Laws of Vanity
A Look at the 12 Measures on the State Ballot
Call the November ballot the Rich Guy Relief Act of 2008: No less than six multimillionaires, from liberal George Soros to Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, are sponsoring and financing ballot initiatives for pet causes. For more information on the props, check out the Legislative Analyst’s take at lao.ca.gov/laoapp/ballot_source/Propositions.aspx.
Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act
What it would do: Authorize $9.95 billion in bonds to begin construction of a 200-mph railroad system between Southern and Northern California.
Argument for: High-speed rail will ease congestion and offer convenient and cheap travel in the state.
Argument against: It’s too expensive, and there are bigger priorities.
Who’s for: Governor Schwarzenegger (californiahighspeedtrains.com).
Who’s against: State Chamber of Commerce (calchamber.com).
Background: In 1996, the state created the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which has spent $60 million to plan a high-speed railroad connecting seven population centers: Sacramento, Bay Area, Central Valley, L.A., Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego. Approval of Prop. 1A, which requires a two-thirds vote, would authorize a down payment of $9 billion on the $40 billion project; another $950 million would go for improvements to existing urban, commuter, and intercity rail. The system’s spine would run between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Politics: Prop. 1A replaced Prop. 1, adding new financial controls to the original measure. Because of the budget fight, it was late getting on the ballot, at a cost of $5 million for new voter pamphlets.
Standards for Confining Farm Animals
What it would do: Impose new state regulations, beginning in 2015, to improve conditions under which pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens are kept on farms.
Argument for: Some factory farms keep animals in inhumane conditions, risking food safety.
Argument against: It would damage the agriculture industry and increase food costs.
Who’s for: Humane Society (yesonprop2.com).
Who’s against: California Farm Bureau (safecaliforniafood.org).
Background: California law now requires humane treatment of 40 million farm animals during transportation and at point of slaughter, but not on farms. Prop. 2 would impose fines up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail for farmers who violate it.
Politics: Supporters recently filed a Fair Political Practices Commission complaint charging opponents laundered money donated by out-of-state agricultural interests.
Children’s Hospital Bond Act
What it would do: Authorize $980 million in general obligation bonds for capital projects of hospitals that have at least 160 licensed beds for infants and children.
Argument for: The state should back construction and improvements for children’s hospitals.
Argument against: It benefits a special interest group misusing the initiative process.
Who’s for: California Children’s Hospital Association (imaginewithus.org).
Who’s against: National Tax Limitation Committee (limittaxes.org).
Background: In 2004, voters approved Proposition 61 authorizing $750 million in bonds for 13 hospitals, including UC facilities in L.A., Irvine, Davis, San Diego, and San Francisco, and eight nonprofits, including Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. If Prop. 3 wins a two-thirds vote, the California Health Facilities Financing Authority would award grants and administer bond money.
Politics: Opponents complain that $347 million in bonds approved four years ago is still available.
Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy
What it would do: Require physicians to notify the parent or guardian of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours in advance of performing an abortion on her.
Argument for: Parents should be aware of and involved in medical decisions involving their children.
Argument against: Another try by abortion foes to erode pro-choice laws.
Who’s for: California Catholic Conference (yeson4.net).
Who’s against: California Nurses Association (noonprop4.org).
Background: A 1953 law provides teenagers the same access as adult women to birth control services. In 1987, the Legislature passed a law requiring doctors to notify parents of pregnant teens under 18 before performing abortions. It never took effect and was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court in 1997. Similar measures were defeated by state voters in 2005 and 2006.
Politics: The key backers of this and two earlier similar measures are winemaker Don Sebastiani and San Diego publisher James Holman, who puts out an alternative paper, the San Diego Reader.
Nonviolent Drug Offenses, Sentencing, Parole, and Rehabilitation
What it would do: Shift California’s anti-drug efforts from a criminal to a medical model through sweeping changes in law that greatly expand diversion and rehabilitation programs and reduce probation, parole, and prison time for nonviolent drug offenders.
Argument for: Emphasizing treatment instead of punishment will be cheaper and more effective.
Argument against: It will give a free pass to drug dealers and criminals who belong in prison.
Who’s for: Liberal Democratic billionaire George Soros (prop5yes.com).
Who’s against: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (noonproposition5.com).
Background: California spends $10 billion a year on 33 state prisons, which hold 171,000 inmates at an annual cost of $46,000 each, many on drug-related offenses. The state spends about $100 million on drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. This complex measure would re-channel large amounts of public money from prisons and law enforcement into rehabilitation. The potential fiscal impacts are huge: The Legislative Analyst says it could cost up to $1 billion, but it also might save a like amount.
Politics: Soros financed Prop. 215, a 1996 measure that authorized use of medical marijuana in the state, and Prop. 36, a 2000 initiative that funded drug treatment programs.
Police and Law Enforcement Funding
What it would do: Make pro-law enforcement changes to state law that increase spending for local law enforcement and toughen penalties for gang activities and other felonies.
Argument for: Prop. 6 will reduce gang- and meth-related crimes and keep felons in jail longer.
Argument against: It throws good money after bad by funding programs that don’t work.
Who’s for: California Police Chiefs Association (safeneighborhoodsact.com).
Who’s against: California Teachers Association (votenoprop6.com).
