Mad Props is your 100% independent guide to California’s ballot propositions. Here are our suggestions for how you should vote, and why. (And remember, by “suggestions” I mean “vote this way, or you’re part of the problem!”)
Proposition 19: The Peter Tosh Memorial Initiative (Legalizes Marijuana Under California Law). (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: YES
Why: It’s difficult to believe this day has arrived this soon, but here we are: With a vote, Californians may finally follow Mr. Tosh’s advice and just “legalize it” already.
The arguments against legalization are hyperbolic and full of scare tactics. This is no surprise at all, as what SF Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll calls the “War on Some Drugs” has always been based on fear and even outright lies. Let’s take on a couple of those lies that are right there in your voter information guide (pages 16-17).
First off, we have Mothers Against Drunk Driving trying to scare you into believing that Prop 19 will put legions of dangerous, stoned drivers on the road. Now, MADD is a group with a myopic, fingers-in-its-ears approach to crafting public policy that has done more to increase dangerous/deadly binge drinking on college campuses than any other factor. (Even an aged, blinded-by-cataracts, mainstream journalistic entity like CBS’s 60 Minutes faced this fact in 2009.) There is no reason at all to accept this group’s pronouncements at face value. But still, let’s take a look.
“Proposition 19 gives drivers the ‘right’ to use marijuana right up to the point when they climb behind the wheel,” they tell us. This is a deliberate twisting/misreading of the text of the measure. See page 93 in your ballot pamphlet, section 11300(c)(3):
“‘Personal consumption’ shall not include, and nothing in this act shall permit, cannabis … consumption by the operator of any vehicle, boat, or aircraft … that impairs the operator.”Furthermore, MADD is mad because Prop 19 “fails to provide the Highway Patrol with any tests or objective standards for determining what constitutes ‘driving under the influence.’” This is absolutely true, but such standards are not the point of this statute, and in fact the statute’s text reads:
“This act shall not be construed to affect, limit, or amend any statute that forbids impairment while engaging in dangerous activities such as driving” (11304(a), page 94 in your voter information guide)So there’s an easy fix provided for in the measure. The state lege can jump in and cook up some righteous penalties for anyone who hops behind the wheel to go get their Cheetos fix without first waiting for the munchies to subside. The claim about Prop 19 giving folks the “right” to consume drugs in the workplace is a similar, desperate stretch.
Let’s be upfront: There is no doubt that if Prop 19 passes, a whole bunch of new laws — at both state and municipal levels — will be necessary. We’ll need laws about stoned driving. Cities and counties will have to decide if they want Amsterdam-style smoking cafés. Arguing that Prop 19 is a mistake because it doesn’t hash (ahem) this all out ahead of time is silly. Prop 19 is the tip of an iceberg: It is the first step in undoing decades of needless prohibition that has torn families apart and ruined lives by criminalizing addiction, all while misspending untold gazillions of taxpayer dollars. It’s the first move in a chess game that will, slowly but surely, end the War On Some Drugs. This is undoubtedly a good thing. And I haven’t even mentioned all the positive effects that are all but certain to follow: increased revenue at state and local levels, fewer overcrowded jails, police focusing on real crimes (you know, the kind with victims), and the end of the Big Lie that the demon weed is somehow more dangerous than the liquor in your cabinet. All of this is worth voting for. Vote YES on Prop 19.
Proposition 20: Redistricting: the “Good” Version. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: YES
Why: In 2008, at Governor Schwarzenegger’s (and Mad Props‘s) urging, Californians passed Prop 11, which took the power to draw state districts out of the hands of the elected officials in those districts, giving it to a more-or-less neutral citizens commission. This was a fantastic idea, as for far too long, district lines had been drawn specifically to protect incumbents, leading to increased polarization in Sacramento. (There are umpteen reasons why Sacramento is a mess, but the old method of redistricting is a major factor.)
Prop 20 would extend Prop 11 to also apply to federal congressional districts. That is, if Prop 20 passes, the same citizens commission that draws state districts will also draw the districts for the folks we send to the U.S. House of Representatives. If Prop 20 does not pass, then this job will fall to the governor and the state lege, and the whole process will be politicized and corrupted as it has been for so many decades.
The “Jim Crow” argument against Prop 20 (page 23, voter information guide) is as appalling as it is ludicrous. If you think there might be some truth to the argument because the president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce signed his name under it, note further down the page that the NAACP is in favor of the measure. What does this demonstrate? That you can trust the Black Chamber of Commerce as much as you can trust any Chamber of Commerce, which is to say, “not at all”: They’ll favor what is best for business over what is best for the people every single time. That’s what they’re for. That’s why they’re called the Chamber of Commerce, not the Chamber of Rights/Dignity/Fairness/Freedom/Whatever.
