Most of the oxygen in the room for this November’s election is being sucked up by the prolific and particularly vitriolic presidential showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. You may be focused on that race because of your desire to make everything great again, or just a morbid fascination with reality TV-meets-American politics.
That said, if you’re from California and you look down-ticket, you’ll quickly encounter “Ballot-Measure-Palooza” – 17 different measures waiting for you to do some ballot box governing.
My default on ballot measures is to vote “no,” unless there is a compelling reason to vote “yes.” There are, in my opinion, four measures that are no-brainer “yes” votes – and so I wanted to run through them, and why I am voting for them.
Prop. 53 – The No Blank Checks Initiative. This measure would require that when state policymakers want to issue revenue bonds for a project that exceeds $2 billion, they must first have that approved by a vote of the people. This is a brilliant idea because, frankly, there is no adult supervision in the State Capitol. Special interests own the place, and since they make big bucks from state spending, it stands to reason they love to see any new revenues. This measure ensures a reasonable case for this epic amount of borrowing must be made to We, the People. I wrote about this measure in detail here.
Prop. 54 – The California Legislature Transparency Act. The primary component of this measure sounds simple, but actually represents substantial reform. It would require that any proposed legislation in the State Capitol be made available to the public in its final form for 72 hours before it can be voted upon in each chamber. Yes, this continues the theme of applying adult supervision. I cannot tell you the number of terrible, horrible pieces of legislation that are jammed through at the end of session. Tax increases, new regulations, new programs – most that would raise a hue and cry of concern, except by the time the public finds out – it’s too late. Read more about it here.
Prop. 65 – Jam The Greedy Grocers. A couple of years ago, after trying about a hundred times, the enviro-extremists in the legislature passed a law banning single-use plastic grocery bags, and imposing a ten cent tax on each paper bag. The tax was set up in a way that the grocery stores pocket the ten cents. Before you scratch your head, let me explain further. For years the California Grocers Association was part of the coalition stopping the bag ban. But on this last go-around, they switched sides, as estimates pegged the grocers’ revenues from the bag taxes at hundreds of millions of dollars. Enough voters signed petitions to halt the bag ban, and it has been placed on the ballot as Prop. 67 — on which I am voting “hell no.” But in case it passes, I’m “hell yes” on 65, which would take the revenue from the greedy grocers and instead repurpose it to state environmental programs – and leave the sell-out grocers holding the bag, so to speak. I wrote about this here.
Prop. 66 – Fix the Death Penalty, Don’t End It. This would address legal and administrative hurdles that have resulted in only 13 death-row inmates being executed since 1978, in order to make the death penalty work. There is another measure on the ballot, Prop. 62, that would prohibit the use of the death penalty in California. If your value system is such that you think that no matter how despicable or evil someone is, and no matter how heinous an act of violence they commit, that being put to death by the state for your crimes is a bad idea – you’d want to vote “yes” on 62, and “no” on 66. On the other hand, if you think that the death penalty serves as both an important deterrent to some who would commit the most horrible of crimes – often cold blooded, pre-meditated murder – and also provides for justice for surviving victims, then “yes” on 66 is an important vote to cast. Read more here.
As you peruse the other thirteen ballot measures maybe you will find one or two you think are a good idea. Maybe you want more state bonds issued for school construction. Or maybe you want to be able, finally, to make those pot brownies that you’ve been craving since your days at UC Berkeley. I will let you sort through those decisions. But I think you will find that higher taxes and more regulations are right there on the ballot, awaiting your blessing and vote. As if California doesn’t have high enough taxes, or more than enough regulations.