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General Election, Tuesday, 8 November 2016

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 do this analysis on a non-partisan basis, but that doesn't mean I have no opinion. I do, but I believe it's transparent (note that transparency means only that I claim no hidden agenda, not that I'm trying to be unbiased).

I generally have no connection with any group supporting or opposing any of these propositions.

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.

Educated votes are better votes.

I hope my thoughts are helpful.

Other resources:

Important Note: if you are tempted to say "The hell with it" and just vote "no" on all of them, please do not. An uninformed vote, even a no, may have an unintended consequence that you don't want.

Either educate yourself on the measure, or leave that spot blank. Really. This matters.

Summary of positions

Click each link for the rationale for each position.

Proposition My Position Description / Title
California icon Prop 51 No School Bonds
California icon Prop 52 No Medi-Cal Hospital Fee
California icon Prop 53 No Voter Approval of Revenue Bonds
California icon Prop 54 Yes Legislative Proceedings
California icon Prop 55 No Education Tax extension
California icon Prop 56 Yes Tobacco Tax
California icon Prop 57 Yes Criminal Sentencing and Parole
California icon Prop 58 No ESL Instruction in Schools
California icon Prop 59 No Corporations and Political Spending
California icon Prop 60 No Adult Films and Condoms
California icon Prop 61 No State Prescription Drug Purchasing
California icon Prop 62 Yes Death Penalty #1
California icon Prop 63 No Firearms and Ammunition Sales
California icon Prop 64 Yes Marijuana Legalization
California icon Prop 65 No Plastic Grocery Bags #1
California icon Prop 66 No Death Penalty #2
California icon Prop 67 Yes Plastic Grocery Bags #2

California icon Prop 51: School Bonds

This measure would authorize $9 Billion in State general-obligation bonds for various education purposes ($3B for construction, $3B for modernization, $1B for charter/vocational schools, $2B for community colleges).

Though construction of government facilities - schools or anything else - are a fair use for bonds, to borrow up front for construction of facilities that will get many years of use (especially in these days of low interest rates), I have been opposing new school bond debt for some time. They keep coming back, claiming the schools are in bad shape, yet somehow not explaining why the last school bond (which claimed to address the same thing) didn't take care of it. Where is the money going?

The State Treasurer's office reports that California has about $74B in outstanding general-obligation bond debt — a fair amount of it for schools — and about a third more in debt that's authorized but not yet used - which means it can be borrowed without further voter approval. Let's call that $100B in authorization. California pays almost $3B per year in interest on previous education bonds, and this measure would add about $500M/year for the next 35 years.

The measure does generally provide for local contributions (sort of like state matching funds), which is also a reasonable way to spread state money around: a poorer area would have part of its school facilities subsidized by the rest of the state, though the opponents claim that the wealthier districts would get first in line for funds due to their ability to hire consultants to navigate the application process.

And EVERY school bond measure reports "will not raise taxes"—usually in ALL CAPS—and this is just disingenuous because this commits to additional spending. If you use your credit card, it's not technically taking anything out of your wallet, but everybody knows it's going to sooner or later.

Something curious: the legislative summary says:

Bars amendment to existing authority to levy developer fees to fund school facilities, until new construction bond proceeds are spent or December 31,2020, whichever is earlier.

... and reading the actual text of the law is utterly opaque as to what this means: the phrase "developer fees" does not appear anywhere, so you pretty much have to know that Title 7, Division 1, Chapter 4.9 of the Government Code has something to do with this. I actually found that section, but it still doesn't tell me anything useful.

This kind of opacity makes me nervous, and smacks of an unhappy surprise. The opponents claim that this bond is backed by developers, though of course the teacher's unions are behind it as well, and this all just smells worse than the usual bond measures.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Californians for Quality Schools
Thumbs down California Taxpayers Action Network

California icon Prop 52: Medi-Cal Hospital Fee

This measure would extend an exiting fee charged by the State to private hospitals, which is said to generate around $3B/year in Federal matching funds for Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is the state program for medical care to low-income Californians.

Hospital Quality Fee has been extended by the legislature several times since it was enacted in 2009, and this measure makes it permanent.

