"The realities of the initiative process today are that if you don't have money, you won't be able to get a statute or a constitutional amendment through"
- Professor Mary-Beth Moylan
At the turn of the last century, the California government was controlled by the Southern Pacific Railroad. "Bribery was the accepted method of doing business in the state capitol." As part of the movement to fight back and regain control, reformers ran for election and pushed through the changes that were needed. These included amending the state constitution in 1911 to allow initiatives, referendums, and recalls. The first significant statewide initiative in California abolished the poll tax in 1914.
In 2020, the experiment in citizen democracy has largely failed. Today's modern-day equivalents of the railroad industry have taken over the initiative process and poured money into trying to influence results. With the 2020 election still weeks away, "more than half a billion dollars has been spent on the 12 statewide propositions that voters will decide on this year." Of this, $200 million has been spent on "Proposition 22, a ballot initiative bankrolled by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and the like to override a new state law that requires their ride-hailing and delivery drivers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors."
Trying to cut through the deceptive advertising and scare tactics, I looked at each of these propositions. This is what I found and how I decided to vote. Your results may vary.
PROP 14 Stem Cell Research
Authorizes bonds continuing stem cell research.
Having passed that hurdle, the next consideration is the soundness of the investment. If we had a well functioning federal government, this proposition would not be necessary. As the opponents point out in the official voter pamphlet: "The National Institute of Health provides $1.5 billion a year to grants to fund the same type of research." Unfortunately, this funding is under constant attack due to the fact that stem cell research has been sucked into the never-ending battle over abortion rights. Just last year the Trump administration drastically slashed funding for this type of research. Therefore, this proposition is needed to ensure that California continues to be a leader in innovation.
PROP 15 Schools and Communities First Funding Measure
Increases funding sources for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property.PROP 13 that would eliminate loopholes that favor the top 10% of the state's commercial properties while keeping in place protections for all residential properties, including those that provide rental income. The resulting revenues will help increase educational funding so that California is no longer ranked "at or near the bottom" of education spending when compared to other states. "California funds education at a level of about 72% of the national average, and less than half that of New York."
PROP-15: You shouldn't pay more in property taxes for your castle than Disney pays for theirs.
(Image by Carl J. Petersen) Details DMCA
PROP 16 Affirmative Action
Allows diversity as a factor in public employment, education, and contracting decisions.
PROP 17 Voting Rights For Parolees
Restores the right to vote after completion of a prison term.
PROP 18 Expansion Of Voting Rights
Amends the California Constitution to permit 17-year olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will turn 18 by the next general election and be otherwise eligible to vote.a lifelong habit of voting" and having "a positive impact on voter turnout for people of all ages." Even with this change, our voting age would still be higher than Brazil, "Austria, Nicaragua, Argentina, some states in Germany and a canton in Switzerland [who] have all lowered their voting age to 16."
PROP 19 Property Tax Reform
Changes certain property tax rules.
This system was supposed to benefit senior citizens on fixed incomes. However, it also serves to trap them in their homes because moving into a more suitable home or one closer to their families could trigger a huge increase in their tax bills, even if their new home has a lower real value. Additionally, victims of wildfires can also be subjected to a higher property tax bill if they replace their homes on a different lot.
PROP-19 provides some resolutions to both of these problems. Seniors and other eligible property taxpayers will be provided with expanded opportunities to avoid huge property tax increases if they move. Those inheriting a property that they do not move into will also have the property's value reassessed, eliminating a loophole that contributes to inequity.
PROP 20 Reversing Course on Criminal Justice Reform
Restricts parole for certain offenses currently considered to be non-violent. Authorizes felony sentences for certain offenses currently treated only as misdemeanors.George Floyd helped renew the focus on the inequities in our criminal justice system. This has given birth to the "Defund The Police" movement that calls for a rethinking of how we approach crime and punishment by focusing on the causes of crime rather than relying on brute force. Our jails should be reserved for the most violent offenders and be the punishment of last resort.
PROP-20 takes us in the opposite direction, reclassifying crimes so that "people who commit certain theft-related crimes (such as repeat shoplifting) could receive increased penalties (such as longer jail terms)." Our country already has a higher incarceration rate than any other country. This initiative would worsen the situation without fixing any of the underlying problems.
PROP 21 Rent Control
Expands local governments' authority to enact rent control on residential property.
Many of the complaints raised by opponents of this proposition ignore the fact that PROP 21 does not enact rent control, it simply allows municipalities to do so. It is localities, not the state's electorate, that will decide what these laws will look like.
PROP 22 Reversing Worker Protections
Exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers.
Rideshare companies are spending over $184.3 million to persuade voters to pass their profit-protecting proposition. "Uber contributed $50 million, Lyft provided $48 million, DoorDash contributed $47 million, InstaCart provided $28 million, and Postmates provided $11 million." It seems to me that this money could have provided a lot of benefits for drivers.
PROP 23 Dialysis Center Regulation
Establishes state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics. Requires on-site medical professionals.
PROP 24 Addresses Consumer Privacy
Amends consumer privacy laws.
PROP 25 Preserves The Elimination Of Cash Bail
A referendum on that law that replaced money bail with a system based on public safety and flight risk.
All Californians should have received their mail-in ballot. They can either be mailed in or dropped off when voting centers open at the end of the month. Alternatively, you can vote in person at these voting centers.
Whichever way you decided to vote on these propositions, make sure to do so by November 3, 2020. Your voice deserves to be heard.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.