Thursday, October 14, 2004
~ STATE PROPOSITIONS ~
Protection of Local Government Revenues >> Yes
Cities are broke. So’s the state. The state likes to hit up the cities to pay for its shortcomings. We live in cities. Cities reside in states. Both need our support. It’s a paradox.
Ultimately, though, Prop 1A gets the state out of the pockets of local governments. For good.
Voters may be perplexed to see that Gov. Schwarzenegger supports 1A. Why would the Governor support being put on fiscal restriction from city bucks? Easy: There’s a quick state fix in the language.
In the next two years, the state can nab up to $2.6 billion of funds intended for local governments. In exchange, thereafter, the state keeps its nose out of local government funds.
And that’s the way it should be: desperately-needed local funds for long-overdue local expenditures. Without them, cities are drowning. Vote yes.
Public Records, Open Meetings. Constitutional Amendment >> Yes
It’s a heavy ballot, and this is one of the easy ones. 59 gives Californians the right to see public documents and attend meetings. It points a flashlight into the direction of elected officials, opens doors to their conference rooms. It takes away the secrets of politics and law-making without sacrificing any individual rights of privacy.
If the public is denied the access to the records, writings and meetings that 59 guarantees, the one playing hide-the-ball has the burden of proof as to why, and not the other way around.
We think 59 just makes sense. It removes the cone of silence that often goes hand-in-hand with government, but disallows the scrutiny of Big Brother.
Election Rights of Political Parties >> Yes
A yes vote on 60 simply reaffirms what we are: a democracy. Prop 60 ensures that each party has the right, following a March primary partisan election, to advance the candidate from each party who receives the most votes on to November’s general election. Simply put: Each party represented in the March primary is ensured a spot on the November ballot. What could be easier? Green, American Independent, Natural Law, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, Republican, Democrat—everyone gets a shot. He or she with the most votes wins—at least until November. It just makes good, fair sense.
Surplus Property >> Yes
We’re not quite sure why this one is on the ballot. But because it’ll save Californians a couple of bucks, we’re endorsing it. Here’s how it works: California is full of surplus property, land it owns that it doesn’t need. If that property gets sold—and nothing in 60A mandates that it be sold—then the revenue generated from that sale will go to pay off old bond debts instead of being put back into the fund where the money originally came from to buy the property. The interest saved on the bonds by dumping in a couple of extra mill here and there from property sales won’t be earth-shattering. But we’re not against saving even a little money in a cash-strapped economy.
Children’s Hospital Project Grant >> Yes
We can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the hospitals guaranteed to benefit from 61 are quite limited. There are only five. But those five are enough to get our attention: university children’s hospitals of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Davis, and Irvine.
Prop 61 does not increase taxes to ensure that those five—plus eight other children’s hospitals that are likely immediate recipients under the prop’s guidelines—get the most advanced technology available in children’s medicine. The sale of the bonds to fund 61 will also pay for key research, increased bed space, construction, and renovation of existing facilities. 80 percent of recipient hospitals must be nonprofit under 61’s limitations. The guidelines are fierce, and the proposition necessary.
Elections and Primaries >> No
There’s something very appealing about being able to vote for any candidate—except a candidate for president—on any ballot, regardless of party affiliation. There are times we’ve liked the other party’s candidate better than our own. But what scares us most about 62 is its potential for tomfoolery. And elections aren’t a place for that.
Imagine for a moment you’re a Libertarian who can’t stomach the notion that Jane Doe, the likely winner of the Green Party’s primary, is going to take on your candidate. Solution? Vote for Doe’s opponent, someone who isn’t likely to win. The notion sends shivers down our spines.
Elections are for serious voting, for choosing a candidate who best represents our views, not for narrowing choices or playing selective politics. If we don’t care for our candidate, we choose one we do care for. If her name isn’t there, we’ll write her in or leave it blank.
Mental Health Services Funding >> No
In the late 1960s, under Gov. Ronald Reagan, California began closing large mental health institutions with the intention of placing the mentally ill in smaller community-based settings where it was hoped they would thrive. State leaders never followed through with promises to fund the new arrangement, though, and today the victims of this lapse in social duty are visible sleeping in doorways and wandering dazed through the streets of cities.
Prop 63 would place a 1 percent tax on the 25,000-30,000 Californians who earn more than $1 million a year, drawing in about $750 million a year to provide mental health care for children, adults and seniors who cannot afford it. This newspaper maintains that the intentions of Prop 63 are valid, but the means fatally flawed. The fact of the matter is either all of us should be taxed for good public policy, including all aspects of health care at different levels, or none of us. The legislature of the State of California should return to the unfinished business of funding Reagan’s initiative and not leave the heavy lifting to either the supporters of assistance to the mentally ill, nor to this state’s most wealthy citizens.
Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws >> No
Anytime the phrase “frivolous lawsuits” is invoked, as it is by the backers of Prop 64, our antennae start humming. The measure would make it so only those who suffered actual harm or loss of property could file unfair business competition lawsuits. Yes, riveting stuff—and frankly, too opaque for the average voter and newspaper editorial board to really grasp. Here’s what we do understand: opponents include a number of health care associations and environmental organizations, and detractors of the measure say it will stifle legitimate as well as frivolous lawsuits.
We also understand that although Prop 64 is touted as protection for small businesses, these corporations are backing it: Blue Cross of California, Microsoft, Bank of America, Kaiser, State Farm and more. Sounds fishy. Vote no on Prop 64.
Local Government Funds and Revenues State Mandate >> No
Prop 65 is the sacrificial prop on the ballot. Its sister is Prop 1A. The stakes are huge: whichever survives with the most votes wins. Both 65 and 1A can’t be enacted. It’s one or the other. If both props pass, the one that garnered the most votes becomes law.