This measure makes my head hurt.

The main lobbying behind the fee is the private hospitals themselves, and this has all the hallmarks of a special pleading by an industry that's trying to pull a fast one on the electorate.

Even without reading the details, nobody goes to this much trouble to enact or extend a tax on themselves without some seriously special sauce, and this makes me very, very nervous. Who does this?

I can think of a case for advocating a tax on oneself: an industry voting a modest tax on themselves (I dunno, medical marijuana shops) to head off bigger regulation down the road, but this doesn't smell like that. Something is fishy.

This measure is supported by a number of labor unions, plus the Democrat and Republican party, as well as the California Chamber of Commerce. If I didn't know better I would assume this is a measure supporting apple pie. Who ever saw such bedfellows?

Seriously, this is very hard to decode on its own reading, and even the arguments for and against didn't resolve it for me. So this one time I turned to Pete Rates to see what he said about it, and now I got the real scoop. I generally avoid reading other ballot analyses until I've made up my own mind, but this was one of the brain-freezers.

Pete describes it much better than I would, that it's a cash grab by the private hospitals intending to tie the hands of the legislature even if the economy goes south (reduced Medi-Care funding would mean less state payments to the hospitals).

So I'm voting against this one, but believe that of all the propositions, this is the one I am most likely to be bamboozled by.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 52
Thumbs down No on 52

California icon Prop 53: Voter approval of State Revenue Bonds

The state typically borrows money by issuing bonds, but there are two main types.

General-obligation bonds, though intended for a specific purpose, are nevertheless backed by the full faith and credit of the state, so all taxpayers are on the hook for them out of the General fund. They require approval by the voters, so that's what you see on the ballot (such as Prop 51 above).

But Revenue Bonds are different: they have no claim on the general fund, but are paid out of the proceeds of whatever the bond paid for. The most obvious example is a toll road, where the bonds are paid back from the toll revenues, but the taxpayers are not on the hook if projections don't work out (say, there aren't enough tools to make regular interest payments).

Taxpayers are required to vote on general-obligation bonds, but revenue bonds don't have such a requirement. This measure would change that for statewide bonds more than $2B, as well as certain local/regional projects that include the state as a member.

I oppose this measure, in part because I find the backers disingenuous.

If I'm not on the hook for a bond, why would I second-guess an investor who has his actual money on the line? And why would I meddle in a project that's going on in the other part of the state for a project I'll never have any use for?

Should residents of Orange County vote on whether San Francisco raises the Golden Gate Bridge tolls to pay back a revenue bond that went to repairs? Let the locals decide.

But what really irks me about this is the conflation of the different kinds of debt. I hate that California borrows so brazenly, as do the backers of this measure, but they keep throwing out the high-speed rail project as a rationale for this measure.

As far as I know, all the high-speed rail bonds were general-obligation bonds, and have already been approved, and have no revenue-bond components. It may be that these may be in the offing in the future, but I'd rather they use revenue bonds to take me off the hook even though I do oppose that project.

It appears that this measures was backed pretty much by just one guy (who feels very strongly about debt), and it all feels too special-purpose for my tastes even though I'm not happy to be on the same side as some of the opponents.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 53
Thumbs down No on Prop 53

California icon Prop 54: Open Legislative Proceedings

This measure would effectively require that the State legislature could not pass a bill unless it had been finalized and posted 72 hours prior to the vote, avoiding last-minute changes that many members aren't able to read.

It also requires that all legislative sessions (except limited closed ones dealing with sensitive matters such a security) will be posted on the internet, that anybody can record these sessions themselves, and would allow these recordings to be used by the public, including for political ads.

The obvious intent of this measure is legislative transparency, and as far as I can tell, this is what it's actually about, without any nefarious motives.

Opponents claim it will hamstring the legislature, who often has to make last-minute deals to secure passage of important bills, as well as providing a three-day feeding fenzy by lobbyists and special interests to work on the legislators.

Opponents appear to be mainly the legislators themselves and their political consultants, and find their argument very weak, almost grasping at straws.

