2018 Primary Election Edition

Posted by the Mad Propster on May 25, 2018

Greetings, Golden Staters! It’s that time again! The state legislature has placed five initiatives on our primary ballot this spring. If this group of proposed laws seems a little on the uncontroversial side, that’s to be expected: Since 2014, only legislature-backed propositions appear on primary election ballots. The juicier ones — props that arise from the citizenry — get held in abeyance until the general election in November, when there are a lot more voters.

Still, it’s worth getting acquainted with (and voting on!) this batch of five; their effects could be felt for a long time to come. If you are a longtime Mad Props reader, you’re familiar with our approach; if not, maybe check out our manifesto before diving in. All righty then, enough of our boring opening shtick. Here’s how you should vote on the props — or you’re part of the problem!

Proposition 68
$4B for Parks, Environment, and Water

You should vote: yes
This proposition was: approved

If you read Mad Props so that you don’t have to read your state-supplied Voter Information Guide, we are very flattered, and we know you hate it when we say this, but when it comes to Prop 68, it really is worth reading your VIG! Pages 8 through 11 (or their online equivalent) are basically a mini civics lesson, beginning with a reminder that “the state operates various programs to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, provide flood protection, improve water quality, and offer recreational opportunities for the public.” (Friends, the next time someone tells you government ain’t never done nothin’ good for nobody, you wad up these four pages into a ball, and you shove them down that ignoramus’s throat!)

Anyhow, Prop 68 is a bond measure for environmental and park projects. It’ll take forty years to pay off at a rate of $200 million per year; as the VIG says, “This amount is about one-fifth of a percent of the state’s current General Fund budget” — in other words, not a huge imposition on future budgets, not even close, no matter what the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association would have you believe. (A reminder: Anytime a Howard Jarvis puppet shows up in your VIG, you can safely assume the sane vote is opposite theirs.)

The Golden State has an amazing park system that needs upkeep. The Sacramento delta levee system needs a ton of upgrades so that the entire Central Valley doesn’t flood the next time the state gets hit with a hundred-year storm. Coastline projects, anti-pollution projects — all kinds of good stuff will get funded by Prop 68. It’s an investment in the state of our state itself, and a worthwhile one. Vote yes on Prop 68.

Proposition 69
Transport Tax Lockbox

You should vote: yes
This proposition was: approved

Holy cow, really? We haven’t heard the word “lockbox” since Al Gore wouldn’t shut up about one in 2000. But lo, here we have ourselves a lockbox measure. What it would do is pretty simple.

  • In 2017, the state legislature raised the gas tax 12 cents per gallon — the first increase in that tax in 23 years. Long overdue, and a real step forward that is expected to give the state an additional $5 billion in revenue each year.
  • Prop 69 sez that money must be spent on transportation projects: roads, bridges, public transit, etc.

Right! Sensible! Do it! Pass this! Who would argue about this? Well, State Senator John Moorlach (Orange County; loon), for one; you’ll note he’s against both 68 and 69 in your VIG, where — as befits a man from a county where “train” is a dirty word — he complains that Prop 69 allows gas tax money to be spent on things that aren’t roads. (The horror!) Driving is apparently never far from the good senator’s mind; he literally asks “How long will the voters of this state enable free-spending liberals to drive our Golden State into the ground?” Not as long as a drive on I-5 through your county during daylight hours, Senator!

Prop 69 is a sensible tweak that protects this precious new income from being gobbled up by the General Fund. You want improvements in transporation infrastructure in the Golden State? Yeah? Us, too. Vote yes on Prop 69.

Proposition 70
Kneecapping Cap-and-Trade

You should vote: no
This proposition was: rejected

First, let’s define a term. A “cap-and-trade” program (also known as emissions trading) provides a means by which we made it economically hurtful for companies to pollute the air. It is a market-based approach — usually the sort of thing that Republicans embrace, but no, not in this case, because modern Republicans believe that the government has no business telling big corporations that they have to spend extra money if they want to pollute the air.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Kyoto Protocol. That’s an international cap-and-trade agreement that most industrialized nations subscribe to. (Not the USA, of course, because Republicans.) The EU does cap-and-trade. China and India are both working to curb pollution using cap-and-trade systems — because they work! And that’s why California instituted a cap-and-trade program in 2012.

