Election Section

Endorsements for state ballot measures

Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian
Saturday October 08, 2016 - 03:08:00 PM

Editor's note: We've asked our friend Tim Redmond, former editor of the old San Francisco Bay Guardian, now editor of 48hills.org and steward of the SFBG's current endorsement venture, for permission to reprint his gloss on which state ballot measures to vote on, and why.  

Prop. 51 

School bonds 


The need for funding for K-12 and community college facilities is dire. There’s no way to argue against $9 billion in state bonds to help local communities upgrade ebonds come out of the overall general fund, in this case to the tune of $500 million a year, and while everyone in Sacramento wants to borrow money for good causes, it’s hard to find many who want to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it. Still: Vote yes. 


Prop. 52 

Medi-Cal hospital fee 


Complex, technical, but the bottom line is that private hospitals would pay a fee to pay for uninsured and Medi-Cal patients. If you think that private hospitals in CA are just charities, go check out the financials of the likes of Kaiser and Sutter Health. They make billions. Vote yes. 


Prop. 53 

Revenue bond vote 


This is part of the same agenda that brought us Prop. 13. The anti-tax folks want to make it harder for government to raise money. Revenue bonds aren’t backed by taxpayers; they’re backed by, say, the income from an airport or a public-power agency. The reality is that this is funded by a rich Central Valley farmer who doesn’t like the governor’s plans for new water tunnels or high-speed rail. We don’t like the tunnels, either; we do like the trains. Either way, this is a really stupid way to make policy. Vote no. 


Prop. 54 

Legislative sunshine 


This is going to pass with about 70 percent of the vote, and it should. The state Legislature has a habit of introducing new elements to bills at the last minute, just before a session ends. Rotten special-interest riders hike onto unrelated bills; legislator voting on hundreds of measures don’t get a chance to scrutinize what’s going on. Prop. 54 also mandates that all sessions of the Legislature and its committees be streamed on video. Vote yes. 


Prop. 55 

Tax extension on the rich 


In 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession, the state imposed a modest increase in taxes on the most wealthy, people with incomes of more than $250,000 a year. That tax is set to expire in 2018. The rich are even richer, the needs are even more serious, and drop of as much as $9 billion in state revenue would be devastating. Yes, yes, yes. 


Prop. 56 

Cigarette tax 


The state’s tobacco tax is only 87 cents a pack. Prop. 56 raises it by $2. The evidence is pretty clear that smoking costs the state billions in health-care costs, and that higher taxes reduce use (particularly among young people.) Vote yes. 


Prop. 57 

Earlier parole 


Prop. 57 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature measure for this fall — is a significant step toward reforming the state’s crazy, racist, inhumane criminal justice system. The measure would allow the possibility of parole for some 30,000 nonviolent felons who are now stuck in long sentences. It would also require a judge – not just a prosecutor – to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult. And it allows prison authorities to allow inmates “good time” – that is, a reduction in their sentences for good behavior. In reality, only a few thousand would likely be set free any single year, and while this won’t solve the prison overcrowding problem, it will help. Vote yes. 


Proposition 58 


English language learning 

The description of this measure is a bit confusing, but its impact would be simple: It would guarantee that public schools in California have the right to use bilingual or immersion education as part of the curriculum for English learners. It would overturn outdated and ineffective “English only” rules. Every credible education group supports it. Vote yes. 


Proposition 59 

Overturning Citizens United 

Prop. 59 is one of those policy statements that we often see on the ballot in San Francisco but not so much at the state level. It has no immediate impact; it doesn’t change any laws. But it would put California voters on record urging Congress and the courts to overturn the Citizens United decision that allows for unregulated campaign spending by corporations. The momentum to overturn that decision is growing – and for California, the nation’s largest state, to take a strong position would send a national signal. Vote Yes. 


Proposition 60 

Condoms in porn films 

This is one of those measures that sounds sensible – until you stop and think about it. Prop. 60 would mandate that adult film performers use condoms “during filming of sexual intercourse.” Sure, public health and workplace safety, right? 

