This November’s Ballot Initiatives

Here we go! This is a roundup of the ballot measures. I’m going to provide the official info, the summary and the “What Voting Yes Means” info from the state, and a discussion of the measure. In the coming month Speak Out California will go into detail on these initiatives with a progressive viewpoint, research into the funding and supporters/opponents and their reasons, and our own endorsements. (I can safely say that we will not be endorsing Prop 23.)
Proposition 19, The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.
This proposition changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed.
Summary: Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Fiscal Impact: Depending on federal, state, and local government actions, potential increased tax and fee revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually and potential correctional savings of several tens of millions of dollars annually.
A YES vote on this measure means: Individuals age 21 or older could, under state law, possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. In addition, the state and local governments could authorize, regulate, and tax commercial marijuana-related activitites under certain conditions. These activities would remain illegal under federal law.
Discussion: it is hard to find much wrong with this proposal. Some say that more people might drive while stoned, and there needs to be enforcement and education around this. Speak Out California recently ran a post on another interesting possible result from this proposal: Will Passing Prop 19 Help End Mexico’s Drug War?
Proposition 20, Congressional Redistricting
Add the task of re-drawing congressional district boundaries to the commission created by Proposition 11.
Summary: Removes elected representatives from process of establishing congressional districts and transfers that authority to recently-authorized 14-member redistricting commission comprised of Democrats, Republicans, and respresentatives of neither party. Fiscal Impact: No significant net change in state redistricting costs.
A YES vote on this measure means: The responsibility to determine the boundaries of California’s districts in the U.S. House of Representatives would be moved to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a commission established by Proposition 11 in 2008. (Proposition 27 on this ballot also concerns redistricting issues. If both Proposition 20 and Proposition 27 are approved by voters, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)
Discussion: This takes the “gerrymandering” out of drawing up the state’s Congressional districts. You’ve probably seen the maps of current districts, where they wander all aroundand make no sense. This is done to include or exclude areas that tend to vote Democratic or Republican, which ensures “safe” seats and manipulates the totals so there are one or three more Democratic members of Congress than there otherwise would be. If this passes districts would not be drawn to cover wide areas and leave out neighborhoods. The problem – to some – is that Texas has drawn its districts to makes sure that they send extra Republicans to the Congress, so changing to this system costs Democrats nationally.
Proposition 21, Vehicle License Fee for Parks
Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge to Help Fund State Parks and Wildlife Programs and Grants Free Admission to All State Parks to Surcharged Vehicles.
Summary: Exempts commercial vehicles, trailers and trailer coaches from the surcharge. Fiscal Impact: Annual increase to state revenues of $500 million from surcharge on vehicle registrations. After offsetting some existing funding sources, these revenues would provide at least $250 million more annually for state parks and wildlife conservation.
A YES vote on this measure means: An $18 annual surcharge would be added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. The surcharge revenues would be used to provide funding for state park and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would have free admission and parking at all state parks.
Discussion: This appears to be a good thing, except to those who hate any government or taxes. BUT one of the big problems with reaching a budget each year is these set-asides that are done by ballot initiative, making it difficult to allocate funds as needed. Addressing the state’s revenue shortfall would g a lot further. Then again, it is hard to be against a small license fee to help the state’s parks.
Proposition 22, Ban on State Borrowing from Local Governments
Summary: Prohibits State, even during severe fiscal hardship, from delaying distribution of tax revenues for these purposes. Fiscal Impact: Decreased state General Fund spending and/or increased state revenues, probably in the range of $1 billion to several billions of dollars annually. Comparable increases in funding for state and local transportation programs and local redevelopment.
A YES vote on this measure means: The state’s authority to use or redirect state fuel tax and local property tax revenues would be significantly restricted.
Discussion: This is another measure to try to address a little piece of the state’s budget problems. The state grabs money from local governments to help fix its own budget mess, leaving the local governments short and in trouble. Fixing the larger problem of an extremist, obstructionist anti-government minority would go much further.
Proposition 23, Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act

  • Suspends State law that requires greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, until California’s unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.
  • Suspends comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emissions reporting and fee requirements for major emissions sources such as power plants and oil refineries.

