California Propositions on the Ballot – November 6, 2012 UPDATED WITH RESULTS

This year, adding to the excitement of the presidential race, there are a bunch of high-profile measures on the ballot, some even conflicting with each other. Here are some helpful Cliff Notes on the various props and how I would vote on them.

Proposition 30 – Vote YES      PASSED
Proposition 31 – Vote NO         FAILED
Proposition 32– Vote NO          FAILED
Proposition 33 – Vote NO         FAILED
Proposition 34– Vote YES        FAILED
Proposition 35 – Vote YES       PASSED
Proposition 36 – Vote YES       PASSED
Proposition 37 – Vote NO         FAILED
Proposition 38– Vote NO          FAILED
Proposition 39 – Vote YES       PASSED
Proposition 40 – Vote YES       PASSED

Proposition 30 –Proposition 30 is a broad and sweeping sales and income tax increase proposed by Governor Jerry Brown. Sales tax goes up from 7.25% to 7.5% and income taxes increase in various ways for those making over $250,000 for a period of 7 years and this increase takes place retroactively from Jan 1, 2012. The tricky part of this proposition is that funds from this proposition have already been taken into account in the state budget passed in June of this year, which prevented massive cuts to education. So if Prop 30 fails to pass, these cuts will automatically be triggered.

Arguments: Opponents argue that California already has high taxes and increasing taxes would be a burden on an economy that is still struggling. However, Prop 30 restores partially certain taxes that expired in 2010 and 2011. According to the Mercury News, “the overall tax burden will be the same as it was two years ago.” Another propostion, Prop 38 also takes aim at school funding. Read below to see why prop 30 is preferable.

My opinion: VOTE YES.

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Proposition 31: The two most important elements of Prop 31 are the establishment of a two-year budget cycle and allowing the Governor to cut spending unilaterally in the event of a fiscal emergency. This prop also prohibits the California State Legislature from “creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified”and puts some performance reviews of state programs in place. Another feature of the prop is that it gives counties the power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless the state legislature or a state agency vetoes those changes within 60 days.

Arguments: This measure goes some way in making government more accountable. However, opponents are concerned about the extra power given to the Governor. Also, by having to offset every expenditure with a corresponding revenue, the prop severely hampers use of surplus funds arising out of economic development. Opponents also argue that by giving counties the power to override state legislation, it will create a patchwork of contradictary laws across the state.

My opinion: VOTE NO.

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Proposition 32: Prop 32 bans corporate and union contributions to political candidates. It also bans government contractors from contributing to politicians who have a say in contracts awarded to them and bans automatic deductions from corporations, unions, and government employees’ wages for political contributions.

Arguments: On the face of it, this proposition looks like the cleaning of the Augean stables of political money. However, by exempting business Super PACs and independent expenditure committees from this measure, the proposition effectively makes them the sole contributors to political candidates. This takes away the checks and balance big money has from union contributions by middle class workers. By limiting the ban to “paycheck deductions” the writers of this measure have created a loophole that allows contributions by corporations that come straight from their treasury.

My opinion: VOTE NO.

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Proposition 33: Prop 33 is very similar to an old Prop 17, which was narrowly defeated by voters in 2010. This prop allows for loyalty discounts to be given by auto insurance companies even when they get a new customer, provided the customer was insured continuously over the previous five years.

Arguments: The reason Prop 17 was defeated was because it had a clause in it that would allow insurance companies to severely penalize drivers who had lapsed in coverage. Voters saw through the intentions of George Joseph, the billionaire owner of Mercury Insurance, who funded that prop and this year’s prop 33 as well. Prop 33 has the same clause that allows increase of insurance fees for drivers without continuous coverage and deserves to be voted down as well.

My opinion: VOTE NO

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Proposition 34: Voting yes for the proposition effectively ends the death penalty in California. California is one of the 33 states in te US that currently have the death penalty.

Arguments: Should we be ranked with countries like Libya, Iran and Iraq who still have the death penalty? Hopefully we are more civilized than that.

My opinion: VOTE YES

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Proposition 35: This proposition takes a tough stance on human sex trafficking, expanding the definition and imposing more severe punishment.

Arguments: Opponents argue that this would broaden the definition of pimping and intrude into the definition of consensual sex between two adults, but this one is a no-brainer.

My opinion: VOTE YES

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Proposition 36: Modifies the state’s current three strikes law to provide for a life sentence only if the third offense is violent. Also provides for a reassessment of prison sentences for those already convicted under this law if their offenses were not very serious or violent.

Arguments: The three strikes law, passed in 1994, was a response to the murder of a girl by a repeat offender. However, in practice, the law pulled into its fold several offenders who were convicted of much more minor offenses like drug possession and petty thievery, ballooning prison costs , money that could be spent on better purposes like education and infrastructure. This modification is much overdue.

My opinion: VOTE YES.

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Proposition 37: This proposition requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. It has several exemptions.

Arguments: The biggest trouble with this prop, written with the best of intentions, is that it has been drafted in such a way as to make implementation very confusing and arbitrary. Though its opponents are the same companies that resisted transparency in labeling, the exemptions provided for “certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages” make this a fairly toothless and arbitrary law. While I believe there is a need to label foods as GM, the law needs to be clearer and less ambiguous.

My opinion: VOTE NO

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Proposition 38: Proposition 38 will increase state income tax rates for most Californians for a period of 12 years, with
most of the new revenue of $10 billion going to public school districts and early childhood development programs.

Arguments: Here is another proposition with great intentions and poor delivery. While funding public schools is a laudable cause, this proposition puts money directly in school hands instead of school districts, which means that rich schools would get the same amount of money as poor schools for things like technology, which makes no sense. Also, the money goes just to K-12 schools and charter schools, leaving universities out of the loop. This also competes directly with Prop 30; if both pass, the one with the most votes wins (more or less).

My opinion: VOTE NO

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Proposition 39: Prop 39 requires out-of-state businesses to pay California taxes based on their sales in the state and repeals existing law giving out-of-state businesses an option to choose a more preferential tax liability formula. Added revenue from this measure would fund energy efficiency and clean energy projects in the state.

Arguments: This measure levels the playing field for existing California businesses and encourages companies to invest in jobs and infrastructure in the state, since there is no more advantage to maintain a presence outside California.

My opinion: VOTE YES

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Proposition 40: In 2008, voters approved a Citizen’s Redistricting Commission that would redraw the state Senate districts. Opponents of that measure are trying to overturn it by voter referenndum. Voting Yes would keep the Commission in place. Voting No would overturn the commission and put the responsibility of drawing the district lines back with the legislature.

Arguments: The redistricting process has worked well with no complaints from citizens. Even the opponents of the Commission have given up and stopped their opposition.

My opinion: VOTE YES

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