Greetings, Califorians! It’s election time, and Mad Props, your 100 percent independent guide to California’s ballot initiatives, is here to make sense of the seven statewide propositions on your ballot. If you’ve visited us before, then you know from our manifesto that we view the initiative process with a very leery eye, and we assume that any given measure deserves a no vote unless it’s pretty darned clear the proposed law will actually improve our lives.
The system’s really not set up to produce that sort of proposition, but lo! This time around there are four props worthy of your support, so let us get around to convincing you which ones those are. Informed voters, here’s how to vote — or you’re part of the problem!
If you look up a list of the most important technological advancements of the 20th century, you’ll see things like radio, television, refrigeration, airplanes, and rocketry. What should appear on such a list (but usually doesn’t) is the development of a wide array of safe, effective, science-based pharmaceuticals and medical procedures that gave women complete control over their reproductive systems for the first time in human history. Stop and think about it for a moment and you realize that that very control is a foundation upon which our modern society is built. “Women in the workplace” (for example) is not a thing that just coincidentally happened after science gave women the ability to choose when to have a baby. Mad Props happens to think that “women in the workplace” is a good thing — along with “women being doctors” and “women being mayors” and “women being senators” and more generally “women being and doing Whatever The Hell They Want.” If you think this is all important progress that must not be rolled back, then you already know you are voting yes on Prop 1, because you understand the importance of access to safe, legal contraception and abortions. You understand that reproductive rights must be enshrined in law. You can skip to the next prop.
If you think that the aforementioned progress is much ado about nothing because abstinence was always a choice women could make, then we are guessing that your take on sex is very different from ours, and we further wonder if perhaps you are wired up in such a way that abstinence seems like a perfectly tolerable state of affairs to you, and if so, perhaps you might consider that the majority of human beings on this planet are not hooked up that way at all.
And if you think that reproductive control and reproductive freedom are not progress — hello, Mike Pence! — then what can we say to you? You already know how you are voting on Prop 1. But make no mistake: Your views on a variety of issues (including the question of when life begins) are shaped by religious dogma that has little or no basis in scripture and was mostly dreamed up by generations of male clergy — most of whom, oddly enough, at least present as guys wired up in such a way that abstinence seems like a perfectly tolerable state of affairs to them. And your view of women — that they should and must be mothers above all else — not only ignores the history of the 20th century, but is an affront to the modern understanding that women are people, not property, and that as such, they have the right to determine the course of their own lives, rather than having it mapped out by men.
Bottom line: Support women’s rights. Vote yes on Prop 1. Or move your misogynist ass to Idaho already.
No group of Californians has ever lost more than our Native population: They had this entire beautiful state stolen from them. So Mad Props generally supports any ballot measure that restores any amount of self-determination to Indian tribes. And if Prop 26 — written by tribes with big casino operations — were like that, simply giving tribes more freedom to offer Whatever The Hell They Want on their reservation-resorts, we would be all-in.
But the tribes that wrote Prop 26 got greedy. They added a feature to Prop 26 that can only be seen as a means to shut down cardrooms that currently operate across the state. And then there’s the odd provision to allow sports betting at racetracks. We assume the tribes tossed the racetracks that very large bone to prevent their opposition to the measure. But the horse racing industry has been steadfast in opposing reforms that would make the sport anything close to humane, so we view this lifeline for racetracks as putting lipstick on a pig.
There is already enough going on here that Prop 26 doesn’t pass our smell test, and we haven’t even mentioned the societal damage sustained anytime legalized gambling expands. A very good piece in The Atlantic from a few years back explains that damage quite well, and also reminds us that “gambling relies on addiction for its business model to function.” [The emphasis in that quote is ours, and we’ll return to this theme in another context shortly!] There’s just no upside for California here, folks. Vote no on Prop 26.
This is an absolute heaping dumpster fire of a bill, put forth, yes, by out-of-state gambling companies, and they’re trying to sell it as a potential cure for homelessness. Their main political action committee is even disingenuously named “Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support.” In one TV spot, the Prop 27 folks attack Prop 26 for not addressing homelessness, which is like McDonald’s attacking Chipotle for not doing enough to protect coral reefs. Totally bizarre. And at the end of the day, guess what? Advocates for homeless people do not support Prop 27.
Make no mistake: The reason that PAC has spent $160 million supporting Prop 27 is, FanDuel and DraftKings, the big two online sports betting networks, know they can make way way more than that amount if Prop 27 passes. As an eye-opening report from Vice makes clear, the way these companies make their gazillions is by preying on folks with little disposable income, and people who have gambling addictions. The harm caused by these services is real, and the impact on society is far-reaching.