Also note that the opponents of Prop 20 generally come from the ranks of supporters of Prop 27, about which, more presently.
As of this writing, the only major newspaper in California to come out against Prop 20 is … wait for it … the Sacramento Bee, a rag always happy to endorse the status quo. Every other editorial board in the state is for it. This is because Prop 20 is actually a fine idea that won’t cost us any additional money. Vote YES for strengthening our democracy; vote YES on Prop 20.
Proposition 21: $18 Vehicle License Surcharge for Parks. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: NO
Why: The signatures under the “Argument In Favor of Proposition 21” tell the story. We’ve got someone from the National Wildlife Federation, someone from the Nature Conservancy, and the president of the Park Rangers Association. This is a measure, like so many, placed on the ballot by a narrow special interest — in this case, the folks who love and work in our state parks.
Now, only cretins and scoundrels hate state parks. None but them can be pleased by the cuts made to our park budgets during California’s financial struggles. But mandating an $18 surcharge to our vehicle fees and then setting that money aside for the parks alone is just another example of “ballot-box budgeting” — the trend for voters to mandate that a certain set of funds (or a percentage of the state budget) be used in a certain way. Mad Props has ranted previously about how this hamstrings the folks in Sacramento who are tasked each year with spending the state’s money wisely. Believe me, the voters are no better at this than the folks in the capitol; in fact, they’re a whole lot worse, and the sort of mandate that Prop 21 creates makes for one helluva mess when the state’s finances go south, as they have during what we all seem to be calling “these economic times.”
Also, take note of what this proposition actually does: It adds $18 dollars to our annual vehicle licensing fee — what Arnold Schwarzenegger called the “car tax” when he was running for governor. He promised to gut the car tax, and he followed through on that promise — helping to lead the state into the fiscal mess it’s in right now.
What really needs to happen is, the car tax (and other taxes) need to move back up. Not drastically, but up. And, again, no offense to parks, but when we find new ways to put money back in the state’s coffers, I’d much rather that the money go to the schools and to the communities whose accounts have been “raided” by the state over the past several years.
California’s fiscal house needs to be put in order, but mandating that a new “fee” go directly to the parks is no way to do it. Vote NO on Prop 21.
Proposition 22: Tying the Hands of Government Once More. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: NO
Why: Just above, I mentioned how the state’s been “raiding” local communities to keep the budget balanced. That’s an oversimplification, but a fair treatment of the problem that Prop 22 tries to address. This initiative would simply bar the state from refusing to release various funds to localities in times of crisis. It would prohibit the sort of budget monkeying that’s gotten us through the last several years.
Read that again: It would prohibit the sort of budget monkeying that’s gotten us through the last several years. Without this kind of flexibility, we would have had even more drastic cuts at the state level. Maybe that sounds okay to you. It won’t sound okay the next time you have to go to the DMV, and the wait is seven hours long because the office is furloughed ten days each month.
The “raiding” of local funds that is at issue here is allowed by Prop 1A, passed by the voters in 2004. 1A requires that “raided” funds be fully repaid within three years. That is happening. Perhaps we should stop using the word “raiding” and start using the word “borrowing.” Since, you know, that’s what it is.
There’s another problem with Prop 22: It protects local monies put into redevelopment agencies and districts. These are set-aside areas where developers get to come in and use taxpayer money to build whatever the heck they want, often against the wishes or the interests of the community around the district, and walk away with huge profits. Prop 22 codifies this pattern of “welfare for the rich.” (For more on this, see “Unintended consequences of Proposition 22” in the SF Chronicle.)
Look, there’s no doubt that from the standpoint of localities, the status quo sucks. But “these economic times” will not last forever. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is simply a measure to protect your hometown. It’s not. Vote NO on Prop 22.
Proposition 23: Allow Big Business to Continue Destroying the Planet. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: NO
Why: I’m amazed how much negative publicity this measure’s gotten, though it definitely deserves it. Everything you’ve heard is true: Texas oil companies want to roll back our state’s not-yet-implemented restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. Californians do a pretty good job of not messin’ with Texas. Why can’t Texas return the courtesy?
