November 2016 California Propositions - in progress

My general rule is that initiative generated propositions should be viewed with a degree of skepticism as they are put onto the ballot by interest groups that gathered up enough signatures.

Ballot measures can also be placed by the California legislature. I view these with skepticism as well but at least in theory these measures are vetted by the staffs of the legislature and debated by the State Assembly and State Senate and voted onto the ballot.

This year there are 17 ballot measures of which 15 are initiatives.

Will march through the ballot measures in this blog post over the next week as I prepare to vote on November 8.

Prop 51 - $9 billion school bonds. Sounds good but usually bonds for schools come from the legislature. This is an initiative; thus, it has been questioned as perhaps unnecessary. The LA Times and Gov. Brown have come out against this.
No on Prop 51.

Prop 52 - Medi-Cal hospital fee extension. Orange County Register and San Diego Union-Tribune, two of the more conservative newspaper editorial boards in California, have come out in favor. Reason Foundation thinks the current situation is not good but that Prop 52 doesn't make it better. This fee is currently in use and the legislature has the option of extending it. This initiative would make it permanent.
Undecided on Prop 52. Leaning yes.

Prop 53 - Revenue bonds greater than $2 billion will need voter approval. According to the Official Voter Guide, currently, general obligation bonds require voter approval but revenue bonds do not. See this item for an explanation of the differences between the two bond type. The Voter Guide also says that currently most revenue bonds are less than $2 billion and would not be impacted by Prop 53. The initiative would raise the threshold for inflation each year. I like the general concept of voter approval of bonds since if the state is operating such a large project then the people should have a say. However, the $2 billion seems an arbitrary number though it would seem it is meant to put pressure on the high-speed rail and Sacramento Delta water projects. The conservative editorial board at OC Register agrees while conservative SDUT agrees in concept but feels this proposition is poorly constructed.
Yes on Prop 53.

Prop 54 - Post bills 72 hours before vote, record and post legislative proceedings on the internet. When liberal SF Chronicle and conservative OC Register agree on something, you have to consider it.
Yes on Prop 54.

Prop 55 - Extension of additional taxes on income over $250,000. Prop 30 passed in November 2012 established these rates with the provision they would expire in after 2018. This measure extends those rates to 2030. Prop 30 was passed amidst a massive fiscal crisis and was viewed as a temporary measure. Even liberal SF Chronicle is opposed.
No on Prop 55.

Prop 56 - raise tax on cigarettes to $2.87 a pack. Is $2/pack typical? Taxes on cigarettes vary from state-to-state. Currently, California's rate is in the lower half among the states. This rate change would place in the top-10 in the USA. Taxes on distilled alcohol and beer also show considerable variation state-to-state. Collecting some taxes on these kinds of items can deter their use and recover some revenue to help cover some of the social cost of these items. However, on the other hand, Reason Foundation offers some innovative arguments against this tax increase.
Undecided on Prop 56. Leaning no. 

Prop 57 - revise parole and sentencing procedures in certain cases. Sacramento Bee is in favor while San Diego UT is opposed. Criminal justice reform is an important issue but is this a good response? Reason Foundation points out pros and cons of prop 57.
Undecided on Prop 57. Leaning no.

Prop 58 - revises rules regarding bilingual English learning in schools. San Jose Mercury News says no while Orange Country Register says yes. Prop 227 passed in 1998 reduced the usage of bilingual English learning. This prop would reverse some aspects. Reason Foundation cites more local control as a plus to this proposition.
Undecided on Prop 58.

Prop 59 - this measure is an advisory to the state legislature encouraging them to reverse the Citizens United case. LA Daily News (conservative paper) and LA Times (liberal paper) is against it.
No on Prop 59.

Prop 60 - require condom use in adult film industry. Liberal SF Chronicle and conservative SDUT are opposed.
No on Prop 60.

Prop 61 - requires some agencies to negotiate drug prices based on the price offered to the VA. Sacramento Bee and Orange Country Register is opposed. Sac Bee says, "The initiative comes with too many uncertainties and not enough guarantees that things won’t get worse. We’re loath to admit the industry is right when it says this is an all-too-simplistic solution to a complicated issue."
No on Prop 61.

