s.e.’s quick and dirty voter guide to the November 2016 California propositions

Foreign friends, I apologise in advance for what is going to end up being a slew of election-related content this month. Please bear with me. I promise it will all be over soon.

I hope.

California is facing 18 propositions on the general election ballot, along with local ballot measures in individual cities and counties. I’m not going to touch those, though Mendocino County residents should note that I am an EMPHATIC NO on AF, which is poorly written, badly structured, and riddled with problems, but I know that 18 ballot measures is a lot, so here’s how I’m voting. Your mileage may vary. As always, I’d strongly urge you to vote the entire ballot, but I have starred items that are particularly important.

Proposition 51: School Bonds — Yes

I’m not a big fan of bond measures, but I like schools.

Proposition 52: Hospital Fees — No

There are a lot of things bundled up in this proposition, one of which in particular is not great. The proposition would require a 2/3 vote in the legislature to amend a law regarding hospital fees. 2/3 votes are notoriously hard to obtain, and these kinds of things can be heavily abused by whichever party is in power.

Proposition 53: Revenue Bonds — No

The California legislature is notorious for trying to abrogate its responsibilities with respect to managing the budget, which is their job. The notion of requiring statewide approval for any revenue bonds over $2 billion may be painted as a brave blow against government waste and excessive spending, but it’s really, really not.

*Proposition 54: Legislative Transparency — Yes

As we learned earlier this year in Congress, transparency is key in political proceedings, and access to cameras and monitoring devices shouldn’t be dictated by whatever party is in power. Requiring the legislature to publish video of proceedings is important. So is requiring all bills to be available online for at least 72 hours before a vote — HB2 likely wouldn’t have been rammed through so easily if a requirement like this had been in place.

Proposition 55: Healthcare Tax Extension — Yes

I favour taxing people for sensible purposes like providing healthcare and education, especially when said taxes are wage-proportionate. The vast majority of Californians won’t be affected by this tax. Those earning $250,000 or more can afford to pay it.

Proposition 56: Cigarette Tax — No

I do not favour sin taxes. While the alleged intent of this tax may be good (better health care, more access to cessation tools for people who want to stop smoking), other avenues of funding should be used to provide these services.

*Proposition 57: Sentencing Reform — Yes

Anything that gets people out of jail and prison sooner is a good idea. California has a massive prison population, and like other states has a highly racially and socioeconomically imbalanced prison population. We penalize people for being poor, and we penalise them for being people of colour. This is only one piece of a much larger puzzle, but it’s important.

*Proposition 58: Prop. 227 Repeal — Yes

Proposition 227, the ‘English only instruction’ law, is racist, abhorrent, and disgusting. It’s also bad for education.

Proposition 59: Citizens United Directive — No

This is basically toothless, inasmuch as the California legislature can’t actually do anything to overturn Citizens United, but California is also an extremely populous and politically powerful state. It’s also potentially dangerous, as it’s sloppily written and could create more problems than it fixes.

*Proposition 60: Condom Bill — No

People across the sex industry almost unilaterally condemn condom bills and other nanny state attempts to interfere with the conduct of their jobs. Condom bills have driven studios and performers out in regions where they’ve passed, because they are prohibitively restrictive. Porn performers use numerous safeguards to protect their health, and should be able to choose whether they wish to use condoms. In addition, the structure of the law could expose performers, especially indie performers, to doxing. Remember: Porn performers are the stunt artists of the sex world, and barebacking in the porn world doesn’t take place in the same context that it does outside the industry. (See LA Weekly story, Lorelei Lee on condoms, and a gay performer on condom bills and the measures the industry already takes.)

Proposition 61: Prescription Drugs — Yes

Labyrinthine negotiations surrounding drugs prices aside, there’s a compelling argument for drug price normalisation. This is a step in that direction that will also save the state a great deal of money.

*Proposition 62: Death Penalty Repeal — Yes

Note: Propositions 62 and 66 are competing ballot measures. While you are not required to vote on both, I strongly recommend it (with competing measures, whichever gets more votes wins if both pass, so there’s a compelling argument for voting no on 66 to drag the competing measure down). 

While this ballot measure has some structural concerns, repealing the death penalty in California is extremely important. This list is too long. The death penalty is inhumane, horrific, and unacceptable — and that’s before we start discussing wrongful convictions and racialised imbalances in the justice system. California needs to join a growing number of states and strike down the death penalty.

*Proposition 63: Gun Control — Yes

This ballot measure actually contains a number of proposals that our governor voted down for being overreaching, which is a reminder that his gun control record isn’t so hot. There are some pretty commonsense safety measures here that would help address gun violence since Congress is apparently unable to do so.

*Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalisation — Yes

I feel like this should go without saying, but legalisation will dramatically cut law enforcement and other government waste, improve product safety for marijuana consumers, allow marijuana-orientated businesses (not just head shops and dispensaries, but also industrial manufacturers of tinctures and other products) to thrive in the open, and offer numerous other social benefits. The unpleasant and inevitable side effect of people freely smoking everywhere in public will hopefully be marginally offset by regional laws regarding smoking near, and in, public buildings.

Proposition 65: Bag Fees — No

I don’t have a problem with bag fees, but I dislike the proposal for mandated redirection of said fees. While some grocery stores pocket them, others actually contribute that money to local charities that really benefit. It would be sad to lose that.

*Proposition 66: Death Penalty Fast Track — No

Accelerating the rate of executions is not something we need, even if you do support the death penalty. This opens up the possibility for wrongful executions and other abuses of the justice system, including forced labour.

Proposition 67: Plastic Bag Ban Referendum — Yes

Voters are being asked to uphold (yes) or overturn (no) SB270, which banned single use plastic bags. There’s no Earthly reason (in more ways than one) to be using disposable plastic bags at this point, so this is a solid yes.