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General Election, Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Each election I research and analyze the propositions on the California ballot to create this voting guide, and they represent nothing other than my own personal view of these measures. I have no connection (that I know of) with any group supporting or opposing any of these propositions, and I do this on a strictly personal, non-partisan basis. But I clearly have an opinion, which I hope is transparent here.

My main intent is to get to the bottom of these issues, knowing that the "real" purpose is not always evident. Once uncovered, I apply a mainly libertarian eye to them.

I'm more interested in "examining the issues thoughtfully" than I am in "getting you to vote the way I do", so I hope these pages help you understand the issues in front of us this November.

Educated votes are better votes.

Voter Information Guide on the California Secretary of State's website.

Institute of Governmental Studies University of California recommendations.

Summary of positions

Click each link for the rationale for each position. Entries in gray didn't go my way.

Proposition Result My Position Description / Title
Prop 59 Pass 83.1/16.9% Yes Public Records, Open Meetings.
Prop 60 Pass 67.3/32.7% Yes Election Rights of Political Parties.
Prop 60A Pass 72.8/27.2% Yes Surplus Property.
Prop 61 Pass 58.1/41.9% No Children's Hospital Projects. Bond Act ($750M).
Prop 62 Fail 45.7/54.3% No Elections. Primaries.
Prop 63 Pass 53.4/46.6% No Mental Health Services Expansion; Tax on Personal Incomes Above $1M.
Prop 64 Pass 58.9/41.1% Yes Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws.
Prop 65 Fail 37.5/62.5% Yes Local Government Funds, Revenues. State Mandates.
Prop 1A Pass 83.6/16.4% Yes Protection of Local Government Revenues.
Prop 66 Fail 46.6/53.4% Yes Limitations on "Three Strikes".
Prop 67 Fail 28.0/72.0% Yes Emergency Medical Services; Telephone Surcharge.
Prop 68 Fail 16.3/83.7% No Non-Tribal Commercial Gambling Expansion.
Prop 69 Pass 61.8/38.2% No DNA Samples and Collection.
Prop 70 Fail 23.9/76.1% No Tribal Gaming Compacts; Exclusive Gaming Rights.
Prop 71 Pass 59.1/40.9% No Stem Cell Research Bonds ($3B).
Prop 72 Fail 49.1/50.9% No Health Care Coverage Requirements.

(Results taken from the Secretary of State Page)

Prop 59: Public Records, Open Meetings

This seems to codify in the state Constitution many provisions of (mere) statute: the public has fairly broad rights of access to proceedings of the government. Almost nobody will come out publicly against more transparency, so one has to wonder how one might object to this.

Generally speaking, the inititiative creates a "general right of access to information", but does not point to specific information that must be made public. It says that existing laws that grant access are to be interpreted broadly, and that restrictions are to be interpreted narrowly, and existing exceptions: confidential proceedings of the Legislature, matters of personal privacy, and - curiously - information about performance and qualifications of peace officers.

I can't figure out that last one, but the impression I get is that since the Legislature passed this, they didn't do it in a self-denying way: they can probably find a way to hide whatever they want. So this suggests to me that it will mainly apply to non-legislative matters.

The only opposition in the voter information guide is from a single individual who apparently believes the measure does not go far enough. This in itself seems like a fair point, but when he rambles off into other things, such as electronic voting and redistricting, it seems easy enough to dismiss him as a little off the edge.

My vote: a soft YES.

More info: | (no opponent website)

Prop 60: Election Rights of Political Parties

Prop 60 appears to be a response to Prop 62, which would impose some fairly radical changes on the way elections are done in California. I very much oppose Prop 62 - described later - and others who feel that way got Prop 60 introduced to "counter it". I have no idea why the later initiative appears earlier.

The general idea is that Prop 62 will limit the general election in the fall to just the top two vote-getters from the primary election in the spring, and this pretty much ensures that there will never be a third-party candidate appearing in the general election.

What Prop 60 does is guarantee that anybody who wins a primary must appear on the general election - they cannot be excluded based on not getting "enough" votes in the primary.

I think a way to sum this up is that "it keeps the status quo". My rough take is that it would be best if both Prop 60 and Prop 62 failed, but I'm not willing to risk Prop 62's effects, so I'm voting such that Prop 60 beats 62.

My vote: YES.

More info: | (no opponent website)

Prop 60A: Surplus Property

This constitutional amendment says that when surplus property owned by the state is sold, the funds may be used only to pay off the deficit-reduction bonds approved in March (Prop 57). It does not direct that the state must sell anything, only specifying where the money goes when it does happen.

On the surface, I support this notion. Absent this, it would be very easy for the legislature to sell things in the ordinary course of business and put it into the Slush General fund: more money to play with. With Prop 60A, it only goes to pay off "the credit cards".

I am given some pause by the fact that this is a legislative consitutional amendment: why they introduced this (to effectively tie their own hands) makes me suspicious of my missing something. But the amendment language itself is very limited - just a paragraph - that there appears to be limited room for shenanigans.

Apparently, this measure was originally part of Proposition 60, but a court ordered them be split because the state Constitution requires single-subject initiatives. Hence, 60A.

My vote: a soft YES.

Prop 61: Children's Hospital Projects. Bond Act ($750M)

The first thing I do when evaluating a bond measure is to look in the argument supporting it: if it says in capital letters "DOES NOT RAISE TAXES", I automatically vote no. This is like saying that using your credit card DOES NOT TAKE CASH OUT OF YOUR WALLET, and if they will be intellectually dishonest on this, I won't believe anything else they say either.

As far as the intended use of the money, this one is not so bad: helping children is something we can all be happy about, and the fact that the money is going to teaching hospitals makes it even more palatable.

But this is still spending money, and as long as the proponents are pretending that their cause exists in a vacuum, and that there are no opportunity costs involved, I'm voting against it.

It seems that bond-measure supporters think that money grows on children.

My vote: NO

More info:[Yes] | (no opponent website)

Prop 62: Elections & Primaries

This is the other election-related initiative, and this one is very easy to decide: no way. By saying that only the two top vote-getters in a primary election go on to the general election, this has the effect of guaranteeing that third parties simply won't ever get to play with the big boys (indeed: in some areas, the two candidates will be from the same party). This is precisely the opposite direction I believe we should be going.

In that respect, I've become intrigued with "ranked choice" voting, where you pick three candidates for office in order of preferences. Your choices are considered from most to least preferred, and though this is not the forum for elaborating on it (see google) - it has clear effect of empowering third parties. Prop 62 does just the opposite.

This also says that during the primary, any voter can vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation, and I'm very much opposed to this. "Primary elections" are not really even entirely public matters: the real election is the general (in the fall), while primaries are where individual parties choose their representatives. Strictly speaking, parties ought to be able to have any rules they like for picking a standard bearer, and it's only when the general election rolls around that anybody else would care.

"Allowing anybody to vote for anybody" is the same as "forcing a political party to admit non-members", and I think that's wrong.

My vote: A clear NO.

More info:[Yes] |[No]

Prop 63: Mental Health Services Expansion; Tax on Personal Incomes Above $1M

Though the goals of this measure - mental health - are laudable, I'm completely opposed to the method of financing. This proposes to pay for this with an extra 1% tax on personal income over one million dollars, and I find it reprehensible.

From the voter information guide:

said by the legislative analyst:
We estimate that 25,000 to 30,000 taxpayers would be subject to paying the surcharge.

During the last presidential election (November 2000), more than 11 million ballots were cast in California. I understand the notion and purpose of "progressive taxation", but it seems patently unfair that 11 million people can just gang up on 30,000 people just because they have the money.

There are other objections to the narrow funding base, such as that it's highly subject to the economy (people making more or less money, moving out of the state, and disincentives to move into the state), and I believe they have merit.

But this majoritarian mugging really offends me: people ought not to be able to vote for a tax that does not apply to themselves.

My vote: strong NO.

More info: |

Prop 64: Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws

This has been called the "Anti-shakedown initiative", and I support it.