No lobbyist worth her salt is caught by surprise when a measure comes up for a vote, so they're already leaning on the legislators.

But in the end, it's not the lobbyists who vote, it's our elected officials, who will have to stand on their own record. I think that's fine.

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on Prop 54
Thumbs down No on Prop 54

California icon Prop 55: Education Tax Extension

In 2012, the voters passed Prop 30, which provided a "temporary" increase in the income tax on wealthy taxpayers in order to find the schools, and this measure would extend it for another 12 years.

My feeling: Which part of "Temporary" do they not understand?

Though maybe one can make a case for a temporary tax increase due to some emergency, it's only meant to tide you over while you get your fiscal house in order. California is in better shape than it was 4 years ago, so the education establishment had plenty of time to get their act together and prepare for this.

I went back to the 2012 ballot pamphlet, and - sure enough - the backers made a big point of the temporary nature of this measure.

But here we are, and the 4-year temporary tax will turn into a 16 year temporary tax, and this is just so dishonest I hardly know what else to say about it. There is not one note of apology for violating the promise of temporary.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 55
Thumbs down Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Assn

California icon Prop 56: Tobacco Tax

This measure would increase the tax on tobacco products by $2/pack (up from $.87/pack now) for cigarettes, along with an equivalent amount for other tobacco-related products, and the money would be used for a variety of purposes with at least a tenuous relationship to smoking and healthcare, though not with a primary focus on smoking prevention.

The tobacco companies are spending a fortune to defeat this, and are using some fairly poor arguments that nevertheless warrant discussion.

The money won't go for smoking prevention
This is true; most of the money goes elsewhere, though the purposes are mainly related to healthcare related. Sadly, the proponents lead their ballot arguments with "keeping kids from smoking", so they're guilty of the same disingenuity as the other guys.
Much of the money goes to fund Medi-Cal, and frankly I would rather somebody other than me volunteer to pay for this.
It avoids the guaranteed-funding required for education, cheating the schools
I particularly resent this argument: previous ballot propositions have essentially given education a guaranteed cut of all taxes, but because this measure defines the tax as a "user fee" — which does seem a bit tenuous — this doesn't apply somehow.
What I object to is that one aspect of our economy (education) gets a special claim to every income stream whatsoever, and they get to say "cheated" when their nose doesn't dip into the trough. I do not like this frame of reasoning.
Most of the money goes to insurance companies and other wealthy special interests
This takes some digging into, and the vagueness of the claim means it's probably bogus.
I don't find any provisions in the measure that talks about insurance companies, so I'm going out on a limb here by guessing: by increasing the funding for Medi-Cal, it means that more of the poor visiting doctors and/or the emergency room will be covered by the state, leaving the hospitals charging paying patients (and their insurance carriers) less due to not having to make up a shortfall.
I do not know if this is the correct analysis, but my reading of the measure tells me that much of the new tax revenue goes for smoking related healthcare, and this fits in with that.

One thing I don't like is treating non-tobacco products (e-cigs) mostly the same as tobacco. It's certainly easy to get addicted to e-cigs via the nicotine, but they are so vastly less dangerous to health — avoiding all the other nasty burning chemicals — that I believe it's a big win for people to shift.

Yes, we don't know all the effects of e-cigs, and surely there will be surprise bad effects, but there is no chance that second hand e-cig smoke will be even within an order of magnitude as bad for us as real cig smoke is.

However, the countervailing argument of increasing costs so kids won't be able to get them so easily does have some merit.

I hate to be around real smokers, but vapers don't bother me; this is not a moral crusade against bad habits.

Products used for real-deal smoking cessation are exempt.

I have decided to support this measure even though it goes against my general feeling of: you should not be able to vote for a tax that does not apply to you. This happens all the time (ex: Prop 55 above), and it's generally not fair, but in this case the payers of the tax have an easy way to opt out: quit smoking.

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 56
Thumbs down No on 56

California icon Prop 57: Criminal Sentencing and Parole

This measure would allow some prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes to be considered for early parole sooner than current law allows, as well as increasing the ability of prisoners to earn (essentially) good-behavior credits, which may allow them to be released on parole sooner.

