Friday, January 04, 2008

February 2008 California proposition recommendations

Looking for June 2010 proposition recommendations? Click

Update: Official election results here, and added below in purple (figures subject to some change when all the absentee ballots are counted).

Prop. 91. Transportation funds. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the pamphlet “Yes” argument actually ask you to vote No. And there is no “No” argument, because this whole issue was already settled by Prop 1A in 2006 and shouldn’t be on the ballot at all. I have no idea what would happen if 91 actually passed. You could vote yes just to be ornery, but I say just skip it. Lost 42-58.

Prop. 92. Community college fees. Limiting fees is good, and would help return community colleges to their function as places of continuing lifetime education, learning for the sake of learning, as well as the vocational functions which are important but are currently over-stressed (including in the Yes argument). But then, fees should also be limited for the UC and Cal State systems as well, with much more predictability (and community college fees here are quite low compared to most other states, unlike those of UC and Cal State). Where 92 becomes completely unacceptable is in letting the voters of 2008 set budget priorities far into the future, as if Californians 5 or 10 or 15 years from now can’t be trusted to understand the value of education as well as we can. In a democracy, setting priorities is the job of the democratically elected legislature. So while I’d like to see fees rolled back, this is not the way to do it. No. No, 57-43.

Prop. 93. Term limits. This alters the 1990 term limits initiative, which limited candidates to serving 6 years in Assembly and 8 in the State Senate, which has resulted in some candidates scrambling to get themselves elected to the other house, to a limit of 12 years all told in either or both house, with current members allowed 12 years in their current house even if they previously served in the other one. So instead of 14 years, they will get somewhere between 12 and 20 years. Hidden in all those details is an interesting change in the principle of term limits: the 1990 version was focused on the seats, ensuring that they turned over every 6 or 8 years, while the 2008 one is focused on the politicians themselves.

Term limits are undemocratic, based on the assumption that voters cannot be trusted. And 17 years of this experiment haven’t brought any improvements to the legislative process or made legislators more responsive to their constituents. So I resent having a choice only between two forms of term limits. This one is probably better than the 1990 version in eliminating the intriguing and plotting of termed-out legislators trying to get into the other house, so I will probably vote yes, but if you want to vote no because you feel the exemption which incumbents are trying to give themselves doesn’t pass the smell test, I wouldn’t argue with you. Despite a late endorsement by Schwarzenegger, this loses 53.6% to 46.4, probably due to the self-serving exemptions, although it may also have created suspicions by being too complex.

Props 94-97. Ratifying Schwarzenegger deals with four Indian tribes in Southern California to increase the scale of their casino operations – a lot – while increasing the share of their revenue to the state.

The ballot arguments leave some questions unanswered: Can California really keep that many slot machines running non-stop? How many of them would have themes from Schwarzenegger movies? “I’ll be back... once I’ve withdrawn all the money from my children’s college accounts.” If we agree to let the state legislators stay in office until the last ounce of flesh has rotted off their skeletons, would they agree to stop wasting our time with crap like this? Except that we know we can’t trust them with an issue where so much money is involved, in the form of campaign contributions, freebies, and “free” money for the budget. We can see this in the way that protections for workers disappeared from the compacts. This suggests that the state won’t properly oversee the labor and environmental provisions (and the tribes are exempt from many federal and state laws, free to regulate themselves). I’d also have wanted provisions restricting advertising.

These measure give favorable advantages to just four of the state’s 108 Indian tribes, small ones at that, and those tribes are already beginning to fraudulently purge tribal members so they can divide the windfall among fewer people. No. All win with just under 56%, from a combination of endless commercials with sad-eyed Indians and greed for free money to fill the budget short-fall.

Comments and rebuttals welcome.

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