Propositions on the ballot in California in November

I do this so you won’t have to!

This is my take on the various propositions on the California ballot on November 4th. While most of us are pretty sure of our vote for the Presidential candidate, these various measures are equally important and impact our lives in a more immediate and significant way. Do take the time to read up on them.
Here is a summary of my recommendations on the various propositions on the ballot in November.

Proposition 1 – Vote YES
Proposition 2 – Vote YES
Proposition 3 – Vote NO
Proposition 4 – Vote NO
Proposition 5 – Vote NO
Proposition 6 – Vote NO
Proposition 7 – Vote YES
Proposition 8 – Vote NO
Proposition 9 – Vote NO
Proposition 10-Vote NO
Proposition 11-Vote YES
Proposition 12-Vote YES

Proposition 1: Prop. 1 asks voters to approve the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. This would partially fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. ( Matching funds from the federal government is a possibility.)

The train would run between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Anaheim, California, designated as the southern terminus of the initial segment of the high-speed train system. Estimates are that the train system would be completed in 2030, and that it would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Voting YES would give the state the authority to sell bonds for the amount of 9.95 billion dollars and use the funds to begin construction of the high-speed rail system. The state is likely to ask voters for the remaining funds in later years.
Voting NO means the state cannot sell these bonds.

Opinion: The two main objections to this bill, to which the opposition has been quite half-hearted, seems to be as follows –
–         Given the current state of the economy, we shouldn’t be spending money on a rail system rather than education, health care etc. And anyway, what makes you think the California government is capable of handling a project like this?
–         Environmental concern over the fact that the path of the proposed system might take away some parks and refuges.
However, the taxpayers do not take a direct hit because the state is selling debt which will be picked up by lenders throughout the world. The taxpayer impact will be during the servicing of the loan.

Also, proponents argue that early adoption of a high-speed rail system means getting to be ahead in line to get the state’s share of matching funds from the federal government.
The project is also sure to generate thousands of jobs, a major positive given the current state of the economy. It is also good for the environment in the long run. Here is a good site to get more information about this project.

My recommendation: Vote YES.

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Proposition 2: Requires certain farm animals to be allowed, for the majority of every day, to fully extend their limbs or wings, lie down, stand up and turn around. Limited exceptions apply.

Voting YES would mean that beginning 2015, these laws would apply to pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens.

Voting NO would maintain the status quo.

Opinion: The opposition to this proposition is that Californian producers will not be able to comply and so our meat and eggs will start being imported from Mexico and therefore we have a higher likelihood of being sickened by salmonella. Ridiculous.

My recommendation: This is a no-brainer. Vote YES.

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Proposition 3: Authorizes $980,000,000 in bonds, to be repaid from state’s General Fund, to fund the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals.

Voting YES would allow the state to sell bonds for this amount.

Voting NO would maintain the status quo.

Opinion: The main opposition to this, as before, is that this more debt that California cannot afford and would impact the taxpayers when the loan principal and interest have to be repaid. Also, the way this proposition is worded, the money may go to any acute hospital so long as it treats children. There is an emotional argument to be made to support this bill. But there is some evidence that Prop 61, with the same goal, that was passed in 2004 to the tune of $750 million, still has to finish disbursing the entire amount. Given that, it seems unfair to taxpayers that they should have to take on another loan.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 4: The initiative would prohibit abortion for un-emancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Voting YES would put this law into the state constitution.

Voting NO would preserve the status quo.

Opinion: As the parent of a young girl, there is enormous temptation to say yes to a law that would force my child to let me know in case she needs to take the drastic step of having an abortion. But I found this excellent op-ed in the L.A. Times where the author took the trouble to read through the entire proposition and consulted with legal experts.  This is the conclusion she came to –

Here is my version of how an honest summary of Proposition 4 should read:

Proposition to Curtail Abortion for Teenage Girls:
* Do not allow minors to obtain abortions behind their parents’ backs.
* Create an undue burden on physicians, with miles of red tape and severe repercussions for a misstep in filing notifications, reports, etc.
* Make sure pregnant teens go through humiliation and exposure.
* Create a pretext for taking the matter of abortion to court.
* Add vague clauses regarding “court relief” and “coercion,” which could warrant further litigation.