I support this measure.

It's important to understand the difference in two ways that prisoners are released from prison. First is after they've done their full sentence, in which case they are generally release without restriction (i.e., not on parole).

Second is those who are released early based on good behavior, but they are under parole supervision until the full time of their sentence has completed. Being on parole may involve restrictions on behavior, such as not associating with known felons, having to check in with a parole officer periodically, and other things. Once the time of their full sentence has expired, they are off parole and are released entirely.

A few restrictions may last beyond the full sentence, such as the requirement to register as a sex offender, the inability to vote or own a handgun, but those don't matter for this discussion.

In any case, this measure gives the Board of Parole Hearings more leeeway to consider when an offender — nonviolent only, discussed below — an earlier release on parole, and it's much more subtle than "early release" sounds.

People convicted of a nonviolent crime (which may nevertheless be serious) are only considered for parole after serving the full prison term of the primary offense, but before serving the time for additional lesser included offenses. Many crimes have multiple add-ons, such as secondary crimes or enhancements for the particular nature of the crime.

The term "violent offender" is defined in law, and there will always be some crimes that the law considers non-violent that others may consider are violent, and there will always be disagreement over where to draw the line. I imagine that victims of some "non-violent" crimes might be the most vocal in their disagreement.

Everybody agrees that first-degree murder is violent, that jaywalking is not, but it gets fuzzier after that. The opponents claim that rape of an unconscious victim is non-violent, as are assault with a deadly weapon and lewd acts against a 14 year old. I haven't read the law and will take them at their word, and certainly agree that these are serious crimes even if I'm not going to quibble whether they are violent or not.

But whether considered violent or not, everybody convicted of the above crimes will spend their full time in prison for the primary offense, and only be considered for early parole for the additional crimes / enhancements.

This review is by the same parole board that's kept Charles Manson in prison since I was a kid, and who hasn't let any of his "family" out even though it's hard to imagine they are an actual danger to anybody. The parole board is not generally staffed by the ACLU, and I trust they will be able to make a good call based on the actual information, rather than histrionics from the opponents of this measure.

Part of the consideration is credits, which are generally awarded for things like good behavior and getting an education, something I believe everybody can get behind.

A prison is a lousy place to improve yourself, and if you're able to keep your nose clean, you should get some kind of benefit for it: not just to reduce prison costs (which are a minor part of my consideration), but to help keep peace in the prisons. Learning how to stay out of trouble in such a lousy place is a really, really useful life skill that will benefit the prisoner upon his eventual release, and we should seriously reward that.

But beyond good behavior, encouraging a prisoner to better himself, to get an education, to finish high school (with a GED) or even attend college classes: I cannot think of a single thing that bodes better for his and my future than for the prisoner to improve his chances of life on the outside.

Encouraging a prisoner to immerse himself into education, rather than the more fun pastimes of learning to make a shiv, to brew a batch of pruno, or become the next great tattoo artist, means the prisons are going to be just that much of an easier place to survive.

There is a 100% chance that somebody released early on this program will do something really bad, and it will surely make headlines (and surely be a tragedy for the victims), but one doesn't make grand-scale public policy based on an anecdote.

Should we just keep people in prison forever?

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 57
Thumbs down Stop Early Release

California icon Prop 58: ESL Instruction in Schools

This measure would relax the restrictions on English instruction passed in 1998 via Prop 227, which greatly reduced bilingual education on the grounds that full immersion is a faster way to get a kid to learn English.

The measure would allow for parent input, and a "mostly English" curriculum, presumably including some instruction in the student's native language, to tailor a learning path to get them to full English most quickly.

I sadly oppose this measure.

This one was a real struggle for me, and took me much longer to think about than most, because I have two decades of experience in volunteer ESL leadership (via the now-dormant Orange County Literacy Council, whose website I still archive): I've taught hundreds of people to speak, read and write English — and I did so using only English — as well as trained many other tutors to do the same. This work was utterly non-political, and I have never had any financial benefit from teaching ESL.