A YES vote on this measure means: Certain existing and proposed regulations authorized under state law (“Assembly Bill 32”) to address global warming would be suspended. These regulations would remain suspended until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year.
Discussion: This ugly mess of an out-of-state-funded corporate initiative represents the worst of our politics. It tries to trick voters by conflating fighting global warming and creating a new green economy with the unemployment rate. It has millions and millions of dollars behind it from huge, out-of-state oil giants.
Proposition 24, Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks
Summary: Prohibits the State, even during a period of severe fiscal hardship, from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.

  • Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to shift operating losses to prior tax years and that would extend the period permitted to shift operating losses to future tax years.
  • Repeals recent legislation that would allow corporations to share tax credits with affiliated corporations.
  • Repeals recent legislation that would allow multistate businesses to use a sales-based income calculation, rather than a combination property-, payroll-, and sales-based income calculation.

A YES vote on this measure means: Three business tax provisions will return to what they were before 2008 and 2009 law changes. As a result: (1) a business will be less able to deduct losses in one year against income in other years, (2) a multistate business will have its California income determined by a calculation using three factors, and (3) a business will not be able to share tax credits with related businesses.
Discussion: Last year during the worst of the budget crisis Republicans forced the legislature to pass a huge corporate tax cut while cutting everything else including firing teachers, because the state requires a 2/3 supermajority to pass a budget. This initiative reverses that tax cut and a few others.
Proposition 25, Majority Vote for Legislature to Pass the Budget

  • Changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the state budget and spending bills related to the budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.
  • Provides that if the Legislature fails to pass a budget bill by June 15, all members of the Legislature will permanently forfeit any reimbursement for salary and expenses for every day until the day the Legislature passes a budget bill.

A YES vote on this measure means: The Legislature’s vote requirement to send the annual budget bill to the Governor would be lowered from two-thirds to a majority of each house of the Legislature.
Discussion: The discussion for Prop 24 described how tax cuts for large out-of-state corpoariotns were forced on us during last year’s budget negotiations. This measure allows a simple majority to pass a budget, preventing this kind of thing. However, because this measure retains the 2/3 requirement to pass any revenue increases there is also a possibility it would increase pressure for cuts-only budgets.
Proposition 26, Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees

  • Requires that certain state fees be approved by two-thirds vote of Legislature and certain local fees be approved by two-thirds of voters.
  • Increases legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for certain tax measures, including those that do not result in a net increase in revenue, currently subject to majority vote.

Discussion: This is an attempt by anti-government forces to further restrict the ability of the legislature and public to fund the government.
Proposition 27, Elimination of Citizen Redistricting Commission

  • Eliminates 14-member redistricting commission selected from applicant pool picked by government auditors.
  • Consolidates authority for establishing state Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries with elected state representatives responsible for drawing congressional districts.
  • Reduces budget, and imposes limit on amount Legislature may spend, for redistricting.
  • Provides that voters will have the authority to reject district boundary maps approved by the Legislature.
  • Requires populations of all districts for the same office to be exactly the same.

Discussion: This is an attempt to return to political “gerrymandering” of political districts.

Follow The Money — It’s All About The Self-Interest

Much is finally being written about the money behind the candidates as well as the initiatives these days. Finally I say because money buys word-smithing and that buys people’s hearts and minds. Not that the ideas propelling the candidates and ballot measures couldn’t do that on their merits, but it’s the money that motivates these self-serving people/corporations. Money pays for the glib sound-bites that become the message and the PR firms that then shape the opinions and alas, the votes of an often unsuspecting electorate.
With all the money being poured into our elections this year, and the misdirection of the voters, it is not hard to understand that the Republicans are poised to recoup most, if not all of their lost gains from the 2008 election that catapulted Barack Obama and the Democrats into power. What IS hard to understand, is how the American people are looking to these very same people, with the very same ideas that put our communities, our state, our nation and even the world on the brink of economic disaster.
I was confounded again today, listening to Mitt Romney, of all people, disparaging the Democrats view of economics; if Romney and his buddies had had their way, the world would have collapsed into depression after the Bush policies of less oversight, greater private enterprise without accountability and all the other disastrous approaches to prosperity and opportunity that accompanied the Gingrich, Bush and Cheney years. One disaster after another:

  • Iraq
  • Wall Street
  • Housing collapse
  • High unemployment
  • Out-sourcing jobs to China and Asia
  • Huge deficits
  • Afghanistan
  • Guantanemo and the loss of civil liberties.