Prop 62 - ends the death penalty.
Prop 66 - modifies the existing death penalty provisions.
If one supports the death penalty one will vote no on 62, then decide whether prop 66 is a good revision or not. If one opposes the death penalty one will vote yes on prop 62 and no on prop 66. A handful of years ago, I was in the jury pool for a case where the prosecutor explicitly stated they would be seeking the death penalty. In the jury selection process it was pretty clear the respective lawyers were kicking potential jurors off the panel who made extreme statements about the death penalty. Some would say, we don't use it enough while others said no way no how should the state have the authority to take a life. Sitting through this process for two whole days - ultimately, like most in the jury pool, I was released from service - I had to seriously think about whether the death penalty is a viable punishment in our society. In theory, everyone convicted in a criminal case is found "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" by a jury of 12 people. In California, if a conviction is obtained, the trial shifts to the penalty phase where the case if made by the respective sides for/against imposing the death penalty. Again, the 12 jurors must agree that the death penalty should be imposed. Do juries get it right? Do the appeals process afterwards get it right? In some cases, people are later found not guilty of the crime. One study claims the figure to be ~ 4%. Whether that is an accurate number and true for every state in the USA, I don't know. But that figure gives pause. Can a case be made for the death penalty? In looking for opinions regarding these two propositions, I came across this item from a reporter at the Sacramento Bee. He made two points: (1) the low likelihood of mistakes and (2) media coverage of murder trials tend to diminish the horrifying nature of the crimes that were committed. Regarding the possibility of error: The argument that innocent people may be put to death is suspect in California. Gov. Jerry Brown, a death penalty opponent, said this in 2012 when he was asked by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders if he had considered appointing a commutation panel for death row inmates: “As attorney general, I think the representation was good. I think people have gotten exquisite due process in the state of California. ... To think that they’ve missed anything like they have in some other states, I have not seen any evidence of it. None.” And describing the issue of media coverage: Four years ago, I wrote a column about Michael Lyons, 8, of Yuba City, who was killed in 1996 by a convicted sex offender named Robert Boyd Rhoades. I was familiar with the Lyons case because I covered it as a reporter. In the column, I was as graphic as I could possibly be because I wanted readers to understand what that case was about as they considered Proposition 34, a 2012 ballot measure to repeal the death penalty (it eventually was rejected by voters). However, the most distressing details about the torture and killing of that young boy were removed from my column by my editors. I don’t blame them for doing it. There are and should be rules of public discourse. But what I know about the final hours of Michael Lyons’ life has given me nightmares for 20 years. I never met Michael, don’t know his family, but I’ve cried for that child more than once. Michael would be in his late 20s if he were alive today. But he’s not alive. His killer is, though. Rhoades is on death row at San Quentin. Lyons wasn’t Rhoades’ only victim. Twelve years before he killed Lyons, Rhoades murdered Julie Connell, 18, of San Leandro. [...........] You have to sit in a courtroom and listen to the evidence in these crimes – and to witness the anguish of family members of victims - to truly understand why the death penalty can be an appropriate punishment for the worst criminals among us. A yes vote on Proposition 66 will speed up the appeals process and clean up the protocols for dispensing lethal injections. If those two issues were addressed, death penalty cases would not take 25 years to resolve.
Undecided on prop 62 and 66.

Prop 63 - regulates ammunition purchases and other aspects of gun ownership. Sacramento Bee is in favor while Orange County Register is opposed. As pointed out by Reason Foundation, if it passes, it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts as a violation of the 2nd amendment.
Undecided on prop 63. Leaning no.

Prop 64 - legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. There are personal health risks and societal costs associated with smoking cigarettes and alcohol, however, they are legal but regulated. Marijuana use is likewise not without personal risk and society costs but the cost of current "prohibition" is high. The reality is that marijuana is slowly being legalized in various places in the USA and California is bound to do so in this election or in some future election. Proponents (like Reason Foundation) say it is time to legalize and regulate it and raise money from taxation of its sale thus removing it from the criminal markets.
Undecided on prop 64. Leaning yes. Leaning no. Depends on which day.

Prop 65 and Prop 67 - rival plastic bag bans. Those who think plastic bag bans are a bad idea will vote no on prop 65 and no on prop 67 as suggested by the LA Daily News. Those who support plastic bag bans will vote no on Prop 65 and yes on Prop 67 as explained by the San Jose Mercury News. How should plastic bags be viewed in context? LA Daily News offers this, "A 2014 study of plastic litter in the world’s oceans found that plastic fishing gear accounted for most of the problem. Plastic bags and plastic film, combined, accounted for less than 10 percent of plastic items, 0.8 percent by weight. It simply isn’t true that grocery bags are a major component of ocean litter. It makes more sense to clean up litter than to ban a useful product, but advocates of the bag ban want to communicate the message that we all have an impact on the environment and should reuse bags to generate less waste. The 10-cent fee for carryout bags, proponents of Prop. 67 told the editorial board, helps consumers “internalize” that message. The heavier plastic and paper bags are more costly to manufacture and transport than single-use plastic bags. They’re bulkier in landfills when discarded. Taking into account the energy and water used in manufacturing, the diesel fuel used in trucking, and greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental impact of the bag ban is, at best, a mixed bag."
Undecided on prop 65 and 67. Leaning no.

More to come later ......

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