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General Election, Tuesday, 8 November 2022

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 Source My Position Description / Title
California icon Prop 1 Legislature - Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom
California icon Prop 25 Initiative No Sports Betting #1
California icon Prop 27 Initiative No Sports Betting #2
California icon Prop 28 Initiative No Arts and music education in schools
California icon Prop 29 Initiatives No Kidney dialysis clinic regulation
California icon Prop 30 Initiative No Wildfire and air pollution, ZEVs, tax the rich
California icon Prop 31 Referendum Yes Referendum on 2020 Law prohibiting flavored tobacco

California icon Prop 1: Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom

This measure would enshrine into the California Constitution various rights to reproductive choice, all of which are already part of California law, and this appears to be in response to the recent US Supreme Court decisions on the subject.

Unlike all the other measures that appear on this or any other ballot, where I dig into the fine print to find out what's going on and hopefully help you reach your own conclusions, nobody's changed their mind on abortion in the last 50 years.

Abortion is by far the most polarizing topic of my lifetime, and given that I'm not running for public office, there is literally no upside into putting forward a public position about it. No room for persuasion, nuance or common ground, instead only outrage, namecalling, and (often) unfriending. From both sides.

These writings are about the ballot propositions and not about me, so I'm keeping my position to myself; you have one already and there's nothing useful I can add.

California icon Prop 26: Sports Betting #1

Indian reservations are considered mostly sovereign, governed by Federal law and the curious "tribal compact" between the tribe and the state to allow gaming on tribal lands that would not be otherwise allowed under state law.

This measure would expand the range of gaming available at tribal casinos, including dice games and sports wagering that are not currently permitted: if you want to play craps, you have to go to Vegas.

This expanded gaming would be permitted strictly in person - not online! - and would apply to Indian casinos (where I believe it's 18+) and certain racetracks limited to those 21+.

It would also create a state-run California Sports Wagering Fund that gets a cut of some of this action, with the proceeds going to the usual suspects (schools, aka "for the children").

I don't really have a strong feeling about gambling one way or the other, though of course doing it to excess can be just as bad as any other kind of self-destructive behavior, as well as attracting a criminal element.

But because these measures involves so much money, they are almost never about what they say it is, and with disingenuous arguments front and center, one has to dig in.

Proponents claim it will bring additional revenue to not just the casinos (of course), but to non-gaming tribes as well by dint of participation in a revenue share arrangement. This revenue share has been around a long time and provided much support to these (generally) small and poor tribes.

This will also throw a lifeline to the horseracing industry, which seems to be on the decline and has had lots of bad press in the last few years with so many horses dying at the Santa Anita racetrack in Los Angeles County. I'm not sure why this is here: perhaps looking for allies?

Also touted are additional revenue to the state, including the old trope about more funding for education; this is disingenuous. Yes, the revenue from this measure may go to schools, but it frees up money from other sources that used to go to schools but can now be used for other things.

Anybody arguing that this benefits schools is pretty much saying they think you're an idiot. Likewise with the Lottery.

The big losers appear to be the 84 card clubs in California, where games such as poker are allowed, and are entirely governed by State law and would not be allowed to offer sports betting.

Proponents claim that some of these card clubs offer "house-banked games" which are not allowed under California law (but allowed in Nevada). I don't understand this (though I found an excellent writeup here), but the details don't matter for this discussion.

What does matter are that the card clubs have found workarounds that are only dubiously legal, and they are the target of another provision that allows private lawsuits to enforce gambling laws, and it's clear that Prop 26 has the card clubs in mind.

These Private Attorney General lawsuits, which purportedly act in the public interest, uniformly exist to benefit the attorneys and nobody else. PAGA lawsuits can be as relentless as they are frivolous.

Opponents are - of course - the card clubs, who are facing a real challenge to their business, and they point out that they operate primarily in communities of color.

Other opponents are trying to re-litigate the entire notion of Indian gaming, such as Indian tribes not being subject to state laws (such as minimum wage or certain health-and-safety laws), offering little new arguments. I find these mostly unpersuasive as this was settled long ago.

