Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bill Magavern's Personal Ballot Prop Rx

Prop 13 – YES

Would remove an obstacle to seismic retrofits by exempting them from property tax reassessment. Of course, what we really need is wholesale reform of the bad old Prop 13 that has distorted property tax assessments, but that will have to wait for another day.

Prop 14 – NO

The hype is that doing away with party primaries and going to a “Top 2” runoff system would decrease nasty partisanship. The truth is that this system would increase the importance of special-interest money, since all candidates would have to fund 2 elections. The Top 2 system would also virtually eliminate the already-slim prospects that smaller parties have for breaking the 2-party duopoly. It’s not popular to say it, but strong parties are actually healthy for democracy, and parties should be able to decide who votes in their own primaries. The problem with state government is not too much partisanship, it’s the anti-democratic 2/3 requirement for passing budgets and taxes that empowers a dwindling minority to hold the state’s treasury hostage.

Prop 15 - YES

The Fair Elections Act would create a pilot project to make voluntary public financing available to Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018. It would also repeal the current prohibition on public financing.

Public financing is a way to get politicians out of the fundraising game and back to solving California’s problems. Replacing special-interest money with clean money would ensure elected officials are accountable to voters, not donors, and open up the political process so the best candidates, not just the wealthiest candidates, can pursue elected office.

Go to for more information and to volunteer or contribute to the campaign.

Prop 16 – NO

This is an outrageous attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric to lock out competitors who could supply cleaner electricity at lower prices. PG&E is spending almost $50 million at last count to deceive Californians into granting them full monopoly status. The measure would require a 2/3 vote on any new or expanded public power effort. Why should 1/3 of voters be able to overrule the majority?

To help, go to

Prop 17 – NO

The second of this election’s special-interest initiatives, this one is Mercury Insurance’s attempt to put a loophole into 1988’s consumer-protection Prop 103. It may sound reasonable to allow an insurer to lure customers by offering discounts to the continuously insured, but insurance is a zero-sum game, so the result is that other people – like students, military personnel, and the poor -- would have to pay more.

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