Thursday, October 07, 2004

California proposition recommendations

Post-election, I'm adding the results, in this color. Numbers at the secretary of state's site.

I know everyone in California is just waiting for my opinions on the propositions before filling in their absentee ballots. (Everyone else can skip this post: by California standards it’s a remarkably un-wacky election, so find another state to point at and laugh, go away, nothing to see here).

I'd also recommend checking out the SF Bay Guardian's endorsements. And there's also the LA Weekly.

1A & 65 are both about the fiscal relationship between state and local governments, and are therefore important and very dull. Fortunately, 65 has been abandoned, and rightly so--it looks like a mess. 1A looks ok to me, mostly protecting local gov finances from more raids by the state and from unfunded mandates, but it’s supported by Governor Ahnuuld, so I’m suspicious and reserve the right to change my mind. (Later: and I have changed my mind, for the reasons the Bay Guardian sets out).
No on 1A & 65.
1A easily passed--Arnold supported it, 65 failed.

Proposition 59 — Guarantees the right of access to state and local government information.
Easily passed.

Proposition 60A — Requires that the proceeds from the sale of surplus state property be used to pay off bonded indebtedness.
It's bad budgeting practice to dedicate a revenue source to a completely unrelated purpose. No.

Proposition 61 — A $750-million bond issue for constructing, expanding and equipping children’s hospitals.
I’m opposed to bonds on philosophical as well as fiscal grounds. They’re an expensive way of funding something, they
re regressive in that they provide their purchasers an undeserved tax deduction, and place tax obligations on future citizens to pay them off--taxation without representation. No.

60 & 62 are evil-twin initiatives and have to be considered together. If both pass, the one that passes with fewest votes won’t be enacted. These are yet more attempts to “reform” primaries. Primaries are in an odd position, constitutionally speaking: they’re slightly less official than other elections because you’re voting to fill a position not in government, but in a political party, which is essentially a voluntary association. The party hacks reminded us of this when they refused to accept two previous initiatives in favor of open primaries, but they still wanted the taxpayers to pay for primaries. After the last round of reapportionment, districts in California (and most of the country) are so solidly partisan that the primary is the only election that matters, which favors ideologues rather than centrists, and leaves you with a choice of whack-jobs in November. And choice is not the word, since there isn't a single competitive race for the US House of Reps in all of California this election. Prop. 62 is an answer to that problem, but not the right answer. It would have a non-partisan (yeah, right) primary, with the 2 top vote-getters facing each other in November. In practice you’d still wind up with a D and an R, with rare exceptions--but no Green, Libertarian, Peace & Freedom. Even if you don’t vote for candidates in those parties, don’t you feel better about the democratic process just knowing they’re there? In my case, I have a little litmus test that I apply to voting for offices (governor, lite governor, attorney general, judges) that might have something to do with death penalty decisions: I am against the death penalty and feel morally obligated not to vote for supporters of it in those positions. I don't consider that unreasonable. In 20 years of voting in this state, I have never been able to vote for a Democrat for any of those offices applying that standard. Without third-party options, I won't vote. A choice of 2 is no choice. There are better ways to deal with the problems 62 addresses: 1) reform the redistricting process to create more competitive races; 2) if the worry is that a third-party candidate will act as a spoiler, change the November elections, adding, for example, an instant-check-off system. 62 pretends to remove political parties from the election process, but as long as candidates require money and lots of it in order to be viable, the parties will always sneak back in. Prop. 60 enshrines the status quo in which all parties make it onto the final ballot; it is a fairly cynical ploy to preserve party power, but (sigh) vote for it, and against 62.
To my surprise and great relief, that's just what happened, even with the governor's meaty finger on the scales.

Proposition 63 — Levies an additional 1% tax on the income of millionaires to finance expanded mental health services.
Ignore what I said re Prop 60A about bad budgeting. Increasing mental health funding is good, increasing progressivity in taxation is good, so what the hell. Yes.

Proposition 64 — Limits an individual’s right to sue under unfair business competition laws to situations in which the individual has suffered actual injury or financial loss because of an unfair practice.
There are definitely cases of lawyers using threats of these lawsuits to blackmail small businesses. Reform is needed. This isn’t it. It would leave enforcement of laws against unfair business practices to the government, which can’t be trusted with it (but has nothing to do with environmental laws, public health, etc as the fear-mongers who wrote the no argument claim. I wish someone would enforce a minimum standard of honesty in these arguments; it’s especially annoying when the legitimate arguments are lost behind the alarmist rhetoric). No on 64.
Yes. Everyone hates a lawsuit.

Proposition 66 — Amends the three-strikes law to require that a crime be a violent or serious felony in order to qualify as a strike and imposes more severe penalties for sexual crimes against children.
The Jean Valjean protection initiative. You have to love how they threw in the sexual crimes against children thing as red meat to balance out the part making 3 Strikes more rational (but not actually rational; that would be too...rational). Some of this would be enacted retroactively, but nowhere near as many people would be released as the No people in the pamphlet, or indeed the governor, have been shamelessly claiming. And while the opposition talk about rapists and murderers being released, by definition anybody affected will have served their time for those crimes and only be in prison now for a non-violent crime. Yes on 66.
No, the public fell for the lies. At least we'll be safe from pizza thieves.

Proposition 67 — Adds a 3% surcharge on telephone usage to provide additional money for hospital emergency services and training.
Ignore what I said about ignoring what I said about bad budgeting. Telephone calls have nothing to do with ERs. No.

Proposition 68 — Requires Indian tribes that own casinos to contribute 25% of their slot machine revenue to state and local governments. If they refuse, 11 card rooms and five horse-racing tracks would gain the right to install 30,000 slots and would pay 33%, or roughly $1 billion a year, primarily to local government.
This is a first, I believe: blackmail enshrined in a proposition. Call this the “You sure got a nice casino, it would sure be a shame if something was to happen to it” initiative. No.
No on both gambling initiatives. I can't tell if we hate gambling, or just Indians.

Proposition 69 — Requires felons to provide a sample of their DNA for storage in a law enforcement database, and authorizes local authorities to take such specimens from individuals arrested on suspicion of rape or murder.
Creepy. It’s even retroactive, applies to some non-felons, to juveniles... DNA tells many things about you that you may not want the government to know, and as the human genome is deciphered, the amount of info will increase. No on 69.

Proposition 70 — Grants Indian tribes unlimited casino expansion rights on their land. In return, the tribes would pay the state 8.84% of their net profit.
Unlimited? I think not.

Proposition 71 — Establishes a constitutional right to perform stem-cell research. Authorizes a bond issue of up to $3 billion to finance such research.
Gesture politics at its most gesturey. It will be federal legislation that decides this thing. I like a good gesture as much as the next lefty, but there’s that bond thing, not only because I oppose them philosophically, but because medical research should not be funded by this sort of popularity contest. Including for-profit medical research, I might add--the LA Times says venture capitalists have put up $10 million in support of 71. My advice: don’t vote against it, but don’t vote for it either.
Yes, by nearly 60%.

Proposition 72 — Requires employers to provide healthcare insurance for uninsured workers.
Yes, of course.
No, the fear-mongering about jobs leaving the state worked, paid for mostly by Wal-Mart and the restaurant lobby, which are obviously businesses that can't leave the state. The consolation is that Schwarzenegger will not be able to eat in a restaurant without having his food spit in by the staff.

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