Guide to 2020 California Ballot Propositions
14. NO. $5.5 billion for stem cell research. The original Prop. 71 was designed to kick-start the research at a time when federal funding was blocked, & to establish California as a major player in a promising field. Obama removed the federal restrictions in 2009. It’s time for California’s stem-cell agency to continue as a self-sustaining non-profit or close down and allow federal grants and private business to push the industry forward. The SF Chronicle, LA Times recommend no.
15. YES!!! Reverses Prop. 13 tax break for corporations – This fixes a Prop. 13 loophole. Prop. 13 in 1978 limited increasing taxes with assessments that were driving long time homeowners out of their homes. Homes are instead reassessed on sales. As a result, a young couple moving in next door can pay many times more tax than the rich, long-time homeowner next door. But the worst disparity is businesses rarely move, or sell shares rather than the property, and thus aren’t reassessed. This has decimated the property taxes that support schools, forcing reliance on state income taxes, which vary with the economy giving an instable funding source and periodic school budget cuts and layoffs. Prop. 15 fixes part of that, requiring businesses to be reassessed, while exempting small businesses. SF Chronicle and LA Times say yes.
Misleading arguments against it suggest it hurt family farms by taxing fixtures, like trees and barns, and agricultural-related facilities. But the language of the proposition couldn’t be clearer: “This measure makes no change to existing laws affecting the taxation or preservation of agricultural land.” “Agricultural-related facilities” are commercial property, not farms. Improvements are already reassessed and taxed under Prop. 13 – Prop. 15 simply doesn’t change that.
16. YES. Reinstates affirmative action. Isn’t now the time, in light of what we’ve seen this year showing a continuing lack of social justice? This was put on the ballot by a 2/3 vote of the state legislature. It would reverse Prop. 209, passed in 1996, which banned affirmative action in CA. Studies have shown that Prop. 209 drove down Black and Latino UC enrollment and wages. This is a small step to address the continuing effects of the injustice of slavery, Jim Crow laws and racism. Blacks were kept from buying homes in nice neighborhoods, from running businesses, from getting contracts, etc. This created ghettos that limited the ability of future generations to succeed, and we still see racism today. 42 other states allow affirmative action. SF Chronicle, LA Times say yes.
17. YES. Restores voting rights to felons on parole. If we’re going to let them out of jail, we need to reintegrate them in society. 16 other states allow this. The CA Legislature put this on the ballot with a 2/3 vote. SF Chronicle, LA Times say yes.
18. ??. Allows 17 year olds to vote in primaries if they’ll be 18 and eligible to vote in the general election. This has a small effect. Seems too young, but then again old, senile people can vote. SF Chronicle & LA times say yes. SJ Mercury News says no.
19. NO!!! Allows transfer of Prop. 13 tax rate when selling home by those over 55, disabled, and natural disaster victims. This expands the unfairness of Prop. 13, since many of the eligible are richer than young people. The appeal in the ads is allowing those displaced by disasters to take their tax basis to a new home (with first responders thrown in for no apparent reason other than curb appeal) – but the ads don’t mention it also provides this to those over 55, which would decimate the tax base. Realtors are for it, but even the Howard Jarvis Prop. 13 group is against it. SF Chronicle, LA Times and Mercury News say no.
The disaster victims and first responders are the attractive bait to get people to support this. It is really pushed by realtors to get more older people to sell their homes so they can earn commissions. There is a real problem caused by Prop. 13 – some older people may not sell and move b/c of the tax on their capital gains. Prop. 13 was designed to keep older, poor people from being forced from their homes by taxes, and has been too successful, trapping some in their homes. But giving a tax break to everyone over 55 (most of whom would sell anyway) and thus cutting school funding is not the answer.
20. NO. Makes more things crimes with restricted parole. We already criminalize too much with costly, overcrowded prisons that we pay for. This would reverse some recent legislative changes and make car thefts and repeat shoplifting a felony. There does not appear to be a compelling case to reverse the balanced approach of the legislature. SF Chronicle, LA Times and Orange County Register say no.
21. NO. Rent control. Rent control favors the few, while discouraging the building of more housing, which is what we need to provide more affordable housing. SF Chronicle says no (“While researchers have found that rent control can confer substantial benefits on affected tenants, it does so at the expense not only of property owners but also of other tenants. And those benefits are not reliably distributed to those who need them most. The greatest cost, meanwhile, will be to a housing market that can ill afford it, further restricting supply and inflating prices.”) LA Times says yes. (SJ Mercury News and Orange County Register say no).
Some ads against 21, while having the correct conclusion, are misleading, suggesting that it somehow rolls back rent control.
22. YES. Classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees, which effectively kneecaps AB5. This is a tough one. The CA Legislature targeted Uber and Lyft with a law that reclassified independent contractors as employees. This law has unintended consequences for truckers, writers and a host of other gig workers, eliminating flexibility for Uber and Lyft drivers and other independent contractors. This proposition, pushed by Uber and Lyft, gives some limited benefits, such as stipends for health care, as an attempt at a compromise the Legislature spurned. In reality, neither the Legislature’s law nor this measure are perfect. Plus, I don’t like the requirement of a supermajority to overturn this (although the Democrats have such a supermajority). But I think on balance, this deserves a Yes vote. SF Chronicle says yes, LA Times says no (Orange County Register says yes).
23. NO. Places several new regulations on dialysis clinics. This requires a physician at a clinic during dialysis, along with other measures. It would increase costs for no reason, and likely close rural clinics where a doctor isn’t available. It was put on the ballot by the Service Employees International Union to put pressure on the clinics to unionize, after the union failed to organize the workers. This should not be on the ballot. It serves no purpose but to punish dialysis operators. All the papers are against it. SF Chronicle, LA Times, SJ Mercury News, Orange County register say no.
24. NO. Expands CA consumer privacy laws with new state agency. The legislature already passed a privacy law. SF Chronicle, SJ Mercury News, Orange County Register say no. LA times and Andrew Yang say yes. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the nation’s most aggressive and authoritative champions of privacy rights, has taken a neutral position on Prop. 24: “It is a mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards.” A good default on things too complex to figure out (this is 52 pages long) is no, because the legislature should deal with this, not the voters.
25. YES. Ends cash bail, replaces with risk assessment. Current law favors rich defendants, punishes the poor. SF Chronicle, LA Times, Orange County Register say yes.
You may be confused that the NAACP appears to be against this. Alice Huffman, the leader of the California NAACP, is against it. But Alice has a separate political consulting firm with her sister that has been paid more than $1.2 million so far this year by 5 different ballot measure campaigns. Her name appears under multiple measures in the ballot handbook, where she is repeatedly identified as president of the California State Conference of the NAACP. Thus, this does not appear to be a true NAACP cause, and in fact the measure is designed to help colored people.