As I analyzed this measure, I went back and forth several times, but ultimately the private attorney general provision turned me against it. I don't mind gambling, but using the ballot to put your competition out of business is abusive.

My Vote: No

California icon Prop 27: Sports Betting #2

This measure would allow online sports betting in California, with some of the proceeds going to support homeless programs.

It would offer 5-year licenses to Indian tribes operating the online site as themselves for a $10M fee, or outside commercial gambling companies who partner with a tribe for a $100M (!!!) 5-year license fee.

In-person sports gambling would expressly be prohibited on tribal lands.

And it's not strictly about sports betting: one could wager on award shows, video game contests and the like, but would explicitly forbid betting on high-school sports games or elections.

It also would establish a regulatory framework that would investigate "fixing" of sports events, preventing those under 21 from playing, as well as crack down on illegal gambling operations in the state.

Proponents unsurprisingly lead with the homeless angle, as well as the support this brings to Indian tribes who will get a cut of the action for partnering (plus non-gaming tribes with the revenue share).

Opponents point out that the measure is funded almost entirely by out-of-state gambling interests (Fan Duel and Draft Kings), operators of online fantasy sports games who insist with a straight face that it's not gambling. John Oliver did a fantastic piece about these fantasy sports operators, and there's a shocking amount of money involved, which makes me not trust anything they say.

Unlike Prop 26, this one is easy for me: no way.

I don't really have an opinion about online gambling either, but the absolutely shameless promotion of the homeless angle is beyond disingenuous, and I believe that shameless, unprincipled arguments should fail even if the ultimate goal is something I could get behind.

My Vote: No

California icon Prop 28: Public school arts and music education

This measure would allocate 1% of state education funding for arts and music education, with somewhat more provided to schools serving disadvantaged students.

This measure defines "arts and music" fairly broadly to include photography, craft arts, dance, theater, graphic design, and even computer programming, but would not consider foreign-language or vocational training in this category.

I know many are very passionate about art and music education, but it's never really done much for me: I did little more than play clarinet in the 6th and 7th grade, but that lack of a solid arts education didn't hold me back, though I do resent my high school not having any vocational classes in electronics.

I'm certainly not opposed to it, it's just not a big deal to me, and I approached this measure with a very skeptical eye.

As I'm reading the legislative analysis I have my eye open for things like tax hikes, bond measures, or other funny business that might hide some kind of agenda.

After getting to the end and not finding one, I just assumed I didn't read it close enough, and the way to find a hidden agenda is always to look at the arguments against the measure, so I turned the page and was greeted with:

No argument against Proposition 28 was submitted

It's almost unheard of for there to be no formal opposition, but it didn't take too much looking around to find out that there is some, and it's persuasive and it changed my mind.

Almost everybody agrees that arts and music education is important, especially after kids were shamelessly locked out of their classrooms for two years due to COVID and suffered all kinds of educational and social deficiencies (some of which will last for years), but doing so via ballot box budgeting is the wrong way.

When the state is flush with cash (as they are now) this is easy to support, having fulltime arts and music teacher on staff, but when the inevitable downturn happens - and that could be any day now - it makes it difficult to adjust if budget items are locked into law: you might be faced with having to fire a math teacher to keep the art teacher? This is not an obviously better choice.

Though the state provides a huge amount of funding to local schools, the decisions on how that funding is spent is largely done by the local school districts themselves, and their school boards ought to be making these decisions.

A Fender guitar

Interestingly, some of the major funding for this measure comes from the California Teachers Association, Steve Ballmer (former Microsoft executive), and the Fender Musical Instrument Company.

In spite of my being opposed to this, it's entirely based on the larger principle of ballot box budgeting, and not about being against arts education, and I didn't find any of the cynical hidden agendas here save for possibly the folks at Fender (who have a large manufacturing facility near the Corona airport in Riverside County) wanting to sell some more guitars.

One can in good conscience vote for this, but I won't be, and in any case this is all the more reason to pay attention to your local school board elections.

