California Ballot Initiatives 2016

With the American presidential elections on the horizon many Californians have been so focused on that race that they have not researched the various ballot initiatives.  These ballot initiatives will have profound impacts on California’s future and so are worth researching in depth.  This voter guide will give you a high-level overview of what’s on the ballot and how the measure will impact California’s future.

If the ideas here make sense to you, please also consider joining our mailing list and changing your registration to CNP.  We are building a genuine grassroots progressive party and we need your help to succeed!

Proposition 51 (School funding, California wide)
CNP Recommendation: Tentative Yes.

Issuing bonds is one of the worst possible ways to fund schools – it offers an unsustainable lump sum of money where long-term investment is needed, it creates debt, and once interest is factored in the banks get more money than the schools.  It’s a terrible deal any way you look at it.

For an idea of just how expensive the interest on these bonds gets, check out Ellen Brown’s article “How California Can Save $10 Billion on a $9 Billion Loan”.  Her proposal for a State-owned bank that would handle all the financing for bonds and offer the Government at-cost interest rates on public debt bears more than a passing resemblance to our Platform’s proposal for a Californian National Credit Union.

Aside from the cost of compound interest, Bonds are not ideal to fund schools because by definition the money is not sustainable.  California would be far better off to demand the Federal government stop wasting ~$100 billion a year of our money on subsidizing midwestern corn, paying to bomb countries that are no threat to us, and massive corporate welfare.  If we were getting a fair deal from the United States we wouldn’t need to fund our schools with Bonds!

Unfortunately, our schools are in bad shape and they need money now.  It’s far from ideal and we would much rather see the share of the general budget that’s spent on schools increase permanently; but if Sacramento is so broken that we can’t manage to fund our schools and the alternative is sacrificing the quality of our kid’s education, then maybe Bonds are the least bad option.

Proposition 52: Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
CNP Recommendation: Strong No

This initiative ties the legislature’s hands requiring a supermajority in both houses to make changes to the fee. It also eliminates the CA government’s ability to divert funds to pay for programs not covered by medical such as healthcare funding for low-income children.  For years now the Republican minority has held our state budgets hostage with the requirement of supermajorities.  This initiative would extend that gridlock even further.  We strongly oppose it.

Proposition 53 (Revenue Bonds require Statewide Voter Approval)
CNP Recommendation: No

This initiative requires a popular vote before the state can pass any bonds that would pay for infrastructure or services.  California desperately needs to invest in infrastructure and this measure would make it harder to pay for it.

Yes, there are better ways to fund things and no we don’t particularly like Bonds. It’s worth remembering that if California did not lose ~$100 Billion a year in taxes wasted by DC, this would not even be an issue!  Unfortunately, as long as DC continues to rob California blind at every opportunity, we are going to be forced to take out bonds to pay for critical infrastructure.  It’s not pretty and it’s not fair, but we have to keep our nation running with the tools we have available.

Proposition 54: Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
CNP Recommendation: Strong Yes

We are in favor of all efforts to increase transparency and accountability in government.

Proposition 55: Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
CNP Recommendation: Strong Yes

In our discussion of Prop 51 we mention that we need sustainable funding for our schools instead of endless Bonds.  This initiative provides exactly that sort of funding.  There is a reason why teachers, nurses, and so many others are strongly supporting this initiative and we agree with them.

Proposition 56: Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
CNP Recommendation: No Endorsement

Majority opinion: We dislike sin taxes on principle.  Smoking is a unhealthy and addictive and we despise the tobacco industry, but taxes like this disproportionately impact low-income people and are a regressive means for the majority to impose their values on the minority.  People have the right to do things that are bad for them as long as others aren’t harmed, and that includes smoking.

Minority opinion: Taxes on Cigarettes reduce the number of people who smoke them, which in turn saves lives.  Secondhand smoke inflicted on children and others also has significant negative impacts.  Anything that reduces the number of smokers is a good thing.

Proposition 57: Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
CNP Recommendation: Strong Support

This initiative will reduce Prison crowding and save California a huge amount of money by getting people who committed nonviolent offenses as juveniles out of the system.  There is a lot of other work to be done to help those folks reintegrate, gain job skills, and become productive members of society; but this initiative is an essential part of the puzzle.

Proposition 58: English Proficiency. Multilingual Education. Initiative Statute.
CNP Recommendation: Strong Support

The CNP strongly supports multilingual education and in fact our Education platform calls for making multilingual education standard for all students.