The list truly goes on and on, yet with the incredible chutzpah of arrogant, wealthy, deceitful, expediency-driven people like Mitt and the Koch brothers, we’re seeing the resurrection of the failed policies that President Obama so aptly expressed as the “guys who drove the car into the ditch”. As he pointed out, now they’re asking for the keys back. What the President was slow in realizing (or maybe does now), is that there may be enough Americans willing to do just that!
Back to the Koch Boys ……. these multi-gazillionaires born into extraordinary privilege, with no moral compass, have dumped millions into California for purposes of realizing their libertarian, polluting, anti-worker dispositions to assure that their climate threatening, dirty air creating industries continue to pollute our air and risk the future of our health and our planet. They’ve found a willing ally, it seems, in Carly Fiorina—who probably wishes she could be them—if only she knew how. (See Fiorina’s billionaire backers in today’s LA Times.)
While a recent study named Koch Industries one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States, and they have been cited by organizations that monitor employment practices as “m>one of the most ruthless exporters of American manufacturing jobs to foreign countries”, Carly earned the distinction of being one of the country’s top twenty WORST CEO’s of all time. So they do have a lot in common–and are in sync on both opposing our critically important model air-quality legislation which also creates hundreds of thousands of green jobs for Californians (many of which have already begun) and in off-shoring American jobs.
It is important in politics to go beyond the rhetoric to who is funding what and why. Once the fluff and hype is dissected, the real story of a ballot measure or candidate’s expected behavior can be identified. With all the polling, focus-groups and testing of “messages”, the public tends to be inundated with language designed to bamboozle, not educate. This makes following the money trail all the more important.
In the case of the Koch Brothers, their millions have been funding the “tea party” and major Republican candidates nationwide. They’ve also put millions into Yes on Prop 23, along with two Texas oil companies that believe they should be able to force us to breathe dirty air.
While truth has never been of concern to the Libertarian, filthy air producing Koch boys (I will not make any comment about any possible racism or bigotry they may have inherited from their father who was one of the original members of the John Birch Society), they have gotten solidly behind Carly and Prop 23. Those facts, alone, should be enough to make sure we say NO to both Fiorina and Prop. 23. While they may have tons of money, once you follow it, you see that it leads straight into a self-serving stew of pollution and greed.
We can do better— a lot better!

