What’s What on the California Propositions on June 8

The elections on June 8 will feature several ballot measures as well as the party primaries for U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and State constitutional and legislative offices, as well as County primary elections. Below is a rundown of the propositions.

Proposition 13 is an amendment to the original Proposition 13. It adds a tax reassessment exclusion to when seismic retrofitting is done to a building made with unreinforced masonry. The current rule allows only a 15 year exclusion. No formal argument was submitted against it in the official voter guide, but the California Nurses Association does endorse a “No” vote on the measure. However, groups like the CA Democratic Party support it as well as the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the OC Register.The fiscal impact from the loss of property tax revenue will be minor since:

Many county assessors, however, have indicated that they either: (1) do not track the number of years that unreinforced masonry upgrades have received an exclusion or (2) classify these upgrades as maintenance or repair. In addition, many properties sell before the 15-year period is up, which triggers a reassessment of the entire property.

Thus, the argument for the proposition is that the current law is an unnecessary disincentive for building owners to seismically retrofit their buildings.

More information about this proposition can be found here.

Proposition 14 creates open primaries. This means that in the primary a voter will receive a ballot with all candidates running for state office (presidential elections are not affected) including Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Green, etc. The top two candidates will move on to the general election. The primary argument for the proposition is that it will remove ideologues from the state legislature and increase the likelihood of moderate state legislators. Opponents counter that Washington and Louisiana instituted similar measures and the incumbency rate has hardly changed. Moreover, independents can already access Republican and Democratic ballots for the primaries for all state offices. The LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle support it along with numerous commercial and business organizations. Arnold Schwarzanegger is the most prominent supporter, and the primary contributor to the campaign is the CA Dream Team, a campaign committee closely tied with Schwarzenegger.

Additionally, opponents counter that it will increase campaign spending. The Center for Governmental Studies, a non-profit organization generally funded by left-leaning donors, states the proposition will increase spending since primary elections will be fought like general elections. However, they also state moderate candidates are more likely to get elected.

All of the state qualified parties including the Democratic and Republican Parties have come out against it saying it will restrict voter choice. Minor parties like the Libertarian or Green Party will be completely shut out of the general election. Because of this, the ACLU has endorses a “No” vote against the proposition citing its harm to the right for political parties to govern their own group.

More information on Proposition 14 can be found here.

Proposition 15 would lift the ban on public financing on campaigns meaning state legislators in the future could vote to finance their own campaigns later. Also, it sets up a test program that the Secretary of State Elections of 2014 and 2018 would be financed by $700 registration fees on lobbyists. Proponents argue it will make sure that candidates focus on the issues and avoid spending time fundraising from special interest groups. Opponents counter that candidates can use the money for other negative ads or junk mail, but more importantly, it opens the door for future public financing of campaigns. The CA Democratic Party supports the measure while opponents include the California Chamber of Commerce and California Fair Practices Political Commission.

More information on Proposition 15 can be found here.

Proposition 16 would require local governments to receive a 2/3 voter approval if they expand energy services or start up their own electricity services. Supporters claim that voters should be able to decide when the local government will be using taxpayer money. Opponents argue the measure will make it much more difficult for municipal governments to break away from the energy monopoly. Consequently, consumers will be charged higher rates from the Investor Owned Companies if there is no possibility of public utilities. The “Yes” campaign has been entirely funded ($34.5 million) by Pacific Gas & Electric because it will make it much more difficult for local governments to compete with the private companies. The California Chamber of Commerce and California Taxpayers Association support it while the CA Democratic Party opposes it.

More information on Proposition 16 can be found here.

Proposition 17 will allow insurance companies to give “continuous coverage” discounts to people who have not had a lapse of insurance for over 90 days nor missed a payment. Currently, insurance companies can give discounts to long-term customers, but if a customer switches companies they will lose that discount. Thus, the proposal will allow the new insurance company to give the customer a discount for having continuous insurance coverage. Proponents claim that this will reduce premiums for 80% of California drivers, and it will also encourage competition because customers can look for the best rate without being penalized. Opponents argue that it will result in penalties for millions of drivers who have had their insurance lapse for a period of time. Even if these drivers were perfect but were not driving for a period of time, they may receive a large surcharge from the insurance company. 98% of the funding for the campaign comes from Mercury Insurance, and it is supported by the California Chamber of Commerce and many other taxpayer and business organizations. The CA Democratic Party and the California Labor Federation oppose the proposition.

More information on Prop 17 can be found here.

  1 comment for “What’s What on the California Propositions on June 8

  1. lefty
    May 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Saad,

    Very nicely done summary – thank you.

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