Luckily, polling indicates that Prop 27 is going down in flames, and hard. Throw some fuel on the fire yourself, and vote no on Prop 27.
To begin with, let’s be clear: Prop 28 doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes and doesn’t create any new revenue. All it does is mandate that local school districts must spend at least 1% of the money they receive under 1988’s Prop 98 on arts and music education. In other words, it’s a guarantee that arts and music education will not be the first thing to get tossed out the window the next time budgets tighten up.
Now, generally Mad Props is opposed in principle to initiatives that mandate spending carve-outs. There is a decent argument to be made that Prop 28 is a bad idea because school districts need flexibility when their revenue goes down. The problem with that argument is, California school districts have been making the same decision on this front since your host came up through the state’s public schools in the 1980s: When money gets tight, arts and music programs get cut first.
Meanwhile, our first cousin, who fled California for suburban Texas several years back, reports that you would not believe the arts and music opportunities at your average public school out there. Yeah, in Texas! Do you want country music to take over the world? Because this is how you get country music taking over the world. We think that’s a pretty dark future, and we also think the Golden State’s schoolchildren deserve instruction on crafting beautiful things. As it turns out, the benefits are legion. Great schools teach a lot more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Vote yes on Prop 28.
If you are thinking “WAIT WAIT NOT ANOTHER DIALYSIS MEASURE” then congratulations, you have a good memory.
In 2018, Mad Props urged a NO vote on Prop 8, and 60% of voters agreed.
In 2020, we urged a NO vote on Prop 23, and 63% of voters agreed.
Now SEIU-UHW West, the union that keeps dreaming these measures up, is back. This year’s Prop 29 is a slightly-tweaked version of 2020’s Prop 23, and none of the tweaks make it any less of a special-interest power-grab. If you wanna know more about this union and their angle, check out our previous writeups; if you need convincing this isn’t about patient care, check out the various media editorials against the measure. Let’s hope that after a third defeat, SEIU-UHW West finally gives up. Vote no on Prop 29.
Prop 30 is pretty straightforward: It generates new revenue to create subsidies for individuals to purchase electric vehicles. The money would come from a new tax on personal income above $2 million. There is a smaller set-aside for spending on wildfire prevention efforts, but this measure ultimately boils down to “tax the rich to help people get rid of their gas guzzlers.”
This straightforward story got complicated with Governor Gavin Newsom’s television commercial slamming Prop 30. Now, as always, Mad Props is honest about its biases. You should know that we take anything Gavin Newsom says with a grain of salt large enough to block your windpipe. The man is a snake who has shown terrible judgment time and again over his years in public life.
Gavin is upset that Prop 30 is basically bankrolled by Lyft, the less-evil of the two big ridesharing services. California requires these services to convert most of their fleets to zero emission vehicles by 2030. But unlike traditional taxi services, ridesharing services don’t own the cars in their fleets; their contractor-drivers use their own vehicles. So Lyft needs to get its drivers to upgrade to EVs somehow, and they’d like state-provided subsidies to help.
The governor says, “Prop 30 is … a cynical scheme devised by a single corporation to funnel state income tax revenue to their company.” That’s the sort of truth-bending we expect from him, all right. Prop 30 doesn’t send a dime to Lyft — it will send money to Lyft drivers. And Uber drivers. And folks who don’t drive for a living — maybe even you! That’s actually a pretty important difference. If Prop 30 did in fact funnel money directly to Lyft, we’d have an issue with it. If it carved out money specifically for Lyft drivers — or even for ridesharing drivers — we’d have an issue with it. But it doesn’t do these things. What it will do is help speed the transition to EVs. And roughly 35,000 of our state’s most successful citizens will foot the bill. Seriously, what’s not to like? Yes, Lyft will benefit (if it stays in business), but that’s not a good enough reason to oppose the measure. We will all benefit from its passage. Vote yes on Prop 30.
Mad Props has always opposed laws that tell people what they can and cannot put in their own bodies. We’re not fans of Nanny State laws, no matter which end of the political spectrum they come from.
And yet, there is something about Prop 31, which would outlaw flavored tobacco products. Something about how the tobacco industry (and it is an industry — the days of family-owned farms growing the tobacco for your Camels ended some time ago) targets kids and ethnic minorities with these flavored products, designed specifically to get a new/casual user physically addicted to the product. So our distaste for business models built atop addiction comes back into play here.
Have you ever watched a person spend their final years gasping for breath because they ruined their lungs with a lifetime of tobacco smoking? It is the very opposite of pretty. Fewer Californians live out that sort of end each year, and we should not mess with that trend. Banning flavored tobacco products is a sensible public health move, no matter how much nostalgia you might have for the menthols you liked to smoke from time to time in college. Ahem. Vote yes on Prop 31.
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