Spoilt for Choice: Bored California Voters Face (at Least) Six Ballot Measures

Spoilt for Choice: Bored California Voters Face (at Least) Six Ballot Measures

This November, voters in California will face six ballot measures–and the state legislature could add more until as late as early August. 

Proposition 43: The Water Bond

Years ago, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger worked with the legislature to place a bloated water bond measure on the ballot. With economic times being tough, the legislature kept exercising its option to delay that measure for a future ballot. The current proposal is a behemoth, at well over $11 billion in proposed borrowing and spending, and it is loaded to the gills with pork-barrel expenditures.  

Currently there are discussions in the Capitol about slimming down the proposal. I have very little faith, given the left-wing makeup of the legislature, that the end product will be something fiscally prudent enough to recommend passage. 

Proposition 44: A Bigger ‘Rainy Day Fund’

This measure basically increases the amount of money required to be set aside in a rainy day fund, with specific requirements that such funds be spent on things like paying down outstanding debt. Unfortunately this measure doesn’t come close to passing the most important test: can the Governor and legislature still get at this money and spend it on other things? The answer is a disappointing, “yup.”

Proposition 45: Increasing Regulation Of Healthcare Insurance

California’s elected Insurance Commissioner pretty much lords over the automobile insurance sector due to a ballot measure passed in 1988–one that was crafted by trial lawyers seeking to enrich themselves. Under the banner of “consumer protection,” this new ballot measure seeks to expand the jurisdiction of the Insurance Commissioner to include healthcare insurance plans.  Reforms are needed in healthcare, but like Obamacare, this proposal goes in the wrong direction.

Proposition 46: Increasing Cap On Damages In Cases Of Medical Malpractice

This measure, predictably placed on the ballot to help trial lawyers, seeks to lift existing caps on how much in damages can be awarded in cases of medical malpractice. These caps were instituted because medical malpractice insurance for doctors was getting too expensive due to excessive jury awards. If this measure passes, those rates could skyrocket, with predictable side effects.  

Proposition 47: Reducing Many Non-Violent Felonies Down To Misdemeanors

This measure would reduce a slew of crimes that are now felonies to misdemeanors. Proponents say this would apply to, “non-serious, non violent” crimes.  I guess you can be the judge, as the crimes to be downgraded include shoplifting less than $950 in stuff, theft where the stolen property is less than $950, forgery where the forged check is for less than $950, possession of a narcotic drug, or possession of marijuana.  If this measure only contained the relaxing of some drug-related felonies, I could see a robust debate and potential passage. But with those other items in the measure, I predict voters will reject this proposition. 

Proposition 48: Approval of the North Forks Tribal Gaming Compact

The North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians were landless. The federal government granted them new tribal lands in the Central Valley, after deciding through a lengthy process that the tribe had a legitimate connection to these new lands. This tribe signed a compact with the Governor, which was ratified by the legislature, to put a big casino on this land.  Some existing tribes, who do not welcome new competition for gambling revenues, gathered signatures to force the voters to have to ratify the compact, which they should.  If you want to get into the weeds on this, I wrote about it extensively here.

Other Potential Measures

Besides the current discussions about reducing the size and scope of the Water Bond, there are a couple of other measures bouncing around the legislature that may make the ballot.  

The first would allow the legislature to suspend a member without pay. That idea has been floated because the Senate refuses to even take up expelling a convicted Senator and two indicted Senators, but instead has suspended all three, who continue to pull down salaries and benefits. 

The second is a potential school construction bond measure. Whether or not this measure is worthy of support will be variables such as its size (right now there is no dollar amount specified in the legislation); whether it maintains (or ideally increases) the requirement for local matching funds; and finally, whether funds are available on an equitable basis, or whether the measure would favor school districts in Democratic strongholds.

November’s “parade of the ballot measures” will still be substantial–but none of the items I have mentioned above are really “hot button” issues likely to drive voter turnout. With conventional wisdom saying that the gubernatorial race is not going to be competitive, we may see a record low number of voters deciding the fate of these measures.