Proposition 51: NO. Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for public school buildings, charter schools, vocational education facilities and community college campuses. The bonds would be paid off over 35 years at a cost of about $17.6 billion, including interest. There has not been a state bond for schools facilities since 2006 so it may seem as if we are ready for a new one. This proposition would provide matching funds for local school districts but there is a provision that removes the ability of local school districts to pass on fees to developers of other projects such as office buildings or housing to pay for school construction. While many districts pass local bond measures, this would allow for some to get state funding as well but there is no guarantee that will happen and would inhibit their ability to require local developers to pay for their impact on schools. In an area such as San Mateo County, this will provide a hardship because of our population growth. Statewide school bonds help schools. The Legislature should place one on the ballot that does not preclude local development fees. VOTE NO.
Proposition 52: YES. Extends a law passed by the state Legislature that imposes fees on hospitals to fund health care for low-income Californians through the state’s Medi-Cal program. The fees help the state receive federal matching dollars but have been taken by the Legislature during state budget shortfalls. Proposition 52 would make the fee and the law permanent, making it harder for the Legislature to use the money for other purposes. While the Legislature has extended this law in the past, and will likely do so in the future, this proposition disallows borrowing from the fund for other purposes, which the Legislature may not stipulate in the future. VOTE YES.
Proposition 53: NO. Requires voter approval before revenue bonds exceeding $2 billion can be issued. While its main proponent, a wealthy Stockton farmer and businessman, says the ballot initiative is not solely aimed at blocking Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnel plan to divert water to Southern California, it would largely affect that project and others such as high-speed rail. It also has the possibility of snaring a host of other projects with a price tag of more than $2 billion and require a statewide vote before construction could begin. It would add another layer to large state and some local construction projects and has the possibility of delaying them. If the goal is to stop the Delta tunnel project, the focus should have been on that. VOTE NO.
Proposition 54: YES. Requires the Legislature to publish bills for at least 72 hours before a vote and to post videos of legislative proceedings online. While opponents suggest this ballot initiative would squash last-minute deal-making and possibly even promote lobbying by providing three days of public review before a bill has a vote, it would also allow for more public review and even more time for legislators to read on what they are voting. Legislators could accommodate this change by simply reconfiguring their schedules. It is a small price to pay for more transparency. VOTE YES.
Proposition 55: YES. Voters first approved higher tax rates for those making more than $250,000 and couples making more than $500,000 in 2012 with the passage of Proposition 30. That ballot initiative included a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help make up for the state’s budget shortfall. Proponents of Proposition 55 wisely dropped the sales tax and instead focused on the income tax for high income earners. This ballot initiative would extend it for another 12 years, raising about $4 billion to $9 billion per year for schools, community colleges, Medi-Cal and budget reserves. VOTE YES.
Proposition 56: NO. Raises cigarette taxes by $2 to $2.87 per pack and hikes taxes on other tobacco products and nicotine products used with electronic cigarettes. Money raised, about $1 billion, would go toward low-income health care. Tobacco taxes are regressive and hit low-income residents most. If this tax raise’s intent is to discourage smoking, it should not also draw tax revenue from electronic cigarettes, which many use as a way to stop smoking. VOTE NO.
Proposition 57: NO. Gives corrections officials more say in when criminals are released and strips prosecutors of the power to decide when juveniles should be tried as adults. Promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown, it is another measure to reduce the state’s prison population as mandated by federal judges. The state has spent significant effort in recent years, starting with realignment in 2011 — which shifted many state prisoners to county jails — to reduce prison population. In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for certain crimes. This initiative would take it a step further and allow for earlier parole aside from sentencing enhancements for gang affiliation or use of a firearm. The state is still absorbing and determining the effects of Proposition 47 and we should wait before allowing more prisoners into parole. It would also take power away from local prosecutors and judges and place it in the hands of state officials. VOTE NO.
Proposition 58: YES. Gives school districts the option of bringing back bilingual education by rolling back a voter-approved 1998 ban on teaching English learners in any language other than English. Much has changed in 18 years and this initiative would allow for local school districts to employ bilingual education to more children, even English speakers. In our growing multilingual world, more emphasis should be placed on language learning for all students. Local school districts can determine what works best for them. VOTE YES.
Proposition 59: NO. A nonbinding measure that asks whether California lawmakers should push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which threw out restrictions on corporate and union political contributions. You may agree with need to overturn Citizens United, but this proposition will not do that. It’s a feel-good proposition with absolutely no teeth. VOTE NO.
Proposition 60: NO. Requires porn actors to wear condoms while filming and producers to pay for vaccinations and medical exams for porn actors. Occupational safety is an important component of government but this ballot initiative goes too far in already self-regulated industry. VOTE NO.
Proposition 61: NO. Prohibits the state from paying more than the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs. That may sound good, but the reason the VA has lower prices than others is that it negotiates. It does not list the actual price of some drugs because of contracts with the drug manufacturers so state programs for prisoners, retired state workers and Medi-Cal recipients may not get the VA price. There is a chance drug manufacturers may raise prices for the VA if forced to sell at the same price for other programs and some drugs may no longer be available in the state if prices don’t meet companies’ needs. Forcing lower prices may also take money away from research and development. Rising drug prices are a problem but this proposition is not the answer. VOTE NO.
Proposition 62: NO. Repeals the death penalty in California and replaces it with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. This ballot initiative would apply retroactively to current death row inmates. While nearly everyone can agree that the state’s death penalty system is no longer working, much of that can be addressed through Proposition 66, which would speed up the process through a variety of measures. The death penalty is a terrible punishment for a terrible crime and should only be considered for the most heinous of crimes. It is also used as a tool for prosecutors to speed up criminal proceedings by using it as leverage for lower pleas. VOTE NO.
Proposition 63: NO. Enacts several gun-control measures, including background checks for ammunition sales and a ban on high-capacity magazines. California lawmakers acted quickly this summer to put a raft of gun control bills on the governor’s desk and six were signed into law. This proposition mimics much of the previously passed legislation and adds measures the governor rightly vetoed. VOTE NO.
Proposition 64: YES. Legalizes marijuana use and possession for those 21 and older while creating standards for licensing. Sales and cultivation taxes would go to youth programs, environmental protection and law enforcement. This ballot initiative allows local governments to control where businesses are located or even ban them. Would reduce populations of local jails and state prisons for marijuana-related crimes while putting money toward studies on the initiative’s effectiveness, how to determine whether someone is driving while impaired and the risks and benefits of medical marijuana, along with grants for services such as job placement or substance abuse rehabilitation. VOTE YES.
Proposition 65: NO. Requires a 10-cent grocery bag fee be used for environmental programs, rather than to grocers and other retail stores. Promoted by opponents of Proposition 67, which would enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags and require a fee for paper and reusable plastic bags. This proposition sounds good on the surface since it would seem as if money from the fee should go to environmental programs, however, if it receives more votes than Proposition 67, there would be no state law to which this initiative would apply so there would be no statewide plastic bag ban. VOTE NO.
Proposition 66: YES. Speeds up the appeals process so death row inmates are executed more quickly. While nearly everyone can agree that the state’s death penalty system is no longer working, this ballot initiative would mend it by speeding up the process through a variety of measures. The death penalty is a terrible punishment for a terrible crime and should only be considered for the most heinous of crimes. It is also used as a tool for prosecutors to speed up criminal proceedings by using it as leverage for lower pleas. VOTE YES.
Proposition 67: YES. Enacts a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags and requires large retailers to charge at least 10 cents for recycled paper bags and reusable bags. This initiative is referendum on Senate Bill 270, which enacted a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at retailers — meaning if it passes, the bill goes into effect. While some may think money from the fee should go to environmental programs as outlined in Proposition 65, that initiative would have no state law for a ban to go into effect. Having the fee go to retailers was a way to ameliorate the impact of changing a key part of retailers’ business. Perhaps the fee’s benefit can be revisited a few years after the legislation goes into effect and the impact is less. VOTE YES.