With the election just three days away, on Tuesday, November 8th, time is running out to make your choices on California's 17 statewide ballot measures. The California Secretary of State's official voter guide is available here. It's 224 pages, but a lot less daunting than that if you just read the summaries and arguments. I already voted early. Here are my quick takes on all of them:
Proposition 51 - School Bonds
I voted no. It's a good cause, but this method of financing the capital costs of building schools is problematic. Why not just tax ourselves to save up for new schools instead of borrowing money that we have to pay back with interest? Plus, no guarantee that the neediest districts will actually get the money.
Proposition 52 - Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program
I voted yes. It's a fee on hospitals that hospitals are actually supporting because it helps them get even more federal money than they pay out. Funds pay for health care for the poor and children.
Proposition 53 - Requires Voter Approval for Certain Bonds
I voted no. I believe in letting the legislature make some decisions. This seems like a way to kill off projects like High-Speed Rail and the Delta Tunnels.
Proposition 54 - Procedural Requirements for Bills
I voted no. It would require bills to be posted for 72 hours online before being voted on. I don't think it's necessary. Might make it harder to cut deals and make compromises to get things done. Would make it easier for lobbyists to pounce on bills they don't like.
Proposition 55 - Extension of Education Tax
I voted yes. Extends a tax on high-income earners to pay for schools. I support funding schools in an equitable way. I prefer taxes to borrowing money because taxes don't involve paying back money with interest.
Proposition 56 - Cigarette Tax
I voted yes. We should tax the crap out of cigarettes since they cause cancer, etc. Taxing cigarettes more will decrease smoking and raise funds to deal with the harms caused by smoking. Tax the problem to fund the solution.
Proposition 57 - Criminal Justice Reforms
I voted yes. This would allow non-violent inmates to be eligible to be considered for parole after they finish the time for their primary offense, let judges (not prosecutors) decide if a youth should be tried as an adult and expand the sentencing credits for participating in educational or rehabilitative programs in prison. We have huge racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Most people get out at some point, and we should give them an incentive to better themselves behind bars so they are less likely to re-offend. A Supreme Court ruling said our prisons are unconstitutionally overcrowded. This beats a judge randomly releasing inmates.
Proposition 58 - Allows Bilingual Education
I voted yes. This removes the ban on bilingual education in K-12 schools while preserving the requirement to learn English. The ban was a xenophobic act not supported by evidence on what makes for effective instruction. Allowing bilingual ed just works better at teaching certain kids content and English. We need to value linguistic diversity more too.
Proposition 59 - Citizens United Advisory Vote
I voted yes. This means I said the state should try to pass an amendment to the Federal Constitution to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections.
Proposition 60 - Porn Condom Requirements
I voted yes. This would require porn actors to wear condoms and increase the ability to sue productions that defy the law. A reasonable worker safety and public health measure.
Proposition 61 - Prescription Drug Purchasing Rules
I voted no. This would prohibit the State from paying more than what the Federal Veteran's Administration pays for drugs. Sounds good on the surface, but what if CA can't negotiate that price? It can't buy drugs and administer its programs, that's what! Also, could cause drug companies to charge the VA more, harming veterans.
Proposition 62 - Ends the Death Penalty
I voted yes. Killing people who are in prison and don't pose a threat to society is immoral in all cases, even if that person is the worst of the worst. If you kill someone, you can't take it back, even if you later find out they were innocent. The criminal justice system has too many racial disparities for killing prisoners to ever be a good idea. Not killing murderers affirms the principal that all life is precious, even the lives of people who have committed the most unspeakable acts. Life in prison is the moral high ground. It's just the right way to deal with these tragic situations.
Proposition 63 - Gun/Ammo Control
I voted yes. America is way too gun crazy. We should absolutely scrutinize people more who want to buy guns and ammo before they do so. It will make it harder to harm people with guns.
Proposition 64 - Legalizes Recreational Marijuana
I voted yes. We need to take a public health approach to drugs rather than a "war on drugs" approach. This would tax marijuana and use the money on things like youth anti-drug programs and traffic enforcement to cut down on dangerous driving. The war on drugs has been a war on people of color that has led to mass incarceration. Watch the movie 13th for more more on that. Let's tax this activity and use the money to deal with its problems. Adults should be free to choose to smoke pot if they do so responsibly, even though it is not a choice I would encourage anyone to make.
Proposition 65 - Use of Carryout Bag Fee Money
I voted no. See proposition 67 below, which is the important one. Prop 65 is sponsored by the plastic bag industry to confuse you. If the plastic bag ban (Prop 67) passes, Prop 65 would take away the money that grocery stores would collect for selling paper bags, turning the stores against the plastic bag ban.
Proposition 66 - Expedites Death Penalty
I voted no. I'm against the death penalty in all cases. Therefore, I don't want to speed up the death penalty and reduce the due process rights of people who are accused of murder or appealing their death sentences.
Proposition 67 - Plastic Bag Ban Referendum
I voted yes. The state passed a law banning single-use plastic bags from places like grocery stores and requiring a fee for single-use paper bags. The yes vote affirms that decision, which was challenged by the plastic bag industry. This will protect the environment by giving people an incentive to bring their own bags instead of creating unnecessary trash.