We elect a state Legislature to govern the state. When they fail to address concerns, we wind up having to do the job ourselves, hence the plethora of propositions on the ballot.
Count them - 16 this Nov. 8.
It's bad enough that we are having to get things straight with the presidential race, or even who deserves our vote for Congress - Incumbent Jeff Denham or the beekeeper Democrat Michael Eggman, both of Turlock. Or you may be keenly interested in either passing or defeating Measure L with its half-cent additional sales tax for roads and other transportation needs in all of Stanislaus County.
Most people know how they're voting in those races but have no clue about the 16 statewide propositions. I'm going to weigh in on the propositions to give you food for thought:
• Proposition 51 approves the state sale of $9 billion in bonds for K-12 school and Community College construction and modernization. Both the state Republican and Democratic parties support this but bond financing is not ideal. The $9 billion will cost the state (you and I as taxpayers) $17.6 billion, costing the state $500 million per year in state general fund money. Can we ever get to the pay-as-you-go way of building schools? Gov. Brown is opposed to this one. When is enough debt enough?
• Proposition 52 would require voter approval to change the use of certain fees from hospitals used to draw matching federal money and fund Medi-Cal services. The initiative was also designed to require a two-thirds majority vote of the California Legislature to end the hospital fee program.
The federal Medicaid program helps pay for healthcare services provided to low-income patients. In California, it's called Medi-Cal. To receive Medicaid funds, the state has to contribute a matching amount of its own money. In 2009, a new program was created such that California hospitals were required to pay a fee to help California obtain the available federal Medicaid funds. This program has resulted in California hospitals receiving roughly $2 billion a year in additional federal money to Medi-Cal. However, California has diverted some of the funds from the hospital fee program to the state's general fund. Vote yes on 52 and end the state's raid.
• Proposition 53 requires voter approval for state megaprojects costing over $2 billion - billion not million - in state revenue bonds - like Jerry Brown's bullet train. If taxpayers have to pay, they should have a say!
• Proposition 54 prohibits the state Legislature from passing any bill unless it's been published on the internet for 72 hours before the vote. It also requires the Legislature to record its proceedings and post them on Internet. This could cost a one-time $1 million to $2 million and ongoing costs of about $1 million annually to record legislative meetings and make videos available on the Internet. Transparency improves but will people even bother to pay attention? It's doubtful.
• Proposition 55 continues plundering California's wealthy with taxes. Absolutely not. Vote no. I wrote about this on Sept. 28 in my column, "State's wealthy may flee California if Prop. 55 passes." This is nothing but a Democrat Party "continue-to-soak-the-rich-when-they-already-pay-more-than-their-fair-share-of-taxes" scheme. Prop. 55 is a horrible idea that will have horrible consequences. California already has draconian tax burdens and causing more jobs to leave the state will be devastating to places like the Central Valley, which is already suffering with higher unemployment and poverty rates.
• Proposition 56 increases the cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. I say heck no. I'm not a smoker but what's up with continuous pushing of sin taxes? Because they're easy targets. It's morally wrong for government to impose greater taxes for things for which they don't approve. Smokers already pay 87 cents per pack in cigarette tax, thanks to Meathead Rob Reiner. If this passes, it goes to $2.87 in tax per pack. Don't let them get away with this, no matter how great it sounds. I know you may vilify "Big Tobacco" but the tobacco companies won't pay this - the buyer of cigarettes will. It would be great if everybody stopped smoking but taxes are not the way to go. When will this state quit taxing the crap out of anyone and everyone?
• Proposition 57. Before I start this, double hell no! This allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Provides juvenile court judge decides whether juvenile will be prosecuted as adult. This would put more "non-violent" criminals in our neighborhoods and cost the county a few million dollars annually. So how is Jerry Brown's Post Release Community Supervision working for us? It's not. More thieves and drug dealers are breaking into our cars and homes. This is an insane proposal that would lead to the immediate release for 16,000 dangerous criminals, even convicted murderers.
• Proposition 58. Absolutely no! Do you remember Prop. 227 in 1998? It called for the elimination of bilingual education and immigrant students staged protests on the Ceres High campus and went over to Hatch Road to rattle on store windows. Prop. 227 passed because the schools were letting non-English speaking students to languish in Spanish-only classes, dooming them to a future without college education or access to better-paying jobs. The state should be working toward one language, English, for the obvious reasons. A great way to divide a country, or state, is to divide the language.