Except that the performers themselves are opposed. Public health organizations are opposed. Because this makes no sense and shows no comprehension of how the porn industry actually works these days. 

There are still big outfits like Vivid Studios and Kink.com, but a lot of the industry is now pretty homegrown – performers make and produce their own videos. Under Prop. 60, if they aren’t using condoms, they could be sued anytime. Their real names and addresses could become public. 

And it seems to be a solution in search of a problem: There isn’t one documented case of a person getting infected with HIV on a porn set in California. Performers are tested regularly. 

There’s no question that the state regulators who handle workplace safety – that is, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration – is behind the times on creating rules for porn studios. There may be instances when a performer who wants to use a condom is told not to – and that’s a problem. But Cal-OSHA should be writing the regulations – and this measure will likely either drive porn films out of state or underground, in either case encouraging less, not more, regulation. Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are against this. So are we. 


Proposition 61 

Drug prices 

This one also sounds confusing and bureaucratic. What it really does is mandate that the state pay no more for prescription drugs than the federal Veterans Administration. It’s part of a national movement that says Big Pharma charges too much for medicine. The state has bargaining power, the VA generally gets way better deals than the state does, and the California Nurses Association supports it. So does Bernie Sanders. That’s good enough for us. 

Proposition 62 

Death penalty repeal 


The death penalty is barbaric. Most civilized countries have long since abolished it. It’s also hugely expensive and doesn’t work. 

Prop. 62 is the latest effort to get California out of the state-sponsored killing business. The last time around, the voters narrowly rejected a death-penalty repeal, but the vast cost (hundreds of millions of dollars), the growing evidence that innocent people have been sentenced to death, and the understanding that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, is imposed overwhelmingly on poor people of color, many of them with serious mental-health issues, is starting to turn the public around. This should be the year. Please: Vote yes. 


Proposition 63 

Ammunition sales 


California has better gun laws than a lot of states, and this will make the rules even tighter by focusing on two problems: It’s still relatively easy to buy ammunition (even over the Internet) and it’s hard to get guns out of the hands of people who are legally banned from owning them (felons and people convicted of domestic violence). Yes, Prop. 63 is a vehicle for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who proposed it, to get his name out on a hot issue while he prepares his campaign for governor. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. 

The measure would require background checks for people who buy ammo and create a court process for removing guns from people who aren’t supposed to have them. Vote yes. 


Proposition 64 

Marijuana legalization 

This isn’t the law we would have written; it’s complex and has all sorts of rules that might not be needed. But still: Legalizing pot is about, oh, 50 years overdue. The measure allows local communities to set regulations around sales, sets licensing standards, and will bring the state hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax money. Oh, and save millions in wasted law-enforcement time. We all know prohibition is silly and doesn’t work. Vote yes. 


Proposition 65 

Carry out bags 


The plastic-bag industry, which sells something like a billion bags a year in the state, put this on the ballot to confuse voters and prevent the kind of real regulation that is in Prop. 67. It’s not an environmental issue; the real environmental groups are all against it. Vote no. 


Proposition 66 


Death penalty enforcement 


This one’s the opposite of Prop. 62. It’s devious and potentially terrible. The measure would seek to speed up the death-penalty process by eliminating Constitutional protections and imposing unrealistic timelines on prosecutors, defense lawyers, and the courts. It’s impossible for this to work without seriously risking the execution of an innocent person. It would overload local courts with work they aren’t prepared or funded to do. It’s a cynical attempt by the death-penalty lobby to confuse voters. No, No, No. 


Proposition 67 

Plastic bag ban 


San Francisco phased out single-use plastic bags years ago – and we seem to be doing fine. The idea of reusable shopping bags has caught on, the economic and consumer consequences are zero – and the environmental impacts of getting rid of a few billion plastic bags, which don’t decompose, aren’t recyclable, and kill fish and wildlife are huge. Vote yes.