But the spiritual benefits have been enormous; I haven't been involved in ESL for several years now, but I miss it.

English is not superior to any other language, but it's a fact of life that in order to best contribute to society in the United States, one is most effective in English.

Kids have an amazing ability to learn a second language, and if they're caught young enough, they will learn both their native and second languages so well that they will sound like native speaker of both. Language pliability is something every adult learner is envious of.

But that doesn't mean it's always a cakewalk: the student from Mexico or Vietnam who enters an American school in (say) the 8th grade with no English exposure is going to be completely lost for quite a while, and this will certainly impact his or her education.

Prop 227 greatly limited the ability of schools to provide bilingual education, and it's for these students that I imagine this measure is intended: giving these students just a little help in their own language until the English "kicks in", will help them move up the educational system to full English immersion.

This is a very persuasive argument to me, and I really want to support it, but I'm just not convinced that this is all done for the right reasons, and that it will become full employment for teachers with second-language credentials, holding onto students as long as they can get away with it. This is what Prop 227 was trying to avoid.

I see the teachers' union all over this measure, and these are people who care a lot about teachers and only coincidentally about children, and benefitting teachers with language credentials, onto students as long as they can get away with it. This is what Prop 227 was trying to avoid.

I'm willing to stick with the current system that allows children who are truly struggling to seek out secondary instruction (such as from the volunteer groups I was part of), as well as the many evening ESL classes being taught by the schools.

I don't like this at all, because I totally care about kids learning English, but believe that the downsides of this measure just barely outweigh the upsides.

But it's a weak opinion, and I almost didn't take a position on it.

My vote: A regretful NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 58
Thumbs down Keep English

California icon Prop 59: Corporations and Political Spending

This measure would advise the California Legislature to use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the US Constitution that would overturn the Citizens United US Supreme Court Case that effectively said that corporate speech is as protected as personal speech, especially with respect to participation in election cycles.

The Citizens United ruling has angered many, who believe that corporations are not people, and though that position is supportable, this measure is not.

This is nothing but a feel-good measure that has no legal weight, because not only is the legislature not required to do anything whatsoever, even if they did as directed, believing that this will kick off a national movement to overturn Citizens United is fanciful at best, but more likely just a huge waste of everybody's time (including mine) no matter how you feel about the position.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 59
Thumbs down (no website given)

California icon Prop 60: Adult Films and Condoms

This measure would require that adult performers in California use condoms during sexual intercourse, with various fines and penalties for non-compliance.

Cal-OSHA already has jurisdiction over this by dint of labor law, and there's already a requirement in law meaning to protect users from exposure to hazardous / infectious material while on the job, but the backers of this measure apparently feel that Cal-OSHA is not being aggressive enough (or, that the rules were not specific enough to require condoms).

In addition to requiring licensure for adult film producers, it would impose penalties on producers who fail to obey the law while on set. Though the actors and actresses would nominally not be subject to penalty, the fact that many of them have a financial interest in the film puts them in category of "producer", and subject to penalty.

The most interesting provision to me is the private right of action for private citizens to sue on behalf of the state if the state itself is not doing enough, given them 25% of whatever is collected.

Proponents claim this is about worker safety, though the torrent of opposition from the very workers intended to be protected might belie that claim.

Most watchers of porn don't want to see condom use so I hear, so the producers are really just catering to what their audience wants. I imagine there is a non-trivial number of performers who would feel more comfortable using a condom but perform au natural due to this pressure. In this respect, a Statewide ruling would give cover to those performers.

But in my mind, this is the only even remotely reasonable argument: on all other counts this is likely to reduce worker health by driving production underground where there is even less monitoring than there is now.

And because anybody who has a financial interest in a production is a "producer", the married couple who have a webcam show would be "producers", and thus be required to use a condom.

The biggest deal for me is the private right of action, such that a private citizen can bring suit on behalf of the state if the state doesn't move fast enough: this smells like a bonanza for lawyers, as well as creating an interesting job opportunity "Watch porn and get rich".

Though many supporters of this measure may be doing so in good faith, it smells to me like ulterior motives are dominating, and I just cannot get behind it.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Fair 4 CA
Thumbs down
Proponents claim their

California icon Prop 61: State Prescription Drug Purchasing

This measure would generally prohibit the State of California from paying more for prescription drugs than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the Veterans Administration.

It seems that no two entities pay the same amount for the same drug, due to various contracts and volume agreements, and it's generally believed that the VA gets the best price around due to its huge purchasing power, and many drug makers don't want to be left out of that formulary.

This measure would only apply to purchases by the State itself (through Medi-Cal, mainly, but also in the prisons and a few other places), and would have no direct impact on private purchases or private insurance plans.

Proponents are obviously trying to save the State money on these drugs, many of which are very expensive, by attempting to coattail the Veterans Administration, and I am not sure I see any ulterior motives here.

However, I see the non-obvious downsides here and will be voting no even though I applaud the effort.

The big deal here is tying to the VA, and there are several things going on here.

First, the VA prices are not always available: many (most?) contracts of this nature are confidential, and this is understandable: if DrugCo is giving the VA a deal, they don't want everybody else lining up asking for the same one. It's unlikely that the State of California could force access to that pricelist.

But the bigger deal is that if Medi-Cal is able to get a special lower price, then that would set a price limit for all other state medicate programs throughout the nation.

So drug makers would be faced with several choices depending on just how favorable a price the VA got:

  1. Just cave and give the lower price to all the states
  2. Raise the price to the VA so as not to set a nationwide too-low price point
  3. Withdraw the drug for sale in California

Basically, Prop 61 can require that the State negotiate, but it can't force the drug companies to play along.

This is why the veterans groups are against it, because I think most of us don't believe that door #1 above will be the most attractive option for big pharma.

I really do appreciate the attempt to save money here, because ultimately all of the taxpayers are funding what the state pays for meds, but we're also on the hook for Federal drug spending, and this measure just has too much chance for very unhappy unexpected consequences.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Stop Pharma Greed
Thumbs down No no 61

California icon Prop 62: Death Penalty #1

California icon Prop 66: Death Penalty #2

These are related so I'm writing about them together; where provisions conflict (and many do) the measure receiving the most votes takes precedence.

I will start by saying that I'm completely against the death penalty in all cases. This is not so much on moral grounds — a society has a right to protect itself from those who will not work and play well with others — but because even when it's warranted in the cosmic sense, it's just not worth the cost and societal disruption it causes.

Putting somebody in prison for life costs far less than the machinations of the death penalty, from the incredibly costly legal costs (on both sides), to the increased costs of special housing required, plus ballot measures every few years.

This is just not imposed enough to be worth all this trouble, and that's not even counting the concern about putting an innocent man to death.

I understand the many arguments for it and believe many are well-founded (and used to hold most of them myself), but at this point in my life I'm just entirely against it.

Remember: I'm not trying to convince anybody to adopt my positions, but showing where my own views come from will help you make your own choice as you consider the measures in front of you.

Prop 62

This would essentially end the death penalty in California, including retroactively, and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole. There are other minor provisions for victim restitution, but these are side show points that won't impact what anybody thinks about this measure.

Above I wrote "essentially" because it's not clear this is an out-and-out ban on the death penalty, only that it's no longer available for first-degree murder, but the implication is that it might still be available for other crimes (terrorist attacks? serial rape?). I can't tell and am surprised that I can't tell for sure.

Prop 66

This measure means to streamline the death penalty system in a number of ways with the intention of reducing the backlog through the courts. It has a number of provisions, all of which seem to do what is claimed (move things through the courts).

Opponents are concerned that streamlining will increase the chance of putting an innocent person to death, which I think is superficially valid, though their claim of hundreds of death-row prisoners being "exonerated" is probably inflated: I would expect that no small number were spared the chair due to procedural or technical issues that had nothing to do with factual innocence.

One provision of this measure would open the attorney pool to more than just those who have direct death-penalty trial experience, allowing other attorneys who are experienced in serious-case appeals, but not necessarily death penalty cases. Opponents claim this will allow/encourage "inexperienced" attorneys, but I don't get the sense that this is a big risk because the courts still get to choose who's on the list.