While I did not delve into the proposition myself, I did take the time to read her long and detailed article and agreed with her conclusions. I do not want girls to be afraid of going to doctors on their own and seeking medical advice rather than rely on backdoor abortions. I do not want girls in situations where there has been abuse within the family to be coerced by parents into making one kind of decision. This particular proposition keeps coming up in ballots under various avatars and has always been defeated.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 5: Allocates $460,000,000 annually to improve and expand treatment programs for persons convicted of drug and other offenses. Limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.

Voting YES would mean less people would be imprisoned for minor drug offences and granted parole earlier if incarcerated. Possession if less than 28.5 grams of marijuana would have a lesser penalty than under current law.

Voting NO would keep the status quo.

Opinion: Even though the basic premise of the law sounds like it is letting recreational drug users get off with a slap on the wrist, it seems like the text of the law makes it possible for judges to let criminals off easy if the crime was a result of drug use. That, to me, is a significant difference. Also Proposition 5 expands on Proposition 36, passed in 2004, which has proved to be not particularly successful. Only 24 percent of people “completed treatment; 42.7 percent were re-arrested on a drug charge within 30 months. Overall, treatment-eligible offenders were more likely to be re-arrested for new drug, property and violent crimes than similar offenders in the pre-36 era, UCLA researchers found.” Proposition 5 also makes it easy for criminals to claim to the court that the crimes were the result of drug use and therefore be eligible for treatment programs instead of incarceration. Check out this editorial in the L. A. Times.

My recommendation: Vote NO

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Proposition 6: Requires minimum of $965,000,000 each year to be allocated from state General Fund for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, adult probation, jails and juvenile probation facilities. Some of this funding will increase in following years according to California Consumer Price Index. Makes approximately 30 revisions to California criminal law, many of which cover gang-related offenses.

Voting YES will increase spending on law enforcement as per the bill.

Voting NO will maintain the status quo.

Opinion: This is a huge funding initiative at a time when California is suffering a fiscal crisis. Two things stand out – the fact that the bill has a CPI index-linked increase built in and that the revisions to the criminal law make it possible for judges to sentence prisoners for even longer stays in prisons, driving up costs further. The money for this proposition would have to be diverted from other social programs.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 7: Requires utilities, including government-owned utilities, to generate 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2010, a standard currently applicable only to private electrical corporations. Raises requirement for utilities to 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025. Imposes penalties, subject to waiver, for noncompliance.

Voting YES would mean that all electricity providers in California, whether private or public, would have to produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

Voting NO would mean preserving the status quo.

Opinion: On the face of it, it seems eminently reasonable. So why have I been seeing so many No on 7 ads? Turns out the biggest opposition to this bill is from, you guessed it, utility companies who have put in big bucks to defeat this proposition.

This is a complex bill that can be looked at from two aspects –

Centralized production vs. distributed production of renewable energy – Does it make more sense for utility companies to be the vanguard for renewable energy production or should we look at localized use of solar panels on roofs which would eliminate future chokepoints of energy transmission?

Global impact vs. local impact – Putting the utility companies’ feet to the fire would force them to move to alternative sources of energy which is good on a global scale. Opponents argue that this proposition is not good for small business owners because it would forbid projects that generate less than 30 megawatts of power from inclusion in the utilities’ requirement. That is, if a small business owner put solar panels on his rooftop and sold the power to the utilities, they couldn’t count it towards their 20% goal; which in turn would make them less inclined to support such initiatives by giving rebates and leasing rooftops.

The proponents of Prop 7 argue that that objection only arises from a misinterpretation of the law. They are happy to go on record in court documents stating that the initiative’s authors and supporters have no intent to change current law on energy producers.

Perhaps the confusion arises because the bill is not well written. But it is still an effort in the right direction.

The fact that utility companies are opposing this bill gives me pause. The fact that this bill specifically prohibits utility companies from passing on any fines from non-compliance to the customers makes me cheer.

My recommendation: Vote YES.

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Proposition 8:: Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Voting YES means amending the California Constitution to invalidate same-sex marriage.

Voting NO means preserving the status quo and allowing the marriage of same-sex couples in California.

Opinion: Gay marriage is one of those issues which are trotted out every single election year. I’ve always been suspicious that it is one of those mechanisms by which the party faithful (and no prizes for guessing which party) are motivated to show up at the polls. Ever since the California Supreme Court recognized gay marriage, the alarm and agitation is much more pronounced and real. It has been impossible to avoid the ads on television which allege that very little kids will be taught that marriage means “daddy marrying daddy” and “mommy marrying mommy” in school.

The irony is that because of the media blitz of the anti-gay-marriage crowd, my own little daughter is now exposed to this issue, which otherwise she absolutely would not have in school or home.