In Honor And Memory Of 9/11

The power of fear and hate-mongering is as prevalent today as it has been since the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s. Sadly, it has impacted the ability of our first African-American to meet the promises and expectations of a nation that voted overwhelmingly to support him. But with the power of right-wing media, the so-called “Tea Party” and the hate-baiting Republican leadership of today, it has challenged us as a nation to look and think beyond the “reptilian mind” and remember what this country has and must continue to stand for. As we have just commemorated the 9th anniversary of the horror of September 11th, we must stay focused on what this nation means to us and what it must represent for our children and our children’s children as we remember that 9 years ago it seemed that the world stood still—at least for the people of New York City and all Americans and good people of the world
9/11 was one of those days in history that is seared into the minds of those of us alive to experience it. The horror, the devastation, the shear power of two huge edifices crumbling under the weight of unimaginable heat created by the intentional act of flying two large airplanes into buildings filled with people and activity.
For many of us, we have had other moments where the world seemed to stop. For our most senior population they remember “A day that will live in Infamy,” December 7th, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor that marked our reluctant nation’s entry into World War Two; the moment we learned of the assassination of the young president, John F. Kennedy, some 47 years ago this November 22nd; the explosion of the Shuttle Challenger as the country watched on live television. Perhaps there are others, but these were the collective experience and horror of a nation, one people united by death and carnage that we knew would change the course of our lives and our nation’s history.
It is how we responded to those tragedies that have been the hallmark of who we are as a nation. The call to arms to join the rest of the world to beat back tyranny, fascism, genocide and mass murder of millions that marked the Nazis of the 1930s and 1940’s; the implementation of a fallen president’s dream of racial equality that occurred in his honor with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, shepherded by his successor, Lyndon Johnson; the effort to rebuild and continue our space shuttle program in memory of those who lost their lives on the Challenger……all efforts going forward to exemplify the best of what our nation has to offer and the character of our country.
So here we are, nine years after 9/11, when a group of Saudi Arabian -based terrorists, under the guise of religious war or “jihad” hijacked a religion and an airplane to try to take down our nation. They failed, or at least they failed then.
We see their hatred for our nation as inexplicable, wrong, intolerant and fanatically based. We believed that Osama Bin-Laden wanted to destroy our country but we would not be bowed.
The question is, though, did this terrible act of terrorism and mass murder undermine the fabric of this nation? Has Bin Laden won in his battle to undermine the very essence of our society—where freedom and opportunity prevail over dogma and repression of the rights of people who do not share a fanatical view of the world?
There are probably many who would argue that Bin Laden did, in fact, change the face of this nation—we are more fearful, we spend billions on “homeland security.” We have been willing to give up many of our freedoms in exchange for safer travel, but until recently we were unwilling to succumb to the same intolerance and hatred that fueled the acts of insanity on 9/11.
So what has happened 9 years later is that we now find ourselves with extremists here in our own country, our own clergy, our own political leaders, talking with the same intolerance, bigotry and ignorance that were and are the hallmarks of the terrorist fanatics who tried to bring our nation to its knees on 9/11. They failed. New York City continues to be an incredible melting pot of people from all walks of life, all cultures and all parts of the world who live in relative harmony together in a few square miles of teeming humanity.
In the 9 years following this unspeakable act, we have elected our first non-white President; our first Woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. We continue to celebrate religious holidays from all religions of the world without violence.
But if we allow the intolerance of small-minded and small-thinking so-called religious leaders of our own, fear-mongers like Newt Gingrich and others to feed the fears and prejudices of Americans to deny the placement of a mosque blocks from the Twin Towers, to burn other people’s Bibles because they are not our words or beliefs; to attack others because they don’t look like us, or think like us, then we will have lost and Osama Bin Laden and his band of lunatics will have accomplished years later what they could not accomplish by blowing up buildings—-the demise of the American spirit, its sense of justice, tolerance and freedom that are the qualities that threaten the fanatics and ideologues of the world. We will have become them.
We cannot let that happen. Instead, we must renew our commitment to justice, tolerance, religious freedom and a sense of community. We must remember that what has made our nation great, what our brave fighting men and women have given their lives for is our freedom, our liberty, our right to worship as we see fit and the notion that we are all equals entitled to dignity and respect. That is what has made our country great and we must remember that even at difficult moments like these. This should be the legacy of 9/11.

Will Passing Prop 19 Help End Mexico’s Drug War?

The huge financial returns from supplying America’s demand have fueled the rise of drug gangs across our southern border. Marijuana prohibition keeps the price high and the supply controllable. As a result few have as great a financial interest in continuing to keep marijuana illegal as do these Mexican drug gangs.
In an interesting development, Héctor Aguilar Camín ( a historian, a novelist and the publisher and editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos) and Jorge G. Castañeda (Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003 and teacher at New York University) penned an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post, California’s Prop 19, on legalizing marijuana, could end Mexico’s drug war. Excerpt,

On Nov. 2, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, deciding whether to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. If the initiative passes, it won’t just be momentous for California; it may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs.
[. . .] A growing number of distinguished Mexicans from all walks of life have recently come out in favor of some form of drug legalization. Former presidents Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, novelists Carlos Fuentes and Angeles Mastretta, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario Molina, and movie star Gael García Bernal have all expressed support for this idea, and polls show that ordinary Mexicans are increasingly willing to contemplate the notion.

A question for readers: is it possible that drug interests south of the border might become involved in efforts to oppose Prop 19? There is a great deal of money at stake depending on which way this ballot initiative goes. There is a history of entrenched moneyed interests getting involved in elections that can alter their interests.

Labor Day: Labor Got It Right — Who Could Have Known?

“Who could have known?” That’s the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they’re doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)
Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a “lockbox” so it wouldn’t be given away as tax cuts?
Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn’t turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus “killed the recovery?”
(List continues into infinity…)
Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.
Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
They were right about the middle class.
They were right about the weekend.
They were right about paid vacations.
They were right about paid holidays.
They were right about paid sick leave.
They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country’s infrastructure.
They were right about going green.
They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street’s financialization of the economy.
They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
They were right about fighting privatization.
They were right about fighting deregulation.
They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.
(List continues into infinity…) They were right and they continue to be right.
And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.
Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?
Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don’t have those things … JOIN A UNION!
P.S. Here’s an example of being right:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.