There are laws on the books prohibiting unfair competition and other improper business practices, but they contain provisions that allow third parties to sue "on behalf of the people". Presumably these were intended to allow private actions if the Districts Attorney don't step up, but they have been completely hijacked by the trial attorneys.

We're all sympathetic when a truly injured party wishes to have his day in court, but since these "public interest" lawsuits do not require an injured party, the door has been opened wide for the shysters to simply shake down businesses who have limited ability to defende themselves.


California law requires that travel agents include their travel agent license number on advertisements, and if one neglects to do this (perhaps repeatedly, perhaps just once), the shysters come out of the woodwork to sue "on behalf of the public".

Though this may be a technical violation of the law, with no injured party, these end up being nothing but a shakedown. The attorneys hold most of the power here: they know the law and bank on the fact that their targets do not. The targets typically have to retain an attorney themselves, so it's much cheaper just to settle. Considering that the shysters get to keep all the proceeds, this is nothing but extortion.

This measure nips these in the bud. The Attorney General or District Attorneys can still sue on behalf of the people, an actually injured party can still sue, and class actions are still permitted. The latter is an important point: a "class action" is a specific legal term that has particular requirements for certification and defining the class. None of the shakedown lawsuits would qualify.

The trial attorneys are very much behind the opposition to this, and the general spin is "big business is trying to get away with bad things". I don't doubt that big business has its own agenda counter to mine, but I believe there are enough safeguards to permit "real" prosecution of "real" crimes even if we shut down the shakedowns.

My vote: Enthusiastic YES

More info: |

Prop 65: Local Government Funds, Revenues. State Mandates

Prop 1A: Protection of Local Government Revenues

These two are intimately related, so I'll discuss them together. They've been curious, because:

This all seems very mysterious, and thankfully a friend was able to fill me in on the real story.

The general idea is that cities, counties, and special districts (school, water, sanitation, fire protection, etc.) depend on certain revenue streams, such as sales tax, property tax, and the Vehicle License Fee to operate, and the State "raids" these funds now and then. This often leaves these districts high and dry without any alternate sources of funding.

These districts got tired of getting the short end of the stick and managed to get this initiative placed on the ballot. Prop 65 would substantially limit the ability of the State to engage in revenue shenanigans of this sort.

Well, apparently the legislature and governor freaked out at what was going to be a substantial loss of "fun money", so they threatened to oppose it publicly unless it was watered down. An agreement was reached with the Governor and legislature to put Prop 1A on the ballot as well.

Prop 1A still addresses more or less the same issues as Prop 65, but the protections of local revenue are substantially weaker: it seems that this was the compromise required to get the Governor on board, so this is why Prop 65 seems to have been abandoned.

The only opposition to this seems to be from Carole Midgen, a leftist loudmouth Democrat and member of the State Board of Equalization (the "California IRS"), who rails against a lack of accountability:

In the ballot arguments, Carole Midgen said:

As the Chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, I know that too many branches of government waste too much money.

Proposition 1A gives local governments a spending guarantee without any fiscal accountability or oversight. It's a blank check for spending and turns a blind eye to waste.

I happen to agree completely with the first paragraph, which is precisely why I want to keep the spending authority close to home. Considering that local spending is made by local officials running for local elections, this seems much more transparent and accountable than whatever else would be done with the money in Sacramento. If this is the best she can do, I'm simply not persuaded.

It seems that the backers of Prop 65 had to drop their public support of the original measure as a condition of 1A, but several people involved in special districts have told me privately that everybody in a special district wants 65 to beat 1A. They just can't say it too publicly.

My vote: YES on both.

More info: | (no opponent website)

Prop 66: Limitation of "Three Strikes"

The whole "three strikes" notion has always been popular with the voters: who wouldn't want bad guys in prison? But I have long believed that judges need some amount of discretion to take into account the circumstances of a crime when they impose sentences, and this helps restore some of that discretion.