My Vote: No

California icon Prop 29: Kidney dialysis clinic regulation

This measure would require that kidney dialysis centers maintain a medical professional at the level of doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner at all times when patients are being treated.

This is the third time that measures around kidney dialysis centers have gone on the ballot: previously Prop 23 in Nov 2020, and Prop 8 in Nov 2018, with the same characters opposite each other. Both previous measures failed.

Nominally this is about patient care, and there's no question that those in end stage kidney disease are in a bad spot, but this is only about that if you believe that Prop 27 is about the homeless.

Proponents are the labor unions who want to stick it to the dialysis clinics, and opponents are - unsurprisingly - the dialysis clinics who don't want the extra costs.

Neither side is sympathetic to me:

There surely could be no harm to having a doctor in the house, but I believe that as much as clinics are looking to make money, they're already regulated as a medical facility (though perhaps not as much as a hospital), and the nurses and other technicians providing this care are well trained in their specialty.

When I underwent chemotherapy treatments, I would prefer an oncology nurse to handle my infusion than any kind of doctor: they have their hands on this all day.

Furthermore, it's not clear what this required medical professional would actually be doing; from what I've read it appears that it's more of an administrative position and not hands-on medical care. Perhaps it's a "just in case" thing?

Not sure, but if patients were dying in dialysis clinics due to factors that an in-house doctor could have prevented, even the proponents are not mentioning it. So this sounds like wishful thinking.

Interestingly, Federal law requires that each patient's kidney doctor visit the patient in the clinic at least once a month, so it seems to me like there's going to be a regular stream of doctors in and out of the place anyway.

Once again, this is the Service Employees International Union (and affiliates) trying to use the ballot box to beat up on in industry they want their hands in (attempting to unionize dialysis workers), and this is a cynical tactic that has nothing to do with the patient care this measure is nominally about.

I oppose propositions that aren't about what they say they are, so it's easy to vote no on this.

To be fair, there are other provisions that are far less controversial, such as required reporting of infection rates and disclosing clinic ownership (to detect conflicts of interest). I can't think of a principled position to be against this kind of transparency, and if that's all it did I'd be fine with it (and am not sure why the legislature hasn't done this already).

Other provisions would forbid a clinic from closing without permission from the state, which seems odd to me, as well as forbidding clinics from discriminating against patients based on who's paying. Both of these are worth a discussion if on a standalone basis.

But these additional provisions are just a side show from the eff-you by the unions.

My Vote: No

California icon Prop 30: Air pollution, wildfires, tax increase

This measure funds a host of measures to address air pollution, wildfires, and to encourage electric vehicles, paid for by a 1.75% tax on personal incomes over $2M.

The first provision is promoting Zero Emission Vehicles, which could be electric cars like a Tesla, or hydrogen powered cars, or maybe something in the future (nuclear?), by providing financial assistance to buyers, requiring Uber/Lyft type companies to use more electric vehicles, as well as funding recharging stations.

The second area revolves around wildfire activities, which includes prevention (clearing out of dead trees near populations) and actual firefighting responses.

The tax that provides for all this is strictly on individuals (not businesses) making more than $2M/year, and would raise the marginal tax rate from 13.3% (currently the highest in the nation) up to to 15.05%. This is on top of Federal taxes.

Proponents make the obvious arguments: climate change must be addressed, which means moving to zero emission vehicles, and wildfires are getting worse and causing crazy amounts of damage: prevention is much cheaper than putting out a fire.

A major source of funding for this measure is from ridesharing company Lyft, who is faced with a requirement to have 90% of its fleet on ZEV by 2030, and passage of this measure would get the state to pay for some of those upgrades.

Regarding the opponents, it's time for popcorn. I can't believe what I'm reading.

Bucket of popcorn

One opponent is the California Teachers Association, who I believe are jealous of somebody else getting tax money instead of themselves, and make the amazing statement:

"We don't need to face billions in higher taxes".

Yes, a teacher's union really said that.

