Voter Guide 2020, State Propositions

State Propositions

There’s only 12 this year in our wonderful state, only, you say, yep, still a lot to take in. As usual some are central to our future in California, which has of late, been hazy to visualize, some are dastardly and others are just confusing.

Prop 14-yes– it’s a bond proposal that will go beyond the previous level of stem cell research and in these pandemic times, more medical research seems to be called for.

Prop 15-yes, yes, yes- previously known as the Schools and Communities First Initiative, it amends Prop 13 so that corporate and industrial properties with businesses valued at more than $3 million will pay their fair share of property taxes rather than get the break that homeowners are guaranteed. The commercial property owners made a windfall of reduced property taxes after 1978 that caused a great reduction in services (potholes, housing, schools ) and resulted in increasing local tax initiatives to cover some of the losses. It’s estimated that the state can bring in up to $12 billion in funds for local services without changing homeowners tax rate have been paying increasing taxes as corporate owners share of the burden decreased.)

Prop 16-yes– This simply repeals Prop 209 which banned affirmative action for race, gender and ethnicity. Once 209 passed our state universities got much whiter, schools and workplaces went back to hiring or entry by legacy, family influence and relationships to those in power. It may sound fair but it is profoundly anti-merit based. If you want to see systems based on merit in this country, you must look to the military and civil service based hiring. There you will find Black and Brown people in much greater numbers than any of our systems based on who-you-know or what kind of monetary contribution they could make. It also meant non-traditional jobs and departments opened up to women. Californians deserve a level playing field and this offers that possibility.

Prop 17-yes, yes, yes- While California allows the formerly incarcerated to vote, it makes them wait until they have completed their parole, meanwhile they must learn how to be productive members of our society but does not allow them full citizenship. This prop ends that practice encouraging more engagement in our democratic (fingers crossed) system.

Prop 18-yes– This is another prop designed to encourage voting. It states that if a person is otherwise qualified to vote and will be 18 by the General Election, they should be able to vote in the primaries. Yea, why not?

Prop 19-no- Another real estate promotion that gives a tiny benefit to those who already benefit from Prop 13 and allows them to purchase while keeping their property taxes low in other counties than their current address. This is already possible for one time purchases within their home counties and some others where it’s currently not allowed. Why? It’s a confusing mish mash (the Chronicle’s official description.)

Prop 20-no, no, no- This prop is a giant step backward for our criminal justice system. It’s essentially and Reincarcerate program. It would relegate more people to prison for non-violent offenses and keep them there while reducing their rehabilitation and educational options. There’s an add-on to allow collection of DNA for some misdemeanors, another Big Brother issue. So, say Prop 15 passes and the state gets an influx of cash, it would all be spent on the overwhelming costs of mass incarceration and the reduction in the productivity of so many Californians.

Prop 21-yes, yes, yes- This prop takes on a piece of the old Costa Hawkins law that prevented cities from enacting rent control on buildings that went up since 1995 and even longer ago in places like Oakland (based on when our initial rent control ordinances first passed).

It’s too complicated to go into here but the various aspects of Costa Hawkins and this small fix might not change much for apartment renters here right away but might begin to protect them down the road as their buildings age (no rent control allowed in buildings occupied in the last 15 years or, as stated, earlier in some cities), it’s a rolling timeline.

But it could affect/protect those who live in corporate owned single family homes whose rents have leaped since they were bought up during the Great Recession. And for those buildings where rents could jump dramatically after a long term tenant moves, increases may be limited to 15% for the next tenant. The reason we keep saying “may” is that this measure imposes no rent control, just allows for it in some cases if municipalities chose to pass it.

Prop 22-No, no, no– In last year’s busy legislative session our state government passed a law to stem the tide of app based jobs with no benefits or basic worker protections, AB5. Corporate lobbyists who were not able to prevent its passage fought back the other way they know how, by spending what is already the largest sum in American history to pass a law repealing most of those protections-$180 million- to prevent them from having to offer overtime pay, workers’ comp, unemployment and other protections workers generally have in our state.

Uber, Lyft and Doordash are working overtime themselves to convince voters that jobs are at risk, but gig work is a modern feudal system that many desperate folks have had to join to survive, but barely. Next time you order something for delivery, take a look at your harried drive, or you can see them at the grocery store, rushing around trying to fulfill multiple orders so they can keep up. It looks harrowing , cause it is. It’s no way to live but if this passes, it will spread the gig work model and make life that much more tenuous for many more families. Sure you may have to pay a bit more for the convenience, but you’ll also pay for the additional healthcare costs, homelessness, etc that underemployed neighbors ultimately cost. And, you know, it’s just not right!

Prop 23-yes-’

“Requires kidney dialysis clinics to have at least one physician present during all operating hours, and to report infection data to the state. It also would require that operators get approval from the state’s health department before closing a clinic, and prohibit clinics from discriminating against patients based on insurance type.”