Proposition 59: Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections. Legislative Advisory
CNP Recommendation: Strong Support

This is a symbolic measure calling for the overturn of the US Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in the Citizens United case which granted Corporations – not the human employees of the corporation but the Corporation itself –  a huge range of “free speech” protections.

We unambiguously support Free Speech for actual humans, but in practice Free Speech for Corporations means businesses can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections.  That is undemocratic and deeply problematic.  This ballot initiative is one of many similar efforts across the US.  California should lead the way here and say yes to prop 59 and no to unlimited corporate money in our elections.

Proposition 60: Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements. 
CNP Recommendation: Oppose

Porn actors don’t have sex the way most people do – they go for hours at a time.  There have been a number of studies that showed that condoms do not hold up well under the sort of intense long-haul sessions and that in fact the increased abrasions caused by latex friction can actually increase the risk of transmission for certain STD’s – notably HIV – and the micro-tears in latex condoms render them ineffective.  In other words, the peculiar circumstances of the porn industry means that this seemingly common-sense measure will not achieve the stated goal.

There is also the difficulty in enforcing these rules since the internet allows people to simply relocate to another State – when LA passed a local ballot initiative with these requirements the entire industry relocated to San Bernadino.  Adult media is a significant industry in California at almost $38 billion in annual revenue.  While some people may not like it on moral grounds, driving it out of the State does nothing to help the workers and harms our economy.  In short, this law is unenforceable and does not solve the problem it claims to solve.

Proposition 61: State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. 
CNP Recommendation: Yes, with reservations.

This initiative is a sort of ‘hack’ designed to get prescription drug prices under control by pegging them to the prices paid by the VA, which buys in bulk and thus has leverage to negotiate better prices.  The thing is, this initiative also means that the drug companies would have a strong incentive to bargain much more aggressively with the VA, raise prices for veterans, and undo most of the good that this initiative was supposed to accomplish.

Unfortunately, we cannot afford to wait for the perfect solution to come along – high drug prices are a crisis among poor and working class Californians, millions of whom can’t afford to get their prescriptions filled even when they can afford a visit to the doctor.  We believe that the only real solution is a national Californian health plan that would cover everyone, based on the French model where not-for-profit private entities compete in an open marketplace but the State pays the bill and regulates prices.  As a result of this system, France pays far less per person for healthcare than the United States and has the best health care in the industrialized world.

Unfortunately, people are dying right now in California because they cannot afford their prescriptions so even if the reduction in costs is slight, it’s still worth voting for this initiative.  It won’t fix the problem, but it will save lives in the meantime.

Proposition 62: End Death Penalty
Proposition 66: Keep Death Penalty and limit appeals
CNP Recommendation: Support 62, Strongly Oppose 66

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that has the Death Penalty.  The data clearly shows that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent and systematic racial and class biases in the American justice system make it very difficult to have faith that the death penalty won’t result in innocent people being killed.

In addition, the limits on appeals proposed by 66 are almost certainly unconstitutional and will definitely result in a lengthy and expensive court battle that Californian taxpayers should not have to pay for.

Proposition 63: Firearms. Ammunition Sales. Initiative Statute.
CNP Recommendation: No endorsement

We believe that laws around gun ownership should be decided at the County level since urban and rural areas in California have such radically different needs and values.

Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization
CNP Recommendation: Strong support

This initiative isn’t perfect, for example there are plenty of things to dislike about how the money from taxation is going to be spent.  The thing is, Marijuana legalization is a big enough issue that it’s worth voting for an imperfect bill.  Marijuana cultivation is a major industry in California and full legalization is essential to bring it out of the shadows.  Hemp cultivation could also potentially be a boon for many Californian industries, but as long as marijuana is illegal industrial hemp cultivation is also impossible.

America’s War On Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster for everyone who isn’t a shareholder in a private prison corporation.  Criminalizing marijuana has destroyed countless lives.  We support full and immediate legalization.

Proposition 65: Charge for single-use plastic bags
Proposition 67:  Ban single-use plastic bags
CNP Recommendation: Oppose 65, support 67

Plastic bags in our oceans kill uncounted numbers of fish and other marine life every day and as it breaks down the microscopic particles make their way through the entire food chain.  They are a major hazard to the entire ecosystem – humans included.  As a coastal nation, California is better positioned than our neighbors to the east to lead the way here.

Adding charges for plastic bags, as 65 proposes, is a gimmicky sin tax that doesn’t significantly reduce usage.  Prop 67’s approach – banning them outright – is far better.

Translate »