Background: The 32-page measure, potentially costing $1 billion, would boost by 50 percent state funding for local law enforcement and guarantee annual increases; extend prison sentences for 13 felonies; allow hearsay evidence in some trials; prohibit release of undocumented aliens who are incarcerated; require criminal background checks for public housing residents; allow more prosecution of juveniles accused of violent crimes as adults; make possession of meth a felony; expand juvenile intervention programs.
Politics: The pro-Prop. 6 campaign points to a scandal in San Francisco, where an undocumented alien, released twice from custody without notice to immigration officials, is now accused of murdering three people.
Renewable Energy Generation
What it would do: Require power companies to increase electricity generated by renewable resources.
Argument for: California utilities must move more aggressively to increase green energy production.
Argument against: Ill-conceived, it will raise electric rates and disrupt the green energy market.
Who’s for: Millionaire Peter Sperling (yeson7.net).
Who’s against: Southern California Edison (noprop7.com).
Background: California now requires investor-owned utilities (like SoCal Edison), which generate two-thirds of the state’s electricity, to increase by one percent per year what they produce from renewable sources, with a requirement of 20 percent by 2010. This 42-page measure would require them to increase that to 2 percent per year, with targets of 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. For the first time it would impose renewable energy requirements on publicly owned utilities, like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and on smaller, contract electric service producers.
Politics: Major environmental groups-including the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council-and many solar and wind companies oppose it.
Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry
What it would do: Reverse the state’s Supreme Court ruling that allowed gays and lesbians to marry in California.
Argument for: Permitting gays to wed undermines the value and sanctity of marriage.
Argument against: Denying gays equal protection under the law violates their constitutional rights.
Who’s for: Traditional Values Coalition (protectmarriage.com).
Who’s against: Human Rights Campaign (noonprop8.com).
Background: California voters in 2000 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22, which restricted marriage in the state to heterosexual couples. The state’s Supreme Court in May 2008 ruled that Prop. 22 violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.
Politics: Younger voters support gay marriage in much higher numbers than older ones, polls show.
Criminal Justice System, Victims’ Rights, Parole
What it would do: Amend the state’s constitution to include the current Victims’ Bill of Rights, and reduce the number of parole hearings for imprisoned felons.
Argument for: Crime victims deserve constitutional protection of their rights, just like criminals.
Argument against: It would worsen prison overcrowding at a high cost to taxpayers.
Who’s for: Businessman Henry Nicholas (marsyslaw.com).
Who’s against: Californians United for a Responsible Budget (curbprisonspending.org).
Background: In 1982, state voters passed the Victims’ Bill of Rights giving victims legal guarantees to be notified of and participate in legal proceedings of those who victimized them, and requiring felons to pay restitution. Prop. 9 would expand those rights and enshrine the 1982 initiative in the constitution.
Politics: Prop. 9 is also known as Marsy’s Law, after UCSB student Marsy Nicholas, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her wealthy brother, Henry, is the sponsor of the measure.
Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy
What it would do: Authorize $5 billion of general obligation bonds to finance subsidies for purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles and for renewable energy research.
Argument for: Prop. 10 would make the state greener by building the market for high-mileage vehicles.
Argument against: The measure is a boondoggle written to benefit the natural gas industry.
Who’s for: Texas oil baron T. Boone Pickens (prop10yes.com).
Who’s against: Consumer Federation of California (noonproposition10.org).
Background: The measure would greatly expand existing state programs to encourage use of alternative fuel vehicles by making available $2.9 billion in consumer rebates for their purchase and $500 million for research and development of them, plus $1.6 billion for research and development of renewable sources for electricity.
Politics: Consumer groups say Pickens is paying for the campaign because his Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a natural gas company, will be the biggest beneficiary.
What it would do: Remove from the Legislature the power to draw maps for state Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization districts and give it to an independent commission.
Argument for: It is a conflict of interest for state lawmakers to draw their own districts.
Argument against: Prop. 11 sets up a confusing process for redistricting that will be less democratic.
Who’s for: Common Cause (yesonprop11.org).
Who’s against: California Democratic Party (noonprop11.org).
Background: Every 10 years, the Legislature redraws boundaries for political districts throughout the state based on new U.S. census data. Amid partisan gridlock in Sacramento, Governor Schwarzenegger won support of good government groups for this measure, arguing it will make legislative districts less tailored for incumbents, more competitive, and more likely to favor moderates over partisans. The Democratic Party, which controls the Legislature, calls it a power grab.
Politics: During the budget meltdown, the governor began to portray Prop. 11 as a way to bring moderation and compromise to bitter battles regarding state taxes and spending.
Veterans’ Bond Act of 2008
What it would do: Authorize $900 million of general obligation bonds to assist military veterans in purchasing farms, homes, and mobile homes.
Argument for: Veterans have earned the right to low-interest loans for housing.
Argument against: The troubled housing market makes it more likely vets will default on loans.
Who’s for: Consumer Federation of California (consumercal.org/article.php?id=636).
Who’s against: Political gadfly Gary Wesley (voterguide.sos.ca.gov/argu-rebut/argu-rebutt12.htm).
Background: Voters have passed Cal-Vet loans 26 times, approving $8.4 billion in bonds for low-cost loans. The Cal-Vet fund currently has $102 million left from previous bond approvals.
Politics: Every member of the Legislature voted in favor of this measure.