• Proposition 59. Vote no. Why?
A yes vote encourages elected officials to use their authority to overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, potentially through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court held (5-4) that Freedom of Speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations. Bernie Sanders and labor unions like this one.
• Proposition 60 requires condoms to be worn in porn films. Really? We need to weigh in on this one for a sleazy industry? Seems like a no-brainer until you read it. The California Democratic Party and Republican Party are opposed. State and federal laws already protect porn stars, who are routinely tested for sexually transmitted diseases. There's insufficient enforcement. This measure could undermine ongoing efforts by the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal-OSHA) to improve regulation of the industry. It also sets up one man - Michael Weinstein, CEO of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation - as the state's porn czar, even more powerful than our elected Attorney General.
• Proposition 61 sets new price standards for drugs paid by Medi-Cal and based on the drug prices negotiated between drug manufacturers and the U.S. Veterans Affairs. Seems like a good idea but anything Bernie Sanders supports must be viewed with a wary eye. Passage could mean three scenarios: 1). The drug industry may raise the price of drugs for the VA which would hurt veterans; 2). Drug manufacturers may refuse to offer the lowest VA prices to the state; 3). Manufacturers could extend the VA drug rate to the state but the savings could be lost if manufacturers raise the prices of other drugs paid for by the state but not purchased by the VA. The Prop. 61 "solution" to higher drug prices will likely backfire.
• Proposition 62 repeals the Death Penalty. Um, no. Voters rejected this ban in 2012 in Prop. 34. Here it comes again. Most people realize that the most heinous of criminals do deserve to forfeit their lives in the most humane way of executing a person, lethal injection. The death penalty can be a deterrent.
• Proposition 63. Background checks for ammo buyers? Really? We already make people undergo a background check for guns. Only Democrats support this ridiculous measure! This is just another step by state Democrats to continue pressing onerous restrictions on law-abiding citizens. If guns can be bought on the black market and make their way into the hands of thugs, what good is a background check for ammo buyers?
•Proposition 64 legalizes recreational marijuana. Just what California needs: more pot heads. An individual would be permitted, under a state license, to grow up to six plants within a private home, as long as the area is locked and not visible from a public place. Prop. 64 also would create two new excise taxes on marijuana. One would be a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation. The second would be a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Taxes would be adjusted for inflation starting in 2020. Where would the money go? Different places but $3 million annually for five years to the California Highway Patrol to develop protocols to determine whether a vehicle driver is impaired due to marijuana consumption. And starting out with $10 million for grants to local health departments and community-based nonprofits supporting "job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies." Doesn't that sound odd? Let's make pot legal while acknowledging that we need to throw millions of dollars at dealing with people who will be driving while high and becoming dysfunctional addicts because of it. Just what our already failing society needs. It's just a bad idea.
Of course, being liberal California this will pass.
• Proposition 65 is linked to competing measure Prop. 67 and affects plastic grocery bags. It would redirect money collected from the sale of carry-out bags by grocery or other retail stores to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board. While nobody thinks plastic bags are good for the environment - they fill a lot of dump sites - stealing the 10 cents per bag from the stores who pay for them to give to some conversation efforts seems like theft. Supporters of the plastic bag ban argue that the American Progressive Bag Alliance is backing Proposition 65 in an attempt to turn stores against the bag ban. The alliance is fighting Prop. 67.
• Proposition 66. Yes, yes, yes. A yes vote reforms death penalty procedures. It allows California to remain as one of 30 states where the death penalty is legal but it speeds up appeals by putting trial courts in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty convictions, establishing a time frame for review, and requiring appointed attorneys to work on death penalty cases. It also requires prisoners on Death Row to work while in prison and pay restitution to victims' families. The portion of wages to be provided as restitution would be increased to 70 percent. The measure is supported by a host of police associations, many district attorneys as well as two former Republican governors. The Democrats are on record as opposing the measure. Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
• Proposition 67. A yes vote outright bans the use of plastic and single-use paper bags in stores. But it does allow the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags. Like anyone, I want less trash going to landfills but is forcing everyone to pay 10 cents if they want a bag to carry out purchased goods an American thing to do? How about education first?
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.