A recent deal in Sacramento extends this ground-breaking (in this country, anyway) program to 2030. But in order to get some Republican votes for that deal, Governor Brown agreed to put Prop 70 before the voters. And we guarantee you, friends, as soon as the Republicans accepted that deal, good old Jerry must have said to somebody, “I can’t believe they fell for it!” Because Prop 70 would rather clearly kneecap California’s cap-and-trade by making it impossible to spend the program’s revenues without a two-thirds vote in the legislature. A terrible idea — and one we’re sure Governor Brown knows won’t be embraced by the voters.

More generally, we want to remind you that requirements for such supermajority votes are pretty much always a bad idea, for the simple reason that they put the minority squarely in control — which is, you know, basically the exact freaking opposite of democracy.

So, no. No supermajority vote requirement to spend cap-and-trade money. No clobbering America’s one great stab at lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Jerry Brown had his fingers crossed behind his back when he made this deal, because he was trusting California voters to see what is at stake here. Vote for sound emissions policy, vote against Big Oil and corporate polluters, vote no on Prop 70.

Proposition 71
Delay the People’s Will

You should vote: no
This proposition was: approved

When a proposition passes, it takes effect “the day after the election” — unless the text of the proposition itself states otherwise. Prop 71 would change that by creating a built-in waiting period of up to 43 days before a proposition could take effect.

Why should we do this? Proponents say it’s necessary because in the case of a close result that isn’t immediately known, There Could Be Problems. But is this really the case?

In your VIG, the only voice of opposition on Prop 71 comes from one Gary Wesley. Mr. Wesley is an attorney who has made a decades-long hobby of providing opposing arguments to constitutional amendments that would otherwise appear on the ballot without opposition. (The Los Angeles Times reported on Wesley all the way back in 1986!)

In the case of Prop 71, Wesley actually makes a very good point: This is a solution in search of a problem. It is already understood under state law that a proposition does not pass until the results of the vote are clear. If the vote is close, that can take some time, but when the results become known, then the “day after the election” rule we noted above applies in the sense that the proposition goes into effect retroactively. This is a very good thing, and this retroactivity will be lost if Prop 71 passes.

Wesley provides a grim example — involving child molesters — of how Prop 71 could yield negative, unintended consequences. We’re not going to go there. We’re going with a different hypothetical…

There’s a crime in our society called jaywalking. This is a crime that was invented by car companies and auto clubs back in the 1920s, as part of a nationwide campaign to make our cities car-centric instead of pedestrian-centric. Jaywalking enforcement has always been wildly inconsistent — a nice way of saying jaywalking tickets are a way for shitty cops to harass and fine people. [Insert your own biases about whom shitty cops might like to harass and fine here.]

So, imagine some fine day in the Golden State’s future where we get a proposition on the ballot to abolish jaywalking laws. Imagine it passes with overwhelming support. Imagine that as we’re going to bed, exit polls are indicating that 80% of Californians supported the proposition. Mail-in ballots are not going to change anything; the result is completely clear. The jaywalking tickets should stop the next day. Prop 71 would rob us of this immediate victory!

Too far-fetched? All right, fine, imagine it isn’t an 80% approval as we go to bed with the hypothetical anti-jaywalking measure. Imagine it’s close. Unclear. So, the day after the election, jaywalking tickets are still being written. But two weeks later, all the ballots are counted, and it turns out, the measure just barely squeaked through. Great! The law would then take effect retroactively, so tickets written after election day would become void. But, alas: not if Prop 71 passes.

The immediacy of outcome in our initiative process is one of the process’s chief strengths. Prop 71 destroys that immediacy in all cases. A more sensible measure would only apply to very close results, and would retain the retroactivity we have the potential to benefit from under current law. It doesn’t surprise me that Prop 71 had no opposition in Sacramento — our lawmakers don’t care for the initiative process, and chip away at it whenever they can. Don’t let them do it! Vote no on Prop 71.

Proposition 72
Rain-Capture and Property Taxes

You should vote: yes
This proposition was: approved

You’re skimming at this point, right? Attention wearing thin? Need to get on with your life? Fine. We’ll wrap this up with a quickness. Here’s the deal on Prop 72:

  • California in the 21st Century looks to be the Land of Droughts.
  • We need to conserve water in every possible way we can.
  • Rain-capture systems are an efficient, increasingly popular means to conserve water.
  • Currently, if you add a rain-capture system to your property, that increases the value of said property in a way that can affect your property taxes.
  • Prop 72 would fix that.
  • (We already did the same for solar panel systems, by the way — all the way back in 1980! How forward-thinking!)

Furthermore, here is a complete list of people and organizations who have come out against this measure:

  • Nobody

We told you this would be easy! Vote yes on Prop 72.

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