Tuesday, September 26, 2000

California ballot

OK, I'm willing to read arguments that disagree over the effects a ballot initiative will have, but I am not willing to read arguments in the official ballot that lie about the actual details of the initiatives. I complained about that last time, and it's at least as bad now. Most egregiously, the argument against Prop 36, which would decriminalize drug use, says that this would apply to date-rape drugs. It clearly would not (I checked the actual bill). More amusingly, the statements for 32, veterans' home bonds, squabble over whether George W. Bush would qualify with his Air National Guard service.

I also want my own measure next time: for every ballot initiative, you get to vote yes, no, or who gives a damn. If who gives a damn wins (and I refer you to Prop 35, on Public Works Projects. Use of Private Contractors for Engineering and Architectural Services), then every member of the California Legislature gets their salary docked $20,000 for making us do their job for them.

So, the initiatives:

32, vets' bonds. No, as for all bonds (although these are paid back by the veterans themselves, so the principle is less vital here).

33 would allow members of the Legislature to participate in the
retirement system for state employees. Yes, of course. Incidentally, I invite you to read the text of the actual initiative, which actually corrects the grammar of the original law.

34 is the weakest, most pathetic campaign spending limits initiative I have ever seen, ostensibly in order to make it through the courts, but I assume mostly to gut the previous initiatives. And this one won't, or shouldn't, make it through the courts either, since it makes access to the ballot pamphlet conditional on keeping to voluntary spending limits. If you want to see the most cynical arguments ever against campaign finance reform, read the arguments on this one. "No money, no
information" indeed.

35, the afore-mentioned public works projects privatization measure. I have no idea about the merits of this, but I think it's a safe assumption that if someone spent enough money to get this thing on the ballot, it's automatically a bad idea.

36, drug treatment and probation instead of jail for possession of drugs for personal, repeat personal, use. Do you have to ask?

37 redefines certain fees as taxes, requiring a 2/3 vote of Legislature or local voters. Evidently if we don't for this, we'll pay fees on our movie tickets to pay for parks and recreation programs. It must be true, it says so right here in the voter pamphlet. This is the most blatantly pro-big business document I've seen since the Republican platform. No.

38 school vouchers. No no no. And no.

39 would reduce from 2/3 to 55% the vote required to raise property taxes to pay for school bonds, and to authorize the bonds themselves. This is sort of a tough one. Bonds are undemocratic, so are super-majorities, but 55% is just silly and a bit sneaky. It feels like a classic Clinton compromise, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell: it reduces iniquities on paper while retaining something that's bad in principle. The one thing I like about this one is that those votes would have to be during regular elections. I'm tired of those special elections that
cost a lot of money and at which only parents vote.

And that's it. Isn't it nice not to be voting on a new death penalty provision?

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