Sunday, October 10, 2010

CA Ballot Measures

Greetings California Friends,

Below are my recommendations regarding the upcoming Proposition initiatives. I leave the elected offices to you - as I'm sure many folks have minds already made up and what I say here won't change that. I intend these to be as objective as possible. Whatever you decide, please go out and vote! (Also, as always, if you don't wish to receive these updates, please don't hesitate to let me know):

Proposition 19 - Legalization of Marijuana. NO. I'd vote for this legislation, but there is one hugely problematic word in it. The bill, as written, limits employers' ability to manage a drug free workplace. Here's the language: "No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301. Provided, however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance shall not be affected" [emphasis mine]. An employer shouldn't have to wait to determine whether smoking pot actually impairs job performance [emphasis mine]. In effect, this would create a civil right around pot. The argument made by MADD makes sense to me - do we have to wait for a school bus driver or a truck driver to crash to determine actuality? This is rife with possibilities for litigation, and can create all sorts of issues for employers. In my view, the concept of the bill is good, but the execution is bad.

Proposition 20 - Congressional Redistricting. NO. Again, a bill with good intentions, which would take the process of gerrymandering out of the hands of elected officials and into an independent commission. However, if you check out the language, the commission is required to keep a "community of interest" together - which at first blush sounds great. Except that part of what expressly defines a community of interest is "a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests". Examples of such are "areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process." The whole text of the language is on page 96, section (4) of the Official Voters Guide - I encourage you to look at it. I support reforming the redistricting process - but the language troubles me in that it can be construed to expressly require an unelected body to carve up districts by racial or ethnic makeup and income.

Proposition 21 - Vehicle license surcharge - NO. This imposes a car tax and then specifically allocates it for a single purpose. This is governing and budgeting at the ballot box, which I oppose (and why I support Prop 25 later).

Proposition 22 - State & Local Funds - NO. We are being asked to make decisions about how the state and cities manage funds; if we're going to do this, why elect a legislature? I must admit I don't have any sense of why voters are being asked to approve this measure. IMHO, the Legislature should have flexibility to manage its budget to react to differing situations - good or bad. Part of California's problem is that much of the state's budget is locked up already by ballot measures - this would just exacerbate the problem.

Proposition 23 - Suspends Air Pollution Control Law - NO. The state assembly passed a bill in 2006 in an attempt to limit air pollution. We are being asked to suspend this legislation. Rather than via ballot initiative, this is an issue to be dealt with by the Legislature. A state can't effectively govern if ballot initiatives continually torpedo one of the few compromises and solutions developed by the Legislature.

Proposition 24 - Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks - NO. Again, the voters are being asked to determine tax policy. This time it is to overturn a law passed in 2008 whereby certain tax breaks take effect this year. While you may or may not agree with this policy, the fact is that the Legislature created a budget compromise and we are being asked to change it. Same issue as Prop 23; I suspect many might agree with my stance on Prop 23, but the same principle applies for Prop 24.

Proposition 25 - Lowers requirement to pass a budget from 2/3 to simple majority. YES. Current law requires a 2/3 majority to pass a budget. This would reduce it to a simple majority, while keeping the voting requirement to raise taxes at a 2/3 supermajority. In other words, the budget can pass with just a majority, but if the budget raises taxes, then a 2/3 vote is still required. This seems like a fair compromise. And frankly, it wouldn't pass without the tax exemption. Also, this is why I am not voting for Prop 27 - the same issues I have with Prop. 20 apply, but if we're going to lower the budget requirement to a simple majority, that same majority shouldn't be able to guarantee its own safe seats with gerrrymandering. Prop. 27 would remove the independent commission that will redraw State Assembly districts. I realize there may be some inconsistency here, but I'm not yet willing to extend the power of the commission from state to federal gerrymandering without first some evidence that the commission can do its job.

Proposition 26 - Requires 2/3 vote on any state business/regulatory fee. NO. By now I suspect a common theme is developing.... We are now managing decisions that should be made at the state legislature.

Proposition 27 - Abolish redistricting commission - NO. In 2008 (via Prop. 11), California approved that state legislature districts be redrawn by an independent commission rather than the legislature. This would repeal that commission. The same issues apply as outlined in Prop. 20; however, I support Prop. 25 and don't want to see an easier budget coupled with a return to traditional gerrymandering (i.e., districts drawn by elected officials). Also, we might as well give Prop. 11 a chance to work - we've not yet seen how it will manage this year's census. But - I am not yet willing to extend that authority to the federal level via Prop. 20 until we've seen some results from Prop. 11.

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