversy:

Uh sure technically the stores keep that revenue. But that’s sort of to help them keep in line with the whole plan.

The Verdict: Extra Firm Yes

Sorry, earlier I had a typo that said No. We DO want to keep SB 270. Anyone saying no is just the APBA again trying to prevent plastic bag bans so they can keep making money.


OH MY GOD AND I’M DONE

This took such a long time, you guys. But I’m glad I did it. Not to toot my own horn, but I did a lot of research this year and am pretty confident on the verdicts. Oh, what’s that you say? There are still the candidates for Senate? Eh, they’re both very well qualified, I think either would do a great job.

Whoops oops turns out Loretta Sanchez might be racist. Also she dabbed at the debate; can some young person explain what that is? Why are people doing that?

Anyway, you can still vote for Kamala Harris.

OK AND I’M —

Oh, the president? Hillary Clinton, obviously. Although I don’t think I’ve ever changed anyone’s mind in my entire life when it came to a presidential candidate. Probably some of you who read this are now going to vote the opposite on every proposition. That’s ok.

OK AND I’M DONE YAY


FYI if you’d like you can copy down the breakdown below. Last time I tried using my phone at the booth (to remind myself what I’d decided) and they yelled at me. So write it down the old way.

51: Medium No
52: Firm Yes
53: Medium Firm No
54: Soft No
55: Extra Firm Yes
56: Extra Firm Yes
57: Medium Firm Yes
58: Firm Yes
59: Firm Yes
60: Soft No
61: Firm Yes
62: Soft Yes
63: Firm Yes
64: Medium Yes
65: Extra Firm No
66: Firm No
67: Extra Firm Yes