Saturday, October 8, 2016

California Propositions 2016 Part 1: Props 51-54

With Election Day coming up, I decided to do a review of the presidential candidates as well as the propositions which will be on the ballot for Californians. There are 17 propositions on the ballot this coming election. I will review each briefly; however, I will not endorse a yes or no vote. That is for you to decide. I have my own opinions, which may change by Election Day. So my purpose is to possibly help clear up the information on each proposition by presenting each proposition with a brief description as well as the main arguments for and against. I highly recommend reading the full text of each proposition at ballotpedia.org/California_2016_ballot_propositions. For this post, I will discuss Propositions 51, 52, 53 and 54.


Proposition 51 is the California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative. A yes vote on this proposition would support the state issuing a $9 billion in bonds to fund improvements and construction of school facilities for K-12 and community colleges. The money would be allocated for constructions of new school facilities for current schools as well as charter schools, modernizations of older schools, facilities for career technical education programs as well as improvements to community college facilities. Supporters argue that California schools and community colleges are in desperate need of repair and maintenance to meet the standards for earthquake, fire and health safety. Opponents argue that Prop 51 will put the state further in debt and it doesn’t guarantee equitable distribution of the bond money. So larger, better equipped schools will receive money before the smaller, poorer schools.


Proposition 52 is the Voter Approval for changes to the hospital fee program. Currently, the federal government requires that the state contribute a matching contribution in order to receive federal funds from Medicaid. In 2009, a program was created that required hospitals to pay a fee to help California obtain the matching funds. If approved, money collected from hospital fees would be harder to divert from its original intention of funding Medi-Cal. Voter approval would be needed to divert funds. Opponents to Prop 52 claims that it diverts resources to special interest and does not guarantee funds will be spent on healthcare with no accountability about how the money is spent. From my understanding is Prop 52 isn’t changing the hospital fees, it is just making it harder to divert the funds without voter approval. So I’m not sure if I buy the opponents arguments against Prop 52.


Proposition 53 would require elections and voter approval for projects that cost more than $2 billion. If approved, voters would have to approve any project costing more than $2 billion before the state can issue public infrastructures bonds that require an increase in taxes or fees for repayment. It is known as the “No Blank Check” Initiative. Proponents argue that politicians need to be held accountable to provide an accurate estimate of how much a project would cost. There would be no impact to local projects, freeway construction or natural disaster response projects. The opposition, led by Governor Jerry Brown, major claim is that it would require a statewide election for certain local projects as well as gives no exemption for emergencies and natural disasters. I have read the full text of this proposition and this argument is very wrong. From my understanding, the proposition is very clear about what projects would need voter approval and local projects are not affected.


Proposition 54 sets certain conditions under which legislative bills can be passed. The purpose is to require all bills to be published in print and online for 72 hours before each legislative house can vote on it. It requires all legislative house make audio/video recordings of public proceedings and publish them online within 24 hours. Proponents claims that it would increase transparency in California’s state government and stop the practice of “gutting and amending” legislation. Opponents claim that Prop 54 would introduce unnecessary restrictions on the legislative process, increase taxpayer costs and give special interest too much power on the legislative process.


A thought I had while writing this, I find it funny that whenever someone is in opposition of a proposition, like this one, they mention the scary “special interest.” It’s possibly true; however, they give a nameless special interests and not all special interests are evil. If I support a certain bill and I lobby for its passing, I have a special interest in it. However, does that mean the law is evil? Not necessarily. Does that mean I get money for the passing of the bill? Not necessarily. I’d be wearily of any opposition which immediately claims “special interests will benefit” because it may not be true.  Read for yourself. Research each proposition as best you can. Weigh the pros and cons when making your decision for a yes or no vote.