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A Guide to Statewide and Municipal Ballot Measures

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

By Max B. and Julian E.

Editor’s Note: This guide was adapted from a Common Classroom offering (by the authors) on Friday 10/17. On a few propositions where we both agreed, we have included a recommendation.

Statewide Ballot Measures

Prop 14

  1. Authorizes the state government to sell $5.5 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research — again

  2. The agency this funds (CIRM) first got funded in 2004, but is about to run out of money. 

  3. CIRM has had issues with corruption because scientists who stand to benefit from CIRM grants sit on the board that writes those grants

  4. Very few of the funds appropriated in 2004 were actually spent on scientific research

  5. State funding of stem cell research is less necessary now than it was in 2004 given the increase of federal funding under the Obama Administration

  6. Recommendation: Vote no

Prop 15 — Read more in Radar here

  1. Prop 13 (‘78) capped the growth rate of property tax revenue. When cost of living increased, cities were unable to keep funding education/infrastructure at the same level due to increased labor costs but constant tax revenue

  2. Prop 15 repeals Prop 13 for large corporate properties only (individuals/small businesses keep the tax cut)

  3. Estimated revenue increase of $12 billion/year (mostly for schools)

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Prop 16

  1. Repeals non-discrimination law passed in 1996: 

  2. “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting”

  3. Would allow affirmative action, but AA arguably provides an opportunity for self-congratulation and the mirage of progress without fixing the severe funding inequities in K-12 education (e.g.: Over the course of their K-12 education, an OUSD student benefits from $32,500 less in funding than a student in Piedmont)

  4. No recommendation

Prop 17

  1. Allows people on parole to vote and allow them to run for office if they’re registered to vote and haven’t been convicted of perjury or bribery.

  2. Supporters say: Civic engagement will lead to fewer parolees committing other crimes; it allows them to help remove the stigma of their past. People who complete their prison sentences deserve the right to participate in a democracy.

  3. Opponents say: Parole is an opportunity for violent offenders to prove they’ve been rehabilitated. Voting is a right that offenders should receive once they demonstrate they have been rehabilitated; not before.

  1. No recommendation

Prop 18

  1. Allows 17 year olds to vote in primary and special elections if they are 18 by the corresponding general election.

  2. Supporters say: Allowing teens who would be first time voters in an election cycle to participate from the beginning could increase interest and voter participation among youth. It’s a simple way to raise the voices of young voters. Many of them already work and pay taxes and they are allowed to join the military so voting if they are eligible makes sense.

  3. Opponents say: Seventeen-year-olds are still kids. Biologically their brains are not yet fully developed, they can’t enter into legal contracts, and they still need parent permission for certain activities. These high schoolers may be unduly influenced by teachers or school positions on issues, and many have no real world experience with paying bills, renting or buying a house, or holding down a job.

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Prop 19

  1. Gives seniors a property tax break, allowing them to keep low tax rate when they move. It is paid for by closing an inheritance property tax loophole that allows heirs to continue paying low property tax based on the original sale. Revenue would largely go to firefighters.

  2. Supporters say: Prop. 19 will incentivize seniors stuck in oversized homes to downsize, freeing up inventory in the state’s ridiculously expensive housing market. Closing the inheritance tax break will provide a budget boost to local governments and state firefighting efforts, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has depleted public coffers

  3. Opponents say: This is a giveaway to Realtors, who are twisting public policy to boost their commissions. Plus, adult children should have the right to do whatever they want with the property they inherited — without facing a crushing tax burden.

  4. While Prop. 19 does feel like a grab bag of policies designed to support different interest groups (real estate agents who want to increase the number of real estate transactions, firefighters who want more funding to combat wildfires), on balance it would achieve important policy goals. The elimination of the property tax loophole for heirs would increase the fairness of California’s tax system and generate funding for combating wildfires

  5. Funded by realtors and firefighters union; similar initiative failed in 2018

Recommendation: Vote yes — this measure would enhance fluidity in the housing stock, and the potential for growth partially offsets the possibly negative impact on revenue for existing residents

Prop 20

  1. Allows felony prison sentences for theft of items valued $250-950

  2. Restricts parole for non-violent offenders

  3. Would increase prison populations

  4. Bankrolled (to the tune of $2 million) by prison guard unions — so that CA will have more people in prison, build more prisons, hire more prison guards (and thus more $$ for the union)

  5. CA prisons already WAY over capacity

  6. Recommendation: Vote no

Prop 21

  1. Allows local governments to expand rent control

  2. Status quo: Costa-Hawkins Act (1995) grandfathered-in rent control for existing housing stock (c. ‘95), restricted vacancy control (ie: municipality sets rent by fiat when an apartment is empty)

  3. Rent control, just like tax forgiveness (eg: Prop 13), is a form of incumbency in the housing supply, which discourages people from moving and leads to stagnancy

  4. While it is better to build more housing, stopping people from being trapped in their existing homes (like under Prop 13/rent control) at least helps new people move in and allows for more demolition to occur to clear the path for productive infill development

  5. Recommendation: Vote no

Prop 22

  1. Classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, exempting gig economy apps from AB5.

  2. Also establishes:

  3. A wage floor: Drivers would earn at least 120% of the state or local minimum wage

  4. Payment for injury on the job: Drivers would have their medical costs covered if they are injured while driving or waiting to drive and would have a portion of their lost income replaced

  5. Stipend for health insurance: For drivers who work more than 15 hours per week, they would receive a contribution to purchase a Covered California health plan, increasing based on the hours that they work

  6. Rest requirements: Drivers could not work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period for a single company

  7. Non-discrimination protection and other requirements: Companies would be required to develop sexual harassment policies, conduct recurring criminal background checks and mandate additional safety training

  8. Supporters say: It’s just a backdoor way for labor groups to try to unionize app drivers. Uber has said that up to 76% of its 209,000 California drivers could be cut if the company is forced to comply with the state’s stricter law, and that rider prices would increase 25-111% across the state. They base their argument on “Drivers aren’t core to our business”

  9. Opponents say: Gig companies undermine job stability and exploit drivers, so their warnings about job cuts are overstated and designed to get regulators to back off. Gig workers need AB5 protections like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance. It’s unfair to make the state support gig-workers and allow companies to shirk their responsibilities.

  10. No recommendation

Prop 23

  1. It would make dialysis clinics always have an on-site physician while patients are being treated; along with a government mandate for clinics to report infection data, and government approval before reducing services (or closing altogether). State and local governments would supplement operational costs associated with these changes.

  2. Supporters say: Kidney patients deserve better treatment than what they receive from many dialysis clinics, and these high profit companies haven’t invested enough in patient safety. The removal of people’s blood during dialysis treatment puts enormous strain on people’s bodