Monday, October 25, 2004

Bill Magavern's California/Sacramento Ballot Measure Recommendations*
*Annoted By Snichols--in other words--in all instances Snichols agrees with Bill except where noted
[Note: out-of-state readers need not care now but be prepared to care 3 years from now when these same ballot measures come your way!]



1A – NO
65 – NO
Both of these stem from local governments’ efforts to stop the state from taking their money. I completely sympathize with their cause. The problem is that their solutions would constitutionalize our current dysfunctional system of local government finance, which is so sales-tax driven that cities and counties chase auto malls and big-box stores, wreaking havoc with land-use planning.

59 – YES
This Sunshine Amendment will put the public’s right to know about government meetings and records into the Constitution, which will help to counter the secrecy efforts of state and local officials. Our public records and open meetings laws are pretty good, but they’re routinely abused by governments.

60A – YES
Saves the state some money and has no downside.

60 – YES
62 -- NO
60 would preserve the status quo, with political parties having the right to choose their own candidates through primaries. 62 would bring to CA the Louisiana system, in which all candidates compete in the same non-partisan primary, with the top 2 facing off in the general election. All the rhetoric about non-partisanship may sound nice, but the result of 62 would be a magnification of the role of money in campaigns. Progressive candidates who now usually win primaries in Democratic areas would have to face business-funded opposition in November. The political reform that we need (along with nonpartisan redistricting) is to provide clean money funding to candidates with grassroots support, and 62 would go in the opposite direction. The small gains to be made by less-conservative Republicans would be far outweighed by the increase in corporate dominance of both major parties. Also, the minor parties oppose 62 because it would make it almost impossible for them to even make it to the November ballot in most of the state.

61 – YES
63 – YES
71 – NO
These initiatives all involve funding for particular types of health care, so they all represent ballot-box budgeting, but in different ways. The most progressive is 63, because it uses a tax on the very rich to fund necessary mental health services. Some oppose it because they want to tax the wealthy for more general purposes, and in a better legislative world I would agree. The problem is that it takes 2/3 of both houses of the Legislature, plus the Governor, to raise taxes. Given the number of knee-jerk anti-tax zealots on the Republican side, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a tax increase on the people Dubya calls “my base.”

Stem cell research should proceed, but should the state spend $6 billion (which is what 71 will come to with the interest on the bonds) on this one form of biomedical research, which may or may not eventually lead to some kind of new cures? I’d much rather see medical research dollars doled out based on some kind of competitive grant process on the merits, rather than put on the ballot with a lot of funding from venture capital companies. As the Center for Genetics and Society says, 71 “grants control over a huge allocation of public funds for controversial research to a particular set of interested parties insulated from public accountability.” CA Nurses Assn opposes for similar reasons. Just on grounds of fiscal sanity, I have to oppose such a huge bond measure at a time when the state can not afford it. I realize that 71 appeals to Bush-bashing instincts, but those can be put to much better use by joining get-out-the-vote efforts, by phone or in person, in the swing states.

I’ll vote for 61, because funding capital costs of children’s hospitals is a much more appropriate role for the state and the amount of bond funding is much less.

I’m still undecided on 67. It does dedicate an ongoing revenue source to a genuine need – emergency rooms, trauma centers and health clinics. On the other hand, the revenue source, a sales tax on telephone service, is neither progressive nor directly linked to the cause being funded. Congress of CA Seniors, a credible group I’ve worked with, opposes 67 because “90% of the money goes directly to special interest groups.”
[Snichols, however, is decided on 67. She will support it because there is such a critical need and because they exempt the poor and cap the monthly amount to make it less regressive--She has fought for funding for emergency rooms and trauma centers before and the money aint there. The special interests are hospitals, clinics and emergency room doctors and I think we need them to get paid.]

64 – NO, NO, NO (yup, this is the campaign I’ve been active in). This is an attempt by big corporations to avoid accountability for their wrongdoing. The Unfair Competition Law has been an excellent tool for environmental and consumer groups to use directly against polluters and rip-off artists, because it allows anyone to sue over violations of the law. 64 would drastically limit such private enforcement, which would mean we would have to rely solely on government, which often lacks either the resources or the guts to take on corporate wrongdoers. Yes, some sleazy lawyers have abused the law, but they can be – and have been – disciplined without throwing out what makes this such a great law. Opposed by American Lung, CA Nurses, Consumers Union, AARP, Sierra Club and all the other major environmental groups.
[Snichols agrees and thinks you should click here to watch cute flash animation about the evils of Prop 64 and send it to all your friends because the no campaign is under-funded.]

66 – YES
This is the kind of common-sense reform of 3-strikes that’s been a long time coming. We’re now the only state that levels the draconian penalty of a 3rd strike for non-violent crimes.

68 – NO
70 – NO
These are attempts by greedy gambling interests to expand their profits. Both would allow casinos to run roughshod over workers’ rights and environmental safeguards. Even if these fail, we’ll soon be the biggest gambling state in the country, a dubious distinction. A number of the tribes that operate casinos worked out compacts with the governor that allow them to expand with some baseline protections for workers and the environment; 70 is backed by the tribes who weren’t willing to make such agreements.

69 – NO
I support DNA collection from convicted felons, because it can help solve crimes and establish the innocence of the wrongly convicted. My problem with this initiative is that it also would require DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, which is an invasion of the privacy of those entitled to a presumption of innocence.

72 – YES
The Legislature passed this health-insurance bill, then business lobbies gathered the signatures to put it to a referendum, so we have to vote yes just to keep it in place. It’s not the ultimate answer to the problems of high costs and lack of insurance facing many working families – what we really need is a single-payer system to replace the profit-making insurance companies. But 72 moves in the right direction by leveling the playing field between employers who provide coverage to their employees and those who are less responsible.


A – NO
The business lobby hijacked what was supposed to have been a community process, so this measure is opposed by environmental, pedestrian, cycling and taxpayer advocates. Measure A would continue Sacramento County’s disastrous pattern of subsidizing suburban sprawl into rural areas, while underfunding public transit and access for pedestrians, cyclists and the disabled. Its backers will tell you we have to pass this now to keep transportation projects going, but the truth is that the current funding continues until 2009, so we can reject this flawed proposal and force
presentation of a better one in 2006 or 2008.

To support affordable housing.

It will take a 2/3 vote just to continue the current library tax, which is all this measure does. Our libraries are already underfunded, and would face major cutbacks if Measure X failed. A community that won’t adequately fund its libraries is impoverishing itself.

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