Monday, October 17, 2016

The worst ballot ever: part two, state propositions

The candidates on my crazy California ballot were the easy part. Here I'll pass along how I voted on the 17 state ballot measures. Yes, this is democracy gone berserk. There is no way to make informed choices on all of this. Worse, having just been out of the state for two months, I'm nowhere near as on top of these as I might be. But here goes:

Prop. 51: School bonds Since we've made it almost impossible to raise taxes, we issue bonds. The general election has reminded me how important education might be to preserving decency. Yes

And this little six-year-old said: "Because the other guy called someone a piggy, and you cannot be president if you call someone a piggy."

from Michelle Obama, Oct. 14, 2016

Prop. 52: Medi-Cal hospital fee This seems to be about making private hospitals pay their fair share. Yes

Prop. 53: Revenue bond vote This would make us vote on more items we know nothing about; longer ballots ahead. It isn't always comfortable, but in general we're smarter to delegate most governing to our legislators. No

Prop. 54: Legislative sunshine Makes the legislature publish what is in bills before votes and requires steaming video of all sessions. Yes though weakly. You can't entirely legislate transparency. If some want to play tricks, they'll find ways.

Prop. 55: Tax extension on the rich No brainer here. These are tax rates that already exist. We can't have the state we want unless it is paid for. Yes.

Prop. 56: Cigarette tax Hell, Yes!

Prop 57: Earlier parole This one has parts. It would open the possibility of parole for 30,000 non-violent felons and allow prison authorities to credit inmates with "good behavior." All fine and good, but it also shifts the decision on whether to try juveniles as adults from prosecutors to judges. That might turn out to be a significant reform as prosecutors have too many tools to get easy plea agreements as it stands. All these are baby steps toward dealing with a a racist, crazy-quilt system, but better than the status quo. Yes.

Prop. 58: English language learning This repeals one of California's racial backlash initiatives (Prop. 227) from the 1990s when the white electorate was trying to wish away the emerging majority of color. We effectively outlawed bilingual education with that one. These days we appreciate that bilingual education can be an effective strategy for ensuring that newcomer children learn in the public schools. About time! Yes.

Prop. 59: Overturning Citizens United Puts us on record as wanting the Supremes to allow regulation of corporate money in elections. No legal effect, but a cause about which reformers are passionate. Yes.

Prop. 60: Condoms in porn films This is the sort of thing that makes the state a national laughing stock. Rightly. Both Dems and GOPers think this is unnecessary, stupid law. We'll probably pass it. Not sure if I can bring myself to vote on it.

Prop. 61: Drug prices From the ads I've seen on TV, Big Pharma thinks this one might cost them. It enables the state to mandate that it pay no more for drugs than the Veterans Administration. Anything to nick Big Pharma. Yes.

Prop. 62: Death penalty repeal Finally something I know something about. Long time readers here will know I spent all of 2012 campaigning for a previous version and it lost narrowly. The death penalty is arbitrary (only about three county prosecutors call for it), crazy expensive, and inevitably racist in application. A federal judge who looked into it called it "dysfunctional" and "beyond repair." People realize this when they think about the reality that we have something like 750 men on death row and haven't executed any of them since 2006. Californians have had four more years to learn that the promise of retribution or closure embodied in the death penalty is cruel phony-baloney. Yes.

Prop. 63: Ammunition sales Most anything to restrict wider access to guns seems right to me. This is a step in the right direction. The law would require background checks for ammunition purchases and establish a system to get guns away from people with felonies or domestic violence orders. Yes.

Prop. 64: Marijuana legalization Gonna happen. About time no one goes to jail for pot. Yes.

Prop. 65: Carry out bags The plastic bag makers want us to help their polluting industry. This is a con. Ain't it great that we have a system in which, if you spend enough money, you can make us vote on anything? No.

Prop. 66: Death penalty enforcement Prosecutors strike back. Recognizing that sentiment against the death penalty is growing statewide, they want to try to resuscitate it. It is not that they are naturally blood thirsty (at least most of them.) But we have to understand how the "justice" system actually works. Those jury trials you see on TV are vanishingly rare. Most people charged with crimes make a plea bargain with the prosecutor for an agreed sentence rather than take the expense or risk of trial. Prosecutors love having the death penalty in their armory -- "take this plea or we'll make your offense a death case." That's powerful stuff. The so-called reforms in Prop. 66 won't work. I have great confidence that the capital defense lawyers will still be able to gum up the works -- and that California therefore will be no more likely to save money or execute offenders if this passes. Prosecutors don't need us to make their job easier. NO

Prop. 67: Plastic bag ban Now we're talking. San Franciscans have proved able to do without plastic bags; the rest of the state can too. This is what the plastic companies fear: we don't need their polluting product. Yes.

Having worked through these, I'm a little surprised how many I am voting "yes" on. That won't discourage the interests that put them on the ballot, but quite a few seem sensible or perhaps necessary because legislators can't or won't dare pass them the old-fashioned way.

Part one: federal, state and local candidates.

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