A voter’s guide to California’s 2016 propositions

Lauren Blazey

Hey you! Yeah you! Come over here! I’ve got a proposition for you … well, actually, I have 17. Listen, I get it. No one wants to educate themselves on the propositions. It’s the least appealing part of the entire election, and considering the two major party candidates, that’s really saying something.

Nevertheless, which propositions pass or fail may affect the average Californian citizen far more than who wins the presidency. So here’s a bare-bones breakdown of this season’s crop of props.

Proposition 51 - Authorizes $9 billion in bonds for updating K-12 schools and community colleges, but would cost the state $17.6 billion with annual payments of $500 million for 35 years. Question #1: Should you save the children from: A) crippled facilities or B) crippling debt? At least this test is multiple choice. 

Proposition 52 - Extends an existing statute that imposes fees on private hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health services, uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage. This may save the state around $1 billion and increase funding of public hospitals.

Proposition 53 - This proposition would require voter approval for any project that would be paid for with bonds totaling $2 billion or more. It’s designed to target expensive projects, such as the high-speed rail. This prop would allow voters to hold the state accountable for its spending. However, should a natural disaster strike, such as an earthquake, this prop could drastically slow down the rate at which the state recovers. Reconstruction of vital highways, for example, would have to be approved by voters before construction could begin.

Proposition 54 - The legislature must post bills online for 72 hours before the bill is voted on. The legislature must also record all meetings and post these online, as well. This will cost the state $1 million upfront and $1 million each year to post all recordings online. Who needs House of Cards when you can follow all the drama and intrigue of the California state legislature?

Proposition 55 - Extends the temporary personal income tax enacted in 2012 for 12 more years on earnings over $250,000. Revenues will be used to fund K-12 schools, community colleges, and healthcare.  Since the majority of California voters make far less than $250K per year, it seems it will mostly affect just the wealthiest Californians who can most afford it.

Proposition 56 - Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack and increases taxes on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Revenues will be used for health care for low-income Californians. It will be more expensive to smoke, meaning healthier folks.

Proposition 57 - Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons and authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. This prop would also require a juvenile court judge, rather than a prosecutor, to determine whether a minor should be tried as an adult. This prop might just be a step in the right direction to ease prison overcrowding, and those who have watched the latest season of Orange is the New Black know just how important that is.

Proposition 58- Students in public schools must continue to obtain proficiency in English, but this prop would eliminate the English-only mandate. Schools would now be allowed to establish dual-language immersion programs. School districts will also be required to solicit parent and community help in developing language programs. Can we have all this without a financial impact to school districts or state government? ¡Sí se puede!

Proposition 59 - This proposition asks voters whether Congress should create a Constitutional amendment or enact legislation that would go against the 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision. Citizens United allows wealthy individuals, corporations, and unions to spend unlimited funds on political activity as long as it is not in coordination or consultation with candidates or campaigns. The outcome of this proposition on its own will not change anything, but it will signal to Congress that campaign finance reform to overturn the Citizens United decision is wanted by the voters.

Proposition 60 - Porn stars will be required to wear condoms and producers will be required to pay for their vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. A vote yes could aid the transition to safe sex on sets. However, workers in this industry have advised voters to vote no.

Proposition 61- Drug companies will only be able to charge Medicare, Medi-Cal, and CalPERS the same price for drugs that the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) is charged. This means that Medicare, Medi-Cal, and CalPERS would not have to pay more than the V.A. However, these drug rates do not apply to everyone in the state of California. In addition, this new system could cause the drug companies to charge more when negotiating with the V.A., which would therefore hurt veterans. It’s no secret that drug prices are too high, but this prop has too many unintended consequences that may make it hard to swallow.

Proposition 62 - Repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life sentences without parole. This would reduce state and county criminal justice costs by around $150 million per year. Take a seat while you ponder the moral and monetary issues of prisoner mortality. Oh wait, not that chair!

Proposition 63 - This proposition would require a background check on purchasers of ammunition and authorization by the Department of Justice before allowing the seller to proceed with the transaction. It would also prohibit the possession of large-capacity magazines, create a process for newly convicted felons to turn in their guns, and make stealing a gun a felony. 

Proposition 64 - The pot prop. This proposition would permit sales of marijuana and make it legal for adults to own up to an ounce and grow up to six plants. In addition to imposing regulations on the pot industry, the proposition also institutes sales taxes on weed. Higher regulation could mean a decline in small cannabis-growing businesses. It’ll be high times for the California Franchise Tax Board.

Proposition 65 - This prop is similar to Prop 67. Prop 67 wouldban single-use plastic bags from stores and require stores to charge a dime for a recycled paper bag or a reusable bag when customers forget theirs. While Prop 67 allows the store to keep the funds collected to pay for the costs of the bags, Prop 65 would require stores to turn over the money to a fund overseen by the Wildlife Conservation Board. This might sound like a great idea, but it could in effect hurt retailers as they would not be able to keep the money to cover the cost of the bags they must now provide their customers. This prop just has a little too much baggage.

Proposition 66 - Like Prop 62, this prop also acknowledges the inefficiency and high cost of holding prisoners on death row. However, these two pieces of proposed legislation could not be more different. Instead of repealing the death penalty as 62 would, 66 would speed up the process of appeals for death row inmates. This would increase the risk that an innocent person will be put to death. Under Prop 66, justice may be swift, but then, is it really justice at all?

Proposition 67 - An approval of this proposition would ban stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags. Stores would be required to charge at least a dime for a recycled paper or reusable bag. If California chooses to vote environmentally conscious, then this prop has it in the bag.

For more detailed information on all the props go to www.scpr.org/news/2016/10/03/65230/time-to-cram-california-s-17-ballot-measure-propos/.