From my reading, I don't believe that anybody will be automatically released: this measure simply requires that three-strikers be re-sentenced if they are serving a life sentence brought on by a non-violent third strike. This resentencing must be done within six months, but it's still not an automatic process. Some prisoners will be released, others will have sentences reduced.

The hysteria against this measure talks about "murderers and rapists being released", but nobody who is actually serving time for those crimes is eligible under this measure. If they have already paid their time for previous crimes, that's simply not considered if a non-violent crime brought them into prison for the third strike.

The opponents point to the backer of this measure, a wealthy businessman whose son murdered two people, and note out that he will be released early. I don't know anything about these circumstances, but I don't allow a potentially bad argument for a measure to mean there can't be other good ones.

I just smell a lot more "spin and hype" from the opponents of this, and it gets worse the more I dig into it.

My vote: Tentative YES

More info: |

Prop 67: Emergency Medical Services; Telephone Surcharge

This measure introduces a 3% tax on telephone service and uses it (mainly) to pay for uncompensated care by medical personnel, with a minor bit of 911 system funding on the side. The tax has a $.50/month limit for residential lines, with no limit for cellphone or business use. "Lifeline" telephone customers are exempt entirely.

Hospitals and emergency room doctors are losing a fortune in uncompensated care (ER docs usually bill the patient separately), and I have a lot of sympathy for them. I don't work for free - why should they?

When I went to the ER with chest pains a few years ago (turned out to be nothing), they were not allowed to ask for ID or insurance information, so it would have taken no effort whatsoever to give false information and dodge this debt. I am sure this is done regularly and systematically - it's an enormous problem for these "first responders".

The backers have tried to make this "related" to the 911 system by providing some funds for that purpose, but it's a very small amount (less than one percent). Generally speaking, this has nothing to do with 911 or phones, and it essentially taxes a specific service for a purpose unrelated to that service. This is a bad idea.

Curiously, it seems this measure was prompted in part by the reduction in tobacco-tax revenue due to reduced smoking in California. Who would have predicted that stop-smoking commercials on TV would lead to an increase in the telephone tax?

The opponents appear to be the phone industry which clearly has an interest in reducing the taxation on themselves and their customers, but it comes across more like unprincipled whining to me.

Yelling in big letters "INCREASES YOUR PHONE TAXES BY 400%" sounds really awful until you learn that it was going from "a really small percent" to a just "a small percent". They also whine that it's not doing a whole raft of things that the proponents have never claimed (e.g., "it's not opening any new emergency rooms").

Initially I opposed this measure, but I've changed my mind. My sister has been an ER nurse for more than 10 years, and she filled me in on a factor that I'd not known about. Though the ER (hospital and doctors) cannot refuse to see you, the next doctor you need very well may.

Apparently, orthopedic doctors - the ones who will reattach your fingers or repair a smashed leg - are refusing to go on call because they get all the legal liability but are not getting paid. I think I'd be sick of it too.

She told me about a guy who came in with sliced-off finger, great insurance, and ideal medical circumstances for reattachment, but they couldn't find a doctor to do it. He now has a few less fingers.

I don't like raising taxes, and I especially don't like taxing something unrelated to what benefits (notwithstanding the bogus claims that it will fund 911). Medical care is an obligation of society as a whole, not of telephone users, but it occurred to me that taxing telephone users is spreading the pain roughly as evenly as a regular tax increase, so I decided I could live with it.

Somebody has to pay for this uncompensated care, and the telephone tax seems as fair as any. I happen to have a half dozen phone lines of one type or other, so I'm going to be hit harder than most with this tax, but I just remember how much I like having all of my fingers.

My vote: YES.

More info: |

Prop 68: Indian Gaming #1

I hardly know where to start on how much I hate this whole initiative, from start to finish.

The "hook" is a 25% tax on Indian gaming revenue, as well as making them subject to environmental and other state laws, and it appears designed to be popular with the electorate. This is a scam.

