Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nov. 2010 California proposition recommendations

(Update: results added, in purple. Will add exact numbers when available.)

Prop. 19. Legalizes marijuana for those 21 and older. Well, you’re either in favor of legalization or you aren’t, and if you consider marijuana more harmless than, say, tequila, and legalization a good way to bring revenue to state and local governments, redirect police and prison resources to real criminals, and strike at the power of the cartels and gangs, then Prop. 19 is a start. That said, implementation will be a mess, not only because pot will still be illegal at the federal level but also because Prop. 19 won’t really kill the illegal drug trade: people under 21 will still be buying, and the local governments that have put so many obstacles in the path of medical marijuana certainly won’t be more welcoming to recreational use, which means they either won’t permit commercial production and distribution or they’ll put such high taxes on it that people will continue going to the same old dealers.

The No ballot pamphlet argument suggests that 19 will increase car accidents because it sets no standards for determining when someone is driving under the influence of marijuana. Hey, district attorneys who wrote that argument, I’m pretty sure those would be exactly the same standards as we use right now.

Vote yes on 19, dudes, and stock up on some munchies.

Loses (54%), because the olds out-voted the yoots. It'll be interesting to see if this is one of those social issues that trends permissive over time, like gay marriage, or if people will always get wary of the demon weed when they get older.

Props. 20 & 27. Redistricting. Again. And we have competing “evil twin” props.

Prop. 20 would give the job of drawing Congressional districts to the citizens’ commission created by Prop. 11 in 2008. I was against that one at the time because it created an insanely convoluted system to select a bunch of anonymous, unaccountable individuals to perform one of the most vital tasks in our democracy and for having quotas based on political party, thus “enshrin[ing] the two parties at the heart of the redistricting process... trying to pre-determine the outcomes of elections.” Click here for my 2008 argument against Prop. 11, which applies doubly to this extension of its reach. The commission is still in the process of being selected by state auditors, using who knows what criteria, so it’s too early to say what sort of a job they’ll do, although we do know that most of the volunteers were white.

The requirement that districts not break up “communities of interest,” which is defined as “shared interests... common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities,” would ensure that this all winds up in the courts, since class-segregated Congressional districts arguably violate the 14th Amendment even if class didn’t function as a proxy for race, which it does.

No on 20.

Wins easily (61.5%).

Prop. 21. An $18 surcharge on non-commercial vehicles to support state parks and beaches; free admission to parks for the owners of those vehicles. On principle, I dislike hypothecated taxes, where a tax on one thing is dedicated to some unrelated purpose. The appropriate car tax and the appropriate budget for state parks are unrelated to each other and should be decided by – don’t laugh – the Legislature. Such decisions are kind of what they’re there for (in case you were wondering what they’re there for)(I know I was). Moreover, heavy users of the parks should not be subsidized, eliminating higher admission charges during peak times would create over-crowding, and state services should be supported by the progressive income tax so that the rich pay their fair share. Please lobby your legislators to do that, but vote no on 21.

Loses big time (57.8%). Not a good year to be asking voters to reach into their pockets.

Prop. 22 bans the state government “borrowing” money from local governments and transportation projects. The No argument suggests alarmingly that this would cause schools to close and then burn down because all the fire departments would be closed, or something like that, because the budget process is so messed up it can’t function without stealing from local governments. Fix the broken budget process; don’t bankrupt the cities. Yes on 22.

Yes, 60.8%.

Prop. 23 suspends air pollution and greenhouse gas laws when the state unemployment rate is over 5.5%. So Valero and Tesoro, the primary funders of this prop (which paid that young women who tried to get me to sign the petition for this prop by claiming it did the exact opposite), wants to close down its California refineries and import dirtier gasoline made in states with less stringent air pollution laws. It’s about the most greedy corporate-backed proposition I’ve seen since... that PG&E one in June. It would make pollution worse and do nothing to decrease unemployment. (Note to the Calif. secretary of state: the Yes argument shouldn’t have been allowed to use the false term “global warming tax.”) Vote No. And boycott Valero.

No, 61%. Valero et al thought they could convince people environmental regs cost them their jobs, the people just saw greedy polluters.