Is the allegation true?

Here are the facts –

There’s not one word in 8 about education. In fact, local school districts and parents—not the state—develop health education programs for their schools. No child can be taught anything about health and family issues against the will of their parents. California law prohibits it. I know this as a parent of 2 children in public schools. And nothing in state law requires the mention of marriage in kindergarten.

The ads are pure smear, which does more to put me off this proposition than anything else. By forcing their smears down my kids’ throats ( before I was ready to have a conversation with her at the appropriate time)by advertising in family-friendly TV programming, they have earned my disgust.

Voting yes on Proposition 8 takes a right away from another human being, a right that in no way diminishes the rights of fellow human beings or harms them in any way. Voting yes means children of existing gay families could lose the right to health care. Voting yes means existing gay families could lose the legal protections afforded married couples, including the right to visit their spouse in the hospital, the right to take over the legal affairs of their spouse if they become incapacitated, etc. Voting yes is a step backwards from the civilized notion of equality. To those who espouse “family values” I have this to say – by opposing gay marriage, you are preventing a whole section of society from entering into the same bond of commitment that you consider so important.

My recommendation: Vote NO.

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Proposition 9::Among other provisions, this requires notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole. Establishes victim safety as consideration in determining bail or release on parole.

Voting YES means crime victims would have additional rights.

Voting NO means preserving the status quo.

Opinion: The rights proposed in Prop 9 are already in the law. These would now be enshrined in the California constitution. In addition, the law would mean that prisoners could not, under any circumstances, be released before their sentence was over. Given the overcrowding in California’s prisons, this would further increase the burden on the state’s prison system. The rights demanded for victims in this bill can also be granted by the legislature without going to this level.
In a twist that can happen only in America, the proponent of this bill( and Prop 6.) is a man named Henry Nichols, who is facing drug and fraud charges in a stock-backdating scandal that could land him in prison.

My recommendation – Vote NO.

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Proposition 10: Provides $3.425 billion to help consumers and others purchase certain high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles, and to fund research into alternative fuel technology. Provides $1.25 billion for research, development and production of renewable energy technology, primarily solar energy with additional funding for other forms of renewable energy; incentives for purchasing solar and renewable energy technology.

Voting YES means the state could sell bonds for the amount of $5 billion for this purpose.

Voting NO preserves the status quo.

Opinion – T. Boone Pickens is the brains behind this bill. T. Boone Pickens, the oilman turned greenie is the driving force behind this bill which gives 58% of the money collected as rebates to hybrid and natural gas-using vehicles. T. Boone Pickens is also the primary investor in Clean Energy Fuels, a publicly traded company that spent $3 million to put Proposition 10 on the ballot. The company is the nation’s largest provider of natural gas for transportation. Many of the natural gas vehicles would fill up at its stations.
The conflict of interest in this bill makes me very uncomfortable. Also this seems to be a gambit to make taxpayers cough up some more money to give rebates to people driving fuel efficient cars. In this era of high gas prices, it seems like an unnecessary reward.

My recommendation – Vote NO.

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Proposition 11: Changes authority for establishing Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries from elected representatives to 14 member commission.
Requires government auditors to select 60 registered voters from applicant pool. Permits legislative leaders to reduce pool, then the auditors pick eight commission members by lottery, and those commissioners pick six additional members for 14 total.

Voting YES means boundaries for state senate, assembly and board of equalization districts would be drawn up by a new commission made up of California registered voters.
Voting NO means preserving the status quo.

Opinion – Gerry-mandering, or drawing up electoral districts to suit particular constituencies and particular politicians is a pernicious fact of politics. In many states it is the Republicans who do it, in California, it is the Democrats. Making the process more open and reflective of the real situation on the ground would mean that moderates would have a better chance at winning some of the local races.

My recommendation – Vote YES.

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Proposition 12: This act provides for a bond issue of nine hundred million dollars ($900,000,000) to provide loans to California veterans to purchase farms and homes. Appropriates money from the state General Fund to pay off the bonds, if loan payments from participating veterans are insufficient for that purpose.
Voting YES means the state would be able to issue $900 million in bonds to provide for veterans’ farm and home purchases.
Voting NO means preserving the status quo.
Opinion – The state is responsible to pay back the bond loan but it in turn gives low-cost loans to veterans and previous such loans have had a history of being paid back in time. The state has never incurred a bad debt in such programs in the past.
My recommendation – Vote YES.

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