The tax is to be enacted by the Governor negotiating with the Indian tribes on a "voluntary" basis, but this agreement must be completed within 90 days: if it's not completed (which seems likely), the surprise emerges:

Prop 68 amending Article IV, Section 19(i) of the California Constitution:
... in the event amendments to all existing compacts with all Indian tribes are not entered into and submitted to the Secretary of the Interior within 90 days of the effective date of the Gaming Revenue Act of 2004, owners of authorized gambling establishments and owners of authorized horse racing tracks shall immediately thereafter be authorized not more than a combined total of 30,000 gaming devices.

Aha, now it's clear: the proponents - who just happen to be owners of card clubs and horseracing tracks - have set up a great hook with an impossible condition, and failure to meet that condition gets them what they really want. I hate this kind of dishonest, deceptive proposition and am able to oppose it simply on this basis.

But, for the moment, let's put the whole deception aside and look at the underlying issues.

First, I don't care for the "beat up on the Indians" tenor. The fair-share sentiment is understandable, but this is not some random business benefiting from some historic loophole: ostensibly, Indians are sovreign nations (by Federal law), and these revenues are pretty much the only income these folks have to support their own social-service infrastructure. California gets its revenue from taxation, Indian reservations get theirs from gaming.

Personally, I don't think that encouranging a system that sets up the Indians as separate is really helping them, but I believe that the fair-share arguments unfairly ignore the legitimate differences between them and regular businesses that are taxed.

In addition to allowing additional gaming at specific, existing locations, this measure also locks out future competition:

Prop 68 amending Section 19962 (a) of B&P Code
On or after the effective date of this chapter, neither the governing body nor the electors of a county, city, or city and county that has not authorized legal gaming within its boundaries prior to January 1, 1996, shall authorize legal gaming.

Opposing new casinos is an honorable reason for a citizen to support this measure, but when it's put forth by existing gaming establishments: that's dishonorable.

It's been pointed out to me that this measure appears to expand the definition of gaming device from "just slot machines" to "pretty much everything". I'm not sure whether this really matters.

My vote: NO

More info:[Yes] |[No]

Prop 69: DNA Samples and Collection

This measure would require the collection of DNA samples from all existing felons, and an increasing number of others who are arrested or charged with crimes, and stored in a state database. It expands existing law that collects only from those convicted of felonies.

I oppose this for several reasons.

First, it stores DNA from the innocent in the same database as the felons, and this is stigma waiting to happen. There appear to be provisions for removal if a person is ultimately exonerated of the crime, but the government has not shown a great ability to handle private databases properly (look at the no-fly lists that even a U.S. Senator has a hard time getting off).

There are provisions for removal, but they seem really weak to me. Section 297 (b)(2) says that the investigating agency must notify the DNA Lab that a person is no longer a suspect of a crime and that the specimens (DNA, blood, fingerprints) must be removed. This happens two years after the sample is submitted, so a person who was arrested and immediately found to be not the right guy can still have his samples floating around for another two years.

Furthermore, there seem to be no disincentives for data somehow sticking around longer than it should: the measure specifically says that matches even after the data should have been expunged shall still be valid for warrants and the like. There are no penalties for false matches either.

There are civil penalties to the state for incorrect disclosure of private DNA information of up to $50,000 to the wronged person.

There are arguments that this will help free innocent people, perhaps because it makes the guilty easier to find, but I believe that if DNA can help a man's defense, his attorney might just think of this on his own without Prop 69.

I've seen arguments that having our DNA floating around in a database could be somehow abused by (say) insurance companies to exclude people with this or that hidden disease, but I'm not convinced this is true: the mechanisms of using DNA for the purposes of identification are not the same as "does he have this gene?", so I don't believe it's technically possible to answer the latter question with the data as stored.

I understand the desire to make more matches of the bad guys, but this just feels like it's going to be badly open to abuse. I am unimpressed by the "we remove innocent people" arguments, and I'm content to live with good old fashioned police work.

My vote: NO.

More Info: |

Prop 70: Indian Gaming #2

If passed, this would allow Indian tribes to negotiate 99-year gaming agreements with the Governor, and these would allow essentially unlimited Vegas-style gaming in return for taxation-like "contributions" of their revenues. These "contributions" would evaporate if the State permitted non-tribal Casino-style gaming elsewhere.

The feeling I get is that this is an attempt to put an end to the Indian-ballot-measure-of-the-month environment that we have now by granting long-term agreements that were not subject to revision every time the card club/racetrack owners decide they want a piece of this action.

By paying "a fair share" they dilute much of the criticism of what is popularly seen as rapacious profits by the existing Indian casinos, so if this passes, the matter will be largely behind them.

It also grants them the right to expanded gaming, such as craps and roulette: they are only allowed slot machines and some card games under current law. I'm not really sure why some games are are allowed and others are not, so this seems like a minor matter to me.

The Libertarian Party of California opposes this because it extends a de-facto gaming monopoly to the Indian tribes, and I'm not so sure I object to that.

Those who are opposed to gaming in general should certainly oppose this, but those who oppose gaming in their neighborhoods might support it on the grounds that the State would never agree to allow card clubs to expand lest they lose their (substantial) Indian revenues.

Those who are sick and tired of Indian gaming propositions on the ballot probably could support this too.

I was undecided on this for a long time, but have finally settled on "no". I have subsequently learned that the Indian tribes are often little more than a front for "real" gaming interests, simply lending their names to the cause.Though in some circumstances, gaming has certainly improved the lives of those living on the reservations, in other cases it's been little more than a sham.

I really think that the worst thing we can do to the Indians is reinforce that they are a separate class of people, and this measure would insure that this continues for 99 more years.

My vote: NO.

More info: |

Prop 71: Stem Cell Research. Bonds ($3B)

This borrows yet more money we don't have to set up yet another state bureacracy that at best will generate a gift to the pharmaceutical companies. What's not to like about that?

At first I dreaded thinking about this because of the whole ethical kerfuffle about "stem cell research", but it turned out to be easy: I'm voting no. The proponents do claim that it won't raise taxes, but at least it's not all in upper case, so they get 1/2 of a point for that.

Whatever one thinks about the ethics or potential for stem-cell research in general, I really don't think that the State of California has any business getting involved in picking medical winners and losers. This creates a creates a climate where "good P.R." wins out over "medical need", and when people angling for public funds, the stakes get really high.

Example: "Breast cancer" is always a popular cause, but "prostate cancer" kills more people every year. I guess it's no surprise considering that "female breasts" are a lot sexier than "male prostates". Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

I watched a grandfather slowly succumb to Alzheimer's, and I have nothing but sympathy for the desire to see this (and all the other awful diseases) conquered, but this looks like the wrong way to do it.

My vote: NO.

More Info: |

Prop 72: Health Care Coverage Requirements

This essentially mandates that employers provide health care coverage for their employees, or pay into a state system. Initially it affects companies with 200 or more employees, scaling down to perhaps 20 employees in the future. I completely oppose this.

Why is it that we expect to pay for our own auto insurance, life insurance, and home/renter's insurance, but we expect somebody else to pay for health insurance? I believe that the provision of tax-free insurance benefits has gone a long way to encourage runaway spending and an enormous sense of entitlement and disowning of responsibility:

A conversation overheard:
Doctor : That will be $200, please.
Patient: Talk to my insurance company.
Doctor : But you are my patient and I'm not their customer.
Patient: Not my problem, talk to my insurance company.

There is just no sense of "I'm responsible for my own body".

This measure will have essentially no impact on larger business (that have accepted this as a cost of operations), but it will be a huge impact on small businesses. Those employees that manage to get health insurance will surely be grateful for it, but it's likely going to mean that they won't see a raise in pay for a long time.

The problem of paying for healthcare of uninsured people is an enormous one, but laying this general obligation of society onto small business is entirely the wrong way to do go. This is nearly enough to make me support Prop 67, the telephone tax, because it spreads the burden out a bit more fairly.

My vote: NO.

More Info: |

Those discovering bad/missing links, typos, or even errors in judgement are encouraged to report them to me: [Email address]

Last updated: Sun Oct 24 18:48:51 PDT 2004