Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Editorial: State ballot measures


Executions in California were carried out in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison; Proposition 34 on the November ballot would repeal the death penalty.
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Prop 30: Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative. YES

(See previous B.A.R. editorial,


Prop 31: Two Year State Budget Cycle and Government Performance and Accountability Act: NO

While establishing a two-year budget cycle has some advantages, this proposition meddles far too much in allowing local governments to ignore state mandated programs such as state environmental requirements. Further, it locks California into permanent underfunding of education, health, and other vital services. This is much too complicated a subject to address with an initiative constitutional amendment.


Prop 32: Special Exemptions Act. NO

This is an anti-labor measure concocted by southern California conservatives under the guise of campaign finance reform. It promises political reform but is really an effort by special interest groups to weaken the role of unions in participating in the political process while allowing corporations virtually unlimited freedom to contribute as they wish. This does not even begin to fix the problem of money in politics.


Prop 33: Automobile Insurance Industry Pricing Act. NO

While purporting to save drivers money, this initiative statute really gives insurance companies virtually unlimited authority to hike rates. It is funded by Mercury Insurance billionaire George Joseph, who has put up $8.2 million for the measure. He funded a similar measure that was defeated in the last election, and this one should be too.


Prop 34: California Death Penalty Repeal Act. YES

This proposition would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life without possibility of parole. It would apply to the some 720 inmates currently on death row. It pits a coalition of justice groups against a campaign headed by law enforcement groups. It costs state and county governments collectively between $100 million to $130 million annually to pay for the costs of death penalty trials, appeals, and corrections, savings that would be allocated to pay for increased investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases. Improved investigation analyses and more sophisticated DNA testing have shown, not infrequently, that innocent people do get executed. This practice is below the dignity of a civilized society. It is time to repeal the death penalty.


Prop 35: Increased Penalties for Human Trafficking Act. NO

How can anyone be against a law to increase penalties for human trafficking? We are, because this proposition is not necessary and has too many bad provisions. State law already covers the subject thoroughly. If the state legislature feels the penalties are insufficient, they can certainly increase them, and it is unlikely anyone would object. In fact, state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) successfully stewarded a bill through this current session of the legislature that made needed changes to current human trafficking law as it relates to minors. This proposition is an abuse of the initiative process. The proposition makes no provision for funding, which will certainly be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. It also contains numerous provisions that seriously invade privacy and would have lifelong effects on those caught in its web. We are sensitive to the issue, because it wasn't that long ago that gay men were arrested and forced to register as sex offenders for offenses as minor as public urination. Under this proposition, they would lose all personal privacy for life. It is bad policy.


Prop 36: Three Strikes Law Modification. YES

This is a common sense modification of the "three strikes and you're out" law. This measure provides that a life sentence on the third strike could be imposed only for a serious or violent felony. Currently, untold numbers of inmates whose third strike was for non-violent drug possession are serving life sentences. This is a waste of money. Our priorities as a society are backward when we spend increasing amounts of money on incarceration and less and less on education. This modification would save from $70 million to $90 million annually in prison- and parole-related costs, money which would be much better spent elsewhere.


Prop 37: Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods. YES

Largely funded by out of state national food firms and organic advocates, this proposition requires labeling of food made from plants or animals with genetically engineered material. Prohibited in many countries (e.g. France), no one really knows the health risks of genetically engineered food. This is a transparency measure, which will allow the consumer to make an informed decision. It would be the first such measure of its kind in the United States.


Prop 38: Munger Initiative. NO

(See previous B.A.R. editorial,


Prop 39: Income Tax Increase for Multistate Businesses. NO

Current tax law permits multistate businesses doing business in California to calculate their tax liability under different formulae. Of course, they will choose the formula most advantageous to them. This proposition changes the law to require that multistate businesses calculate their taxes based on sales made in California regardless of where they are based. We agree that this is a loophole in the state tax code that should be eliminated. However, this proposition then mandates that the increased revenue, estimated at up to $1 billion annually, be earmarked for specific energy and education programs. This is ballot box budgeting, and we oppose it. It is the role of the legislature to determine the most effective use of revenues, particularly in these hard times of competing priorities. This is a loophole that needs to be closed, but this proposition brings too much other baggage.


Prop 40: Referendum on Redistricting. YES

This is a sour grapes attempt by unhappy Republicans to throw out the district lines for the state Senate that were drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and upheld by the California Supreme Court. Since 2008 California voters have voted three times to have legislative and congressional boundaries determined by an independent commission. This will be the fourth election on the matter in four years. Enough is enough. A YES vote affirms the boundaries drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

To view the complete list of B.A.R. endorsements, click here:

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