The election is less than three weeks away, and it's that time again. Here are my ballot recommendations for the November 2016 general election, California edition.
Ordinarily, this would be more complex. But this is no ordinary election. This year, I will be voting a straight Democratic ticket, and recommend you do so as well. Why? Because we need to ensure a Democratic Senate that will take action on judicial nominees and others. The Republicans have proven themselves to be the party of obstruction above all, and I'm tired of it. Vote the bastards out.
Note: Ballot proposition numbering in California runs in twenty-year cycles, to avoid confusing current propositions with prior ballot propositions. This year's propositions begin with Proposition 51.
Proposition 51 - School Bonds - NO
Everybody loves schools, right? The problem is paying for them. California already has billions of dollars in educational bond debt payments every year, and this adds another half-billion a year to pay back. Governor Jerry Brown opposes this measure, and so do I. I recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 52 - Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - YES
Ordinarily, I am opposed to state constitutional amendments via initiative. The California state constutition is already an almost-unworkable mess of amendments. However, there are exceptions, and this year there are some worthy ones, including this one. A yes vote will extend a current program that provides $3 billion in federal funding annually with no cost to California taxpayers, and prohibits the Legislature from diverting this funding to other uses. I recommend a YES vote.
Proposition 53 - Revenue Bonds - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - NO
At a time when California faces the need to upgrade an aging infrastructure, this would require voter approval for state projects that use more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Might sound good at first, but in a state prone to earthquakes, there's no exemption for natural disasters or emergencies, and ballot propositions and initiatives are a lousy way to make decisions on this kind of thing, let alone policy. I recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 54 - Legislature - Legislation and Proceedings - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - NO
This bill adds a host of requirements that must be met before the Legislature can vote on a bill, adding needless delays to an already-slow system. It claims to promote openness, yet all bills can currently be viewed online by anyone. It eliminates the ban on use of legislative proceedings in political campaign ads, and is being entirely bankrolled by a billionaire with a history of contributing to right-wing candidates and opposing things like an increased minimum wage and education funding. By their friends, ye shall know them. I recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 55 - Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - YES
This is an easy one. Prop. 55 extends for another twelve years a previously-approved temporary increase in income tax on earnings over $250,000 for single filers, and over $500,000 for joint filers. It allocates this revenue to schools, community colleges, and healthcare. It allows a previously-approved temporary sales tax increase to expire. I recommend a YES vote.
Proposition 56 - Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement - Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute - NO
As much as I hate smoking and second-hand smoke, I'm also not a big fan of "tax the minority." If every smoker voted no, they'd still get hit with more tax, and that doesn't sit right with me. It will probably pass, but not with my help. I recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 57 - Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing - Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute - YES
This allows parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies, and authorizes the Department of Corrections to award sentence credits for good behavior, educational achievements, or rehabilitation. It will save millions by keeping the violent felons locked up, but not filling up the prisons with nonviolent offenders. We put too many people in prison already. I recommend a YES vote.
Proposition 58 - English Proficiency - Multilingual Education - Initiative Statute - YES
This proposition removes some outdated requirements that restrict the methods that can be used in bilingual education. I recommend a YES vote.
Proposition 59 - Corporations - Political Spending - Federal Constitutional Protections - Legislative Advisory Question - YES
This is a non-binding advisory measure that would recommend that California's elected officials should propose and ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that overturns the Citizens United ruling. If you believe that corporations aren't people, you should vote YES, as I intend to.
Proposition 60 - Adult Films - Condoms - Health Requirements - Initiative Statute - NO
Yes, we actually have to vote on an initiative that would mandate the use of condoms in porn. It's a badly-written measure that has managed to do the unthinkable--garner the opposition of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. That's right, it's so badly written it brought Republicans and Democrats together. Whatever you think about porn, condoms, or sex, I recommend a NO vote, and can't believe I really have to vote on this crap.
Proposition 61 - State Prescription Drug Purchases - Pricing Standards - Initiative Statute - NO
This would prohibit the state from buying any prescription drug at a price higher than the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, except where required by federal law. The crazy thing is that it exempts a huge portion of the state's Medi-Cal (Medicaid) program, and does nothing for those with private health insurance, or those on Medicare--as much as 88% of the population all told. So why do it? And I can't shake the nagging feeling that this is also economic idiocy. We all want lower drug prices, but this seems like a bad way to do it. I recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 62 - Death Penalty - Initiative Statute - YES
This would ban the use of capital punishment in California. I'm a firm believer that the death penalty is barbaric and costs a ridiculous amount of money, to the extent that life imprisonment is actually cheaper. Stop the insanity and help us join the rest of the civilized world in abolishing capital punishment. I recommend a YES vote.
Proposition 63 - Firearms - Ammunition Sales - Initiative Statute - YES
Prop. 63 would require individuals to pass a background check and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. It also puts restrictions on possession of large-capacity magazines, regulates their disposal, requires that lost/stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement, prohibits those convicted of stealing firearms from possessing firearms, and places those persons in the national criminal background check system. Screw the NRA, and vote YES.
Proposition 64 - Marijuana Legalization - Initiative Statute - YES
This is it--the ballot measure that legalizes marijuana. I'm no fan of pot. I hate the smell and I generally don't enjoy the feeling of being high on anything--I don't even drink. But our current drug laws clearly aren't working, or else the drug war would be over by now. All we've managed to do is put a lot of people in prison, mostly young black men. It's stupid. Let's stop doing the same stupid thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Vote YES on Prop. 64.
Proposition 65 - Carryout Bags - Charges - Initiative Statute - NO
Read carefully: "Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through sale of carryout bags, whenever any state law bans free distribution of a particular kind of carryout bag and mandates the sale of any other kind of carryout bag." This was placed on the ballot by a group of plastic bag companies to make sure that if plastic bags are banned, the grocery stores won't make any money from selling reusable bags. Basically, it's the plastic bag industry having a hissy fit because several localities banned single-use plastic bags, and they're pissed that we might just do it statewide. Screw 'em. Vote NO.
Proposition 66 - Death Penalty Procedures - Initiative Statute - NO
This is more suited to Texas, or maybe China, than California. It would shorten the time death penalty challenges take, ensuring that the state could execute more people more quickly. It would increase the likelihood of an innocent person being put to death. The death penalty is barbaric, and needs to be ended, not made more efficient. I wholeheartedly recommend a NO vote.
Proposition 67 - Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags - Referendum - YES
This would prohibit grocery and certain other retail stores from providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. It would permit the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags at a minimum price of 10 cents per bag. Plastic bags are a plague that harms wildlife and increases litter. Meanwhile, people in other locations and countries have been happily using reusable bags for years--just ask a European. I recommend a YES vote.