Other provisions would set timelines for appeals — must be completed in five years — and appoint an appeals attorney immediately after trial (so they can get started), rather than wait for some future legal milestone to do so.

It would also give the Dept. of Corrections more leeway in how to treat the condemned prisoners, perhaps relaxing some of the fairly stringent rules for their housing and handling.

My reading suggests this is more or less reasonable for anybody who supports the death penalty but wants to avoid the multi-decade appeals process; I don't think it's going to greatly increase the chance of an innocent person being put to death and may reduce costs.

However, even if this passes, I don't think it will start up the execution machine because it's stopped for other reasons; this measure won't impact that, it will just move them to death row sooner.

IMPORTANT: these two measures are linked, so you really do have to vote on both of them to have your wishes count: the measure with the most votes wins.

My vote on 62: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 62
Thumbs down No on Prop 62 + Yes on Prop 66

My vote on 66: NO

More info:
Thumbs up No on Prop 62 + Yes on Prop 66
Thumbs down Non on 66

California icon Prop 63: Firearms and Ammunition Sales

This measure would put restrict the sales of ammunition and large-capacity magazines, require background checks, require sales be made through license dealers, as well as a handful of recordkeeping changes.

This is squarely a gun-control measure, and I oppose it.

Nobody can be unmoved by the senseless violence — often gun violence — that's constantly in the news, and I really do believe that those who want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals do so in good faith, but these don't do much to criminals, but do impact law-abiding citizens.

As always, I'm not trying to convince anybody of my view, only to read the measure: if you support gun control, you surely support 63.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Safety for All
Thumbs down Stop the Ammo Grab

California icon Prop 64: Marijuana Legalization

This measure would legalize the use of marijuana for recreational use by adults in California, which goes beyond the medical-use approved by the voters in 1996 by Prop 215. Marijuana sales would be made at (and taxed by) regulated pot shops, and there are restrictions on sales to minors.

Furthermore, those previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes could petition to have their cases revisited in light of legalization.

I support this measure, in part because it finally does away the ridiculous charade of "medical marijuana". I think most of us can sympathize with the truly sick person using marijuana to ease genuine pain, but it's so easy to get a marijuana card that it's no barrier at all.

I've had some curious interactions with a number of pot shops in the course of my work — and never as a customer — and found they are pretty much what every stereotype suggests, except maybe no surfboards or vending machines filled with munchies, dude. The fig leaf of "medical need" is so thin as to be transparent.

This measure would put an end to that and simply allow use by adults (21+) in a regulated environment, collecting taxes on sales.

Opponents seem to be fairly hysterical about Prop 64, and their arguments are worth countering.

No prohibition on TV ads for marijuana
Technically true, but I believe the Federal government regulates this, not the state, so this seems like a truly bogus argument.
Won't prohibit growing pot near schools
Also true, but the max that one person can grow for personal use is six plants, and I'm not sure how kids in a neighboring school are harmed by what's going on in somebody's back yard.
Actually providing pot to children would be a serious crime, so this seems like a hyped up argument to me.
Has no provisions for DUI-type enforcement on the highway
This is a fair point, because this is an actually hard problem to solve.
Unlike alcohol, whose effects on the mind and concentration in the blood are linked, marijuana is detectable in the body long after the effects on the mind are gone, even weeks later. Somebody who lights up on a Friday night — even if excessively — will easily test positive on Monday morning even though they are not impaired in any way.
This means that law enforcement needs a behavioral test for impairment while driving, not just a chemical one, and this is not an easy problem to solve.

Other than a few puffs one time when I was a teenager — and I really didn't inhale — I have never used pot, so I have no personal agenda here. But I do believe that more people are harmed by the trade of drugs than by the use of drugs, and reducing the war on freedom drugs is fine by me.

Note: this does not impact the fact that Federal law still holds marijuana use as a crime, but the Justice Dept is generally not prosecuting marijuana users whose behavior is consistent with their own state laws, this could change at any time. Those who choose to toke up are still running a risk.