Prop. 24 changes the way large multi-state businesses are taxed, closing recently created loopholes. Yes.

Loses big, 58.5%. Voters see a confusing technical prop, they vote no on general principles.

Prop. 25 changes the current 2/3 vote required in the Legislature to pass a budget to a simple majority. But retains 2/3 for taxes, which I guess is the only way this thing could get passed, but which would therefore be only a partial fix for the broken budgetary system, leaving it hostage to a minority, which would still be encouraged in their obstructionism. Still, I would have supported it as a half-way measure, but they just had to add that childish faux-populist bit taking away the pay and travel & living expenses of every legislator each day the budget is late. That is precisely the same thing, morally speaking, as offering legislators a bribe in a brown paper bag in a parking garage: it is an economic incentive to vote a certain way. Any politician this would work on is not worthy of holding public office. It would put a coercive weapon in the hands of obstructionist wealthy legislators to use against any of their brethren who might actually need their pay. Do we really want to drive out of politics everyone who isn’t a multi-millionaire? I would love to change the 2/3 provision, but the pay-docking provision is a deal-breaker. No.

Yes, by a healthy margin (54.8%), which rather surprises me, especially with all the lying about it really being about raising taxes.

Prop. 26. State fees would require a 2/3 vote in the Legislature, and local ones would require 2/3 in a referendum. Evidently some people think California doesn’t have enough gridlock in the Legislature now, that the budget process runs just too smoothly, so let’s require a 2/3 vote to, for example, raise entrance fees at state parks or increase restaurant inspection fees to keep up with costs, and let’s require expensive local elections on charging fees to businesses that sell alcohol. Mostly, though, this is really about the fees paid by businesses to pay for, for example, cleaning up pollution or oil spills they cause (Chevron is the largest funder of the pro-26 campaign). Those businesses hope that if they yell TAX TAX TAX loud enough, voters will be scared that there’s a conspiracy to subject them to “hidden taxes” if 26 isn’t passed. No on 26, another step in making California completely ungovernable.

Yes, 52.6%. When they saw which way the wind was blowing on 23, the oil companies switched their money into promoting this one, with commercials that were at the very least deceptive. We'll come to regret this (while at the same time somehow absolving ourselves of all responsibility for having voted for it)

Prop. 27. Redistricting. If both 27 and 20 win, only the one with the most votes goes into effect. 27 repeals 2008’s Prop. 11, abolishing the citizens’ commission, making the Legislature again responsible for drawing up districts for all offices, and putting the maps up to the voters.

The authors decided to go all budget-populist and laughably call 27 the “Financial Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR!) Act,” focusing on 27’s least important provision, which restricts the money spent on the redistricting process to $2.5 million, which 1) saves a couple million dollars, big deal, 2) is too little for a fairly complex enterprise, 3) will be more than made up for by the cost of putting the maps on the ballot.

Okay, I hate the Prop. 11 citizens commission and want it killed, but I have some major problems with 27: 1) That $2.5m limit. 2) Districts are supposed to be contiguous and not divide cities or those darned “communities of interest” (here not defined at all), but are also supposed to contain precisely the same number of voters, literally deviating by no more than 1 voter, which is silly. 3) It’s pretty much up to the Legislature (I checked the prop’s language) whether there will be separate referenda for the congressional, state senate, assembly and board of equalization districts or whether it’ll be just one combined referendum. Since the referendum is the only check on gerrymandering by the Legislature, this is not a minor detail. 4) There is nothing in the prop about what happens if the voters reject a map. 5) I can’t tell when the referendum(s) are supposed to be held, but I’m assuming it would have to be in November 2011, a low-turnout off-year election, to be ready in time for 2012.

I’m conflicted. I would like the ill-conceived citizens’ commission abolished, but this is a pretty flawed alternative. On balance I’ll probably vote yes on 27, but I won’t be very happy about it.

No, 59.7%. No one trusts legislators to draw their own districts, and the whole thing felt like a sneaky trick.

Comments, questions, rebuttals, praise, ill-informed abuse, mockery of the California initiative process, and votes on which prop is the most cynical abuse of the process are welcome in comments.

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