Propositions on the Ballot on November 4, 2014

It’s that time of the year again. Yes, that time when we scratch our heads and say, “What, there’s an election again?” then blissfully ignore it till it’s time to complain about why government isn’t working!

If you’re in the 3% of voters who actually vote in midterm elections, more power to you. Here are the propositions on the ballot this year and how I will vote on them.

SUMMARY:                                                                                                                                   Proposition 1 – Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act: VOTE YES                               Proposition 2 – Rainy Day Fund:  VOTE YES                                                                       Proposition 45 – Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act: VOTE YES Proposition 46 – Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative:  VOTE NO                                                                                                                                     Proposition 47 – Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative: VOTE YES               Proposition 48 – the Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts: VOTE NO

 

Proposition 1 – Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act: VOTE YES

Essentially, the drought has scared the government sick,(as it should you) and it is scrambling to catch up on spending some money to improve water conservation, storage and recycling systems. It would issue bonds for this purpose and use money from the General Fund to pay off the bonds. The way the money would be spent is as follows – watershed restoration ($1.5 billion), groundwater cleanup and monitoring ($900 million), water storage ($2.7 billion), flood management ($395 million), water recycling ($725 million) and stormwater capture ($200 million). (courtesy Mercury News). The two main points of opposition are that there is a lot of spending for watershed restoration that polluters should be on the hook for instead of taxpayers, and that a large percentage is kept for water storage, which means building new dams, which ecologists disapprove of.

While noting the opposition, I think we do need to spend some money of building efficient water systems so I am voting yes.

Proposition 2 – Rainy Day Fund:  VOTE YES

The measure creates a rainy day fund so that California budgets are not subject to the vagaries of economic swings. It requires annual transfer of 1.5% of general fund revenues to state budget stabilization account and additional transfer of personal capital gains tax revenues exceeding 8% of general fund revenues to budget stabilization account and, under certain conditions, a dedicated K–14 school reserve fund.

Governor Brown has been touting this as a savior to school budgets, but the fact is that the K-12 reserve fund only kicks in under very special circumstances. In addition, the measure caps the amount local school districts can hold in their reserves, which sounds really bad. But, my limited experience with the Fremont school district has led me to believe that school districts do tend to be ultra conservative with reserves, sometimes reducing teachers and increasing class sizes even when there was money on hand to keep going for a year or two, so I am not really bothered by this. The fact is that a decent rainy day fund makes complete sense.

Proposition 45 – Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act: VOTE YES

This measure would require changes to health insurance rates, or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance, to be approved by the California Insurance Commissioner before taking effect. The main opposition to this comes from health insurance companies (of course!) and the arguments are that it gives too much power to the Insurance Commissioner. Well, we do want some regulation of health rates. As the Mercury News argues, we have regulation of car insurance in California, and that works well, so why not regulation of health insurance rates as well? If the insurance commissioner takes decisions that benefit companies instead of consumers we just elect him/her out.

Proposition 46 – Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative: VOTE NO

This measure was developed after 2 children were killed by a driver under the influence of alcohol and abused prescription drugs. It would mandate random drug testing of doctors, and increase the cap on damages for medical malpractice from 200,000 to 1,000,000 dollars. It would also make doctors use a tracking system to make sure a patient is not getting multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors.

I am quite conflicted about this. I initially thought that the damages would make malpractice premiums go up and was opposed to the bill on those grounds, but turn out that the cap was set in the 1970s, and if it was pegged to inflation, it would be around $1.1 million by now so that’s fair enough. The use of the tracking system also makes sense. But the random drug testing of doctors begs the question, do we have that little faith in our doctors? Mine have been routinely competent and hard-working and I suspect most of you would feel the same way. There’s something really icky about subjecting doctors to that kind of treatment. I would have to vote no based on that. Why not write a clean bill just raising the malpractice damages to factor in inflation and fix the tracking of prescription drugs?

Proposition 47 – Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative: VOTE YES

Finally a no-brainer! This measure would reduce the punishment for non-serious, non-violent crimes form a felony to a misdemeanor. It would also permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors, hopefully clearing our jails of people who don’t deserve to be there. There are adequate precautions for people who have been convicted of more serious crimes before.

Proposition 48 – the Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts: VOTE NO

In 2005, a Native American tribe approached the governor to build a casino offsite from its tribal reservation. This was approved by the legislature by way of AB 277. This measure, Proposition 48, asks the public to ratify that compact. In short, if you vote yes, the approval will go ahead for a casino to be built outside the tribal reservation. If you vote no, it will not.

I guess which side you take depends on whether you like having lots of casinos in the state of California. If you think casinos are good (or harmless, at any rate), vote yes. If you believe this sets a dangerous precedent of tribes being allowed to build casinos outside of their reservation (which it does) and lots of new casinos are not a good thing, vote no. I know what I am picking.

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