Thursday, August 12, 2010

California's upcoming ballot proposition: a quick look

Californians will vote on nine propositions this November 2. I've grouped them into four categories:
  1. Social Issues:
    • Proposition 19: Legalize and tax marijuana

      The problem with marijuana is not recreational users, it is the "stoners" who consume enough that they are no longer able to be self-supporting members of society. If marijuana is legalized, the number of stoners will likely increase. On the other hand, is that worth the effort in police, DEA, and prison resources that are now used to enforce laws on a drug which is less addictive than alcohol?

  2. Redistricting:
    • Proposition 20: Congressional district lines to be re-drawn by a committee
    • Proposition 27: Return task of redistricting to the California State Legislature (repealing Prop 11)

    Before Proposition 11, redistricting was done by the politicians in the state legislature. Proposition 11, passed in 2008, changed that so that state districts are redrawn by a citizen's commission. The first proposition extends Proposition 11 to include Congressional districts. Proposition 27 repeals Proposition 11. It is not clear to me if the Citizens Commission will do a good job of redistricting. It is clear that the politicians have gerrymandered California into an ungovernable mess and it is hard to imagine the citizens doing worse.

  3. Taxes:
    • Proposition 21: Increase vehicle license fees by $18 a year "to fund state parks"
    • Proposition 23: Suspend AB 32, the "Global Warming Solutions Act" until unemployment falls below 5.5%
    • Proposition 24: Taxes Eliminates three business tax breaks

    Proposition 21 claims it will raise $500M to "protect wildlife and natural resources." After it gets the money, the legislature will, of course, be free to re-allocate other money away from the parks to whatever they please. The bottom line is that this is just another tax. Proposition 23 reasonably suspends California's anti-jobs "global warming" act until unemployment drops. Proposition 24 claims it will collect $1.3B while raising taxes on 120,000 businesses. The tax law changes seem a bit obscure but the proposition seems like a bad idea because (a) California, with its high unemployment rate, needs to become more business friendly, not less, and (b) this proposition doesn't address the underlying problem of runaway state spending.

  4. Controlling the runaway legislature:
    • Proposition 22: State government prohibited from taking designated types of local funds
    • Proposition 25: State spending State budget and tax increases can be passed with a simple majority vote, rather than current 2/3rds requirement
    • Proposition 26: Voters must give permission before any new taxes can be imposed

    The state has been "borrowing" from money raised by local governments. Proposition 22 would end that practice. Proposition 25 would allow the legislature spend money with a simple majority vote instead of the current two-thirds requirement. This might make California more governable. However, critics say that, via some sneaky language, it would also allow the legislature to raise taxes with a merely a majority vote, something most voters don't want. (So far, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette agreed with the critics that the state shouldn't claim that the proposition leaves tax requirement unchanged. He was overruled, however, by the a 3-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal which sided with Prop. 25's supporters.) As an exception to the 2/3 requirement for new taxes, the state legislature can raise certain fees, levies, and charges with a simple majority. Proposition 26 eliminates that loophole.
PREVIOUSLY on California politics:
California steps closer to bankruptcy
What a long strange trip its been!: Tea Party protests establishment hippies
California tilts Republican
A Tea Party greets Obama in San Francisco and the left is not happy about it
3 in 10 Californians identify with tea party protests

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