[Aside: If you take a look at your voter information guide (page 44), you’ll notice the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is in favor of Prop 23. This is because the restrictions we’re talking about are enforced via taxes on polluters. The Jarvis folks oppose taxes in any form, period, end of story. They’re the morons who brought us 1978’s Proposition 13, which is directly responsible for the fact that your local schools probably suck, your local roads probably suck, and so forth. Any time you see the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association endorse or oppose a measure, pass up the chance to be craven and greedy and vote the other way.]
Unless you are one of those ignorant fools who hate science and feel that cold, hard facts have no place in policymaking, this one’s a slam dunk. It’s especially a slam dunk if you have children and want them and their children to inherit a livable planet. Global warming is a fact. It is happening. The federal government hasn’t been able to do anything to address this fact as yet; California found a way to get started. Don’t let rich Texans nip this effort in the bud. Vote NO on Prop 23.
Proposition 24: Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: YES
Why: Prop 24 would undo roughly $1.3 billion (with a ‘B’) in tax breaks to corporations. These tax breaks were approved in 2008 as part of the yearly budget fight. In order to get some pro-business, anti-society Republicans on board, these tax breaks were added to the mix. Now we get to undo them. It’s as simple as that. (The tax breaks in question do not apply to small businesses. You won’t hurt small businesses a bit by voting YES here.)
The state is broke; corporations are flush with cash and not even hiring folks during “these economic times.” Stick it to ’em, and help California climb out of its financial hole. Vote YES on Prop 24.
Proposition 25: Actually Make It Possible For the State to Pass a Budget. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: YES
Why: We would never have had the 2008 tax breaks for huge corporations (see above) if it didn’t take two-thirds of the lege to pass a budget. In 47 other states, simple majorities are all it takes to get a budget passed. In those states, budgets don’t pass half a year late, as happened in California this year. (In fact, the lege has passed a budget on-time only five times since 1980.) Prop 25 would make California the 48th state requiring only a simple majority to pass a budget.
If you’re a Howard Jarvis-type wackjob, try to chill: Prop 25 does not change the two-thirds vote required to raise taxes at the state level (another Prop 13 legacy).
Every single year, the state budget is held hostage by anti-government, right-wing extremists who cannot imagine a single dollar of the state’s money being well-spent. They ignore the real hardships caused by budget impasses, and they hold out for favors benefitting their corporate sponsors (see Prop 24, above). End the annual madness, and vote YES on Prop 25.
Proposition 26: Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: NO
Why: Prop 26 may be the most deceptive measure on the ballot this time around. It’s sounds like a sort of Prop 13 for localities, mandating two-thirds yea votes before certain fees could be collected. We’re a tax-hatin’ state, so this sounds like good news.
The problem is, the fees in question are those charged to corporations who destroy the environment. If the factory down the road befouls the creek that runs past your abode, right now your town council can levy a fee against said factory, forcing it to pay for cleaning up the mess.
Prop 26 undoes this, requiring a supermajority to get the fee passed. Supermajorities, as Californians have seen over and over, have a real hard time passing anything other than resolutions honoring war heroes and such. Supermajorities also lead, inevitably, to a “tyranny of the minority” — in this case, a minority that thinks the job of government is to clean up after industry. This is a gross rethinking of the role of government in California. Don’t buy it. Big business tried this before, in 2000 with Prop 37. The voters wisely said NO. It’s time to do so again. Vote NO on Prop 26.
Proposition 27: Redistricting: the “Evil” Version. (info @ Ballotpedia)
You Should Vote: NO
Why: Proposition 27 would repeal 2008’s Prop 11, which put redistricting duties in the hands of an independent citizens commission (see Prop 20, above). It would also nullify this year’s Prop 20 if it receives more votes than that other measure. It would put the job of drawing district lines back in the hands of politicians.
You can tell from reading Mad Props that I’m left-leaning (though I much prefer the term “progressive”). Since Prop 27 is backed by Democrats, and would clearly help their party much more than the other side, you might think I’d support this measure. But I can’t. Redistricting has long been a dirty, corrupt business in America — we invented the gerrymander — and 2008’s Prop 11, while not perfect, was the all-time best effort at addressing the problem here in California. Prop 11’s passage was a victory for democracy. We have not even allowed that initiative to take full effect yet: Our first redistricting under Prop 11 will happen in the wake of the 2010 census.
Don’t let Democrats scuttle this bold and high-minded experiment before it even gets underway. Schwarzenegger was right to bring us Prop 11, and we were right to approve it. Undoing it is no way forward, not even for progressives who might very well benefit. Vote NO on Prop 27.