This is the 2nd ballot measure that health care workers have proposed on dialysis clinics. Those clinics are run by corporations and are big money makers so long as they keep costs down. Given the history of companies like DaVita, we shouldn’t trust them to care too much about their patients. However, I’m not sure that this proposition will do much. It’s really about healthcare that provides this kind of coverage for everyone who needs it.

I have since learned that this prop would not require a doctor but a nurse practioner at every site so I am giving it a weak thumbs up.

Prop 24-no– This is a follow-up to a brand new California law that gives residents some control over what data is collected and sold by companies you come into contact with. It sets up an agency to fine large corporations to violate your data privacy.

So what’s not to like, you say? Well, it treats your data like a commodity rather than as part of your basic civil rights in this era where your data profile can determine much about how you live. It would allow tech companies to charge to access their programs if you refuse them the right to your data. For those willing and able to pay more for these services, which become more necessary every day, it’s fine. But for lots of folks, that means giving up your privacy for that access.

Let’s see how the new law works before we change the nature of how society views our data privacy and turn this one down. The ACLU and Public Citizen agree.

Prop 25-Yes-

When SB 10 was passed in Sacramento in 2018, it was hailed in many quarters and denounced in a few others. Organizations like the ACLU had promoted it as a way to end pretrial detention for the many poor Black and Brown folks who are regularly caught in a net based more on where they live and their level of poverty than any level of criminality.

Because wealthy people who do get arrested and charged with offenses from the silly to the serious, generally put up bail or collateral such as a house, can then go back to work and their families while organizing their defense with the help of a good lawyer. Poor folks more likely than not, either remain in jail or take a plea regardless of guilt. They lose their jobs, their homes and often their family connections while they wait or if they plea out and allow themselves to be declared guilty.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven and is part of a criminal justice system that is being rightfully challenged because the “justice” part of the system is a misnomer.

In 2018 the California legislature became leaders in a movement to right that wrong and passed a bill, SB10, that along the way was compromised by changes that include a risk assessment grid of sorts, an algorithm, to assist judges in deciding who is too risky to remain free, pretrial. It left judges with the power to make those decisions and some questions about the bias of the algorithm. The algorithm and judges will continue to have discretion over these consequential decisions. However, under the new law and the proposition, the algorithm will be evaluated annually.

Some of the groups, like the ACLU, pulled their support for SB10 because of these compromises in the hopes that a stronger bill could be passed in the future. I’m a bit nonplussed at their reasoning here. Not only is compomise to be expected when passing controversial legislation, this legislation is so groundbreaking, I was shocked that it was passed in any form.

Well, it did pass and was signed. But, the entire bail industry would have been doomed in California, and as the saying goes, so goes the country. As a nationwide $3 billion dollar business including bounty hunters, it gathered its considerable forces [] and led a petition campaign to put the idea of cash bail reform on the ballot.

These folks are pretty smart because they know that the law n’order, law enforcement folks oppose ending cash bail and can make it appear risky. In addition, some social justice orgs oppose it because judges will still have too much power and they don’t trust the risk assesment tools.

If this prop goes down, the bail folks get to keep their lucrative business model and the likelihood of an even more radical change will be severely reduced.

Here is what the League of Women Voters say about the controversy around it:

“Pretrial risk assessment tools as alternatives to money bail are controversial as there is some evidence that these tools can be designed and used in ways that increase racial bias and inequity in the pretrial process. However, a California law was recently passed that requires that pretrial risk assessment tools go through a validation process at least once every year. That process measures the accuracy and reliability of the tools in assessing whether a defendant will appear in court, what the risk to the public is, and any bias the tool might have with regard to gender, race, or ethnicity. Validation reports, as well as other information on the risk assessment tools, must be made available to the public.
SB 10, which is the law that would be preserved by the passage of Prop 25, is criticized by some criminal justice advocates for not going far enough to rectify racial inequities in our legal system.  However, if this referendum succeeds in overturning SB 10, it may legally prevent future legislative action to curtail use of cash bail and the commercial  bail industry. Furthermore, one of the main obstacles to reform has consistently been the $3 billion bail bond industry that profits from the money bail system. Shortly after SB 10 was signed into law, the American Bail Coalition organized the referendum campaign to repeal SB 10 by placing it on the ballot as Proposition 25.  Passage of Prop 25, which would eliminate the impediment of cash bail and its well-funded industry lobbyists, will allow for further legislation to improve on SB 10  and fulfill its promise of a fair and more equitable justice system.”

It’s always difficult to say what the outcome or unintended versus intended consequences of such groundbreaking legislation may be, but I cannot believe we as a state would pass up a chance to change the money bail system-with the caveat that the algorithm be changed if we do not see a much reduced number of poor folks in pretrial detention-as the bill and prop provide. Please join me, Democratic Party, the Wellstone Club, SEIU and the League of Women Voters and vote yes on Prop 25!

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