They also make silly arguments that this measure doesn't do anything for healthcare, public safety or homelessness. Ok, well sure, but no ballot measure is literally about everything. The CTA also supports Prop 28 (arts and music), but nobody's saying "what about the homeless?".

Really, their whole argument is comical (and cynical).

Other proponents are the firefighters, who would receive increased funding for wildfire-related activities. In my day job I do network consulting for a number of public safety agencies here where I live, and I have enormous respect for the firefighters (though somewhat less for their union).

More obvious opponents are the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association and other business-related groups, who generally oppose taxes, and argue that the state has something like a $98B budget surplus, and they should just use that rather than raising taxes. Fair point, no?

Furthermore, there's the legit question of whether California's electrical grid can handle any real uptake in electric vehicle use. We had rolling blackouts in 2020, and just this year we lost power at our place a coupla times during the super hot days, and we were being told "don't recharge during the day".

Opponents also point out that most ZEV subsidies go to wealthier people who don't really need the help, and this is certainly true.

However, there's some case to be made that the wealthy early adopters help drive the costs down and infrastructure up due to volume, and this is probably true, though I don't see this really inuring to the benefit of those truly at the bottom. At this point, these ZEV subsidies feel like a de facto regressive tax to me.

In any case, given that the CTA and HJTA cannot even agree that a sharp stick in the eye is bad, them being on the same side of this issue is really saying something.

Joke of the day: The tax expires in 20 years; will Draft Kings let me place an online bet that this will actually expire?

My Vote: No

California icon Prop 31: Referendum on flavored tobacco ban

We don't see a referendum very often: this is like an initiative (which would introduce a new law), but instead aims to repeal an existing law already passed by the legislature.

In 2020, the CA Legislature passed a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco, which was seen mainly as targeting youth and getting them hooked on nicotine, also including flavored nicotine vape pens.

The law was put on hold when this referendum was filed, and a YES vote means to keep the ban (which I believe would go into effect the day after the election), and NO mean to repeal the ban.

Though tobacco sales have always been limited to those 21+, there's never been a problem with kids getting them, as seen by the wild popularity of the Juul vape pens that had candy flavors in devices that looked like USB flash drives.

Federal law banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, though menthol was excluded, and that same law gave the FDA power to regulate this area. FDA is proposing what amounts to the same ban on flavor (including menthol); I'm not clear where this is in the process.

Proponents make the obvious argument that these happy fun flavors are what get kids hooked, especially with the vape pens that are easy to use and don't stink up the place like cigarettes do (yuck).

Opponents are unsurprisingly Big Tobacco but we have to review some of their arguments anyway.

One is the general notion that prohibition doesn't work, which is normally fairly compelling, as this drives a black market. The opponents support their case with the claim that almost half all cigarette sales are on the black market, with many low-quality products smuggled in from China and Mexico.

They also make the amusing case that the reduced sales of tobacco products will cost the state around a billion dollars a year, reducing funding available for - among other things - healthcare. But if people stop smoking, they won't need as much healthcare in the first place, right?

One interesting angle: some who want to quit smoking do so by switching from cigarettes to vape pens, which I believe are somewhat less harmful (still has the nicotine, but not the toxic smoke), and flavored pens might make that transition easier.

They claim that the FDA may allow this as a "reduction of harm" benefit, but a State ban would rule this out in California.

One interesting angle here is menthol: that's said to be much more popular in black communities, where reportedly 85% of black smokers use menthol. Banning them would make cigarettes somewhat less appealing, I imagine.

I really don't like prohibition, but I support this measure.

If an adult chooses to smoke, I suppose that's their foolish choice, but these flavored things are getting kids hooked on nicotine, and I think that alone deserves the ban. Yes, you still have to be 21+ to buy them, but kids are getting these with the same ease that I pick up a snack at the grocery store.

There is no doubt in my mind that this will drive a black market, and that's a serious downside, but I think on the whole I side with the prohibition.

My Vote: Yes (to keep the ban)

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

Last updated: Sun Oct 23 19:14:48 UTC 2022