In that vein, 65 has to go. It would require voter approval before governing bodies can do much of anything with tax dollars. It’s a reasonable notion. Right up until the time a budget stalemate in Sacramento forced the writing of the compromising language of 1A. 1A puts locals in charge of local dollars, which is what 65 generally intended. 1A is better for local governments, better for cities and taxpayers. It’s flexible. It makes sense. And it needs to defeat 65.
Limitations on “Three Strikes” Law >> Yes
California’s overzealous “Three Strikes” law, passed by voter initiative in 1994, was conceived with the reasonable goal of keeping violent criminals off the streets. But it treats all third offenses the same, whether drug possession or murder. As a result, California’s prisons are bursting with nonviolent criminals, each of whom costs the state $31,000 a year in food and lodging.
Prop 66 would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually in reduced prison expenses, according to the legislative analyst, by requiring that “third strike” offenses be serious or violent (for example, burglary would no longer count). Third-strikers would be able to appeal their convictions. Finally, Prop 66 would stiffen penalties against sex offenders whose victims are children. Opponents, including Attorney General Bill Lockyer, say Prop 66 will return thousands of criminals to the streets but, in fact, no one will be released without a hearing. Reform of the draconian Three Strikes law is long overdue. Vote yes on Prop 66.
Emergency Medical Services >> No
Prop 67 would increase telephone surcharges by 3 percent, with a 50-cent cap per household (the cap would not apply to cell phones and business lines), to raise about $500 million a year for emergency medical services. It would pay physicians and hospitals who are not compensated for their services.
The idea of raising revenue for emergency services is a fine one, but this is not the way to do it. Let elected officials do their jobs and figure out how to solve this one. Vote no on Prop 67.
Non-tribal Commercial Gambling Expansion >> No
The race tracks and card rooms cooked this one up after watching tribal casinos rake it in with slot machines. In a nutshell, Prop 68 offers a straw proposal that its backers know will fail, then a consequence that fattens their own wallets. It goes like this: Prop 68 would require all Native American casinos to pay 25 percent of their proceeds to the state. If even one tribe refuses to sign on to this arrangement—and that is sure to happen—then Prop 68 guarantees that race tracks and card rooms get between them 30,000 slot machines. One-third of the proceeds, as much as $1 billion, would go to social services and law enforcement.
Gov. Schwarzenegger is campaigning against Prop 68 because it undermines his nascent attempts to regulate Native American casinos; his recently-struck pact with 10 tribes, whereby they give up 15 percent of their earnings to the state in exchange for the right to unlimited growth, could bring in $1 billion, and that’s just the beginning of the revenue stream. He’s grandstanding on a sure loser, but we’re with him on this one: vote no on Prop 68.
Samples, Collection, Database Funding >> No
Building a databank of DNA samples from felons convicted of violent crimes is all well and good, and it is something California has been doing since 1984. Prop 69, however, would take it further—too far. Under this measure, starting in five years any adult arrested—not convicted, but merely arrested —for a felony would have a DNA sample taken. If the accused were found innocent, the sample would remain in the databank. Sounds like an intrusion and a presumption of guilt to us—not to mention the $20 million annual bill. Vote no on Prop 69.
Tribal Gaming Compacts, Exclusive Gaming Rights >> No
Prop 70, sponsored by the richest Native American tribes with the biggest casinos, takes aim at Prop 68 and Schwarzenegger’s agreement with the 10 tribes described above. It offers the state 9 percent of the proceeds from all Native American casinos for the next 99 years—a sweet-sounding deal, but one that comes with a huge price: tribes get the right to unlimited growth (stop for a second and picture that), expansion of gaming to include craps, roulette and other games now barred, and the exclusive right to operate casinos. Let Sacramento set the terms of the deals and do the regulating, not those who stand to gain magnificent personal wealth from the enterprise.
Vote no on 70.
Stem Cell Research, Funding Bonds >> Yes
Twenty Nobel laureates might be wrong, but it’s unlikely—and with Nancy Reagan on their side it wouldn’t matter anyway. Seriously, supporters of stem cell research—which involves “unspecialized” cells usually harvested from embryos—point to the potential to yield treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Detractors often cite the cells’ embryonic origins, and the specter of human cloning, as reasons for their objections.
Prop 71 would float $3 billion in bonds to set up a “California Institute for Regenerative Medicine,” which would give grants and loans to California research institutions to conduct work with stem cells. (It would prohibit funding of cloning projects.)
It’s a big-ticket item at a time when California just borrowed $15 billion from the future, and that makes it risky, but it would put California out front in a potentially lucrative endeavor. Innovation and research—it’s worked very well for California before. Let it work again. Vote yes on Prop 71.
Health Care Coverage Requirements >> No
This one hurts. There are two big problems with a no vote on 72. One is that it repeals a law passed last year and signed by Gov. Gray Davis just before his disgraceful recall. When do California voters grow up and accept that they get what they vote for? Not yet, apparently, and voting no on 72 continues the electorate’s adolescent penchant for sneaking around the back way to get what it wants when Mommy and Daddy don’t give the right answer.
The other problem is that it gives the impression we don’t want a solution to skyrocketing health care costs and the high numbers of uninsured Californians. Not so.
But Prop 72, which would require companies employing 200 or more people to provide health care, and after a while extend to companies employing 50 or more people, is not the answer. It would only bring health care to one in six uninsured Californians. In the meantime, it would place a heavy burden on growing businesses, without addressing the root cause of those high insurance costs.
Attack the problem itself, not a symptom of it. Vote no on Prop 72.