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 64
Thumbs down No on 64

California icon Prop 65: Plastic Grocery Bags #1

California icon Prop 67: Plastic Grocery Bags #2

As with the death-penalty issues, I'm writing about these together, because the cover the same subject matter, and the winning measure (ahem) trumps the losing one. Everybody votes in pairs for this one.

The general sentiment here is to restrict the use of the flimsy plastic bags given away by the kazillion by grocery stores due to their negative effect on the environment.

This happens to be the last issue I'm writing about, and after 15 propositions I'm ready to grab a plastic bag to put over my head and end the misery.


Prop 67 is a Referendum, which is where voters attempt to ratify or overturn an act of the legislature; we're much more used to the Initiative, which enacts law by the ballot measure. Prop 65 is an Initiative in response to Prop 67, though it does seem odd that they seem out of order.

Prop 67 asks the voters to weigh in on California SB270, which Governor Brown signed into law in 2014, that is almost an outright ban on these plastic bags, requiring either that shoppers bring their own bags, or that store provide paper (or any other non-flimsy plastic) bags at 10 cents each, with the store keeping the money.

Prop 67 would only apply to localities that did not have their own rules on plastic bags; cities or counties which already had their own laws in place would continue to be in place.

Prop 65, which appears to have been backed by the plastic bag industry, says essentially that any revenues from the sales of non-flimsy plastic bags would go to environmental purposes rather than being kept by the grocery stores. This measure would not take effect if Prop 67 fails.

My reading of this says that Prop 67 is truly about whether you want to ban the plastic bags or not, but Prop 65 is about who gets to keep the money from the sale of bags if the ban on flimsy plastic bags is in place.

Prop 67 is about a real-deal issue that honorable people can differ on, but Prop 65 is completely disingenuous, trying to distract from the real issues.

I have long been opposed to government mandates like the ban imposed by Prop 67, but I have changed my view and am supporting it to affirm the ban.

Prop 65: this can be disregarded out of hand because it's arguing over who gets to keep the money on sales of more expensive non-flimsy plastic bags (which probably means paper). The store has to pay for them, it's not unreasonable they get paid for them, and 100% of customers can opt out of that fee by bringing their own bag. Railing against greedy grocery stores is a total distraction.

So now we're at the core question: do we ban plastic bags or not? My reading of this says that the question is about what it says it is (no hidden agenda), and the minor provisions — who gets the money — is a side show.

I have spent many, many hours hiking in my beloved Santa Ana Mountains, exploring trails and scouting hikes to lead others in, and for some months I've taken a large trash bag with me to pick up junk I find along the trail. Flimsy trash bags are a minor, but still substantial part of the crap I find out on the trail, and these are really aweful for the environment.

Fun fact: The only thing that travels farther than a flimsy plastic grocery bag finding its way in the mountains, is a mylar balloon. Happy Birthday!

Here we have a classic economic problem: the price of an item (a free flimsy plastic grocery bag) does not correspond to the full cost of that item (the impact on the environment), and this imbalance leads to the kind of "Who cares?" attitude of almost every user of these plastic bags.

Personally, my family and I make it a point to take care of these properly: we reuse them when we can and we recycle them properly, and if everybody did this, we'd not be having this discussion.

But, sadly, it's obvious to anybody who's driven along the freeway or taken a walk on the beach, that many people simply don't care about this, and they are imposing costs on everybody else.

So even a lover of freedom and limited government can support this on neighborhood-effect grounds.

Side note: if somebody says that I'm only taking notice of the environmental effects because I ran into them personally, that's an entirely fair point. I hope I always make a thoughtful judgement about any issue in front of me, but I can't separate myself from my own experiences.


You should vote against Prop 65 no matter what you think about plastic bags.

You ought to vote for Prop 67 if you support the ban on plastic bags, and against if you're ok with their continued use.

My vote on 65: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 65
Thumbs down Californians Against Waste

My vote on 67: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Californians Against Waste
Thumbs down (no website found)

Those discovering bad/missing links, typos, or even errors in judgment are encouraged to report them to me:

Last updated: Mon Nov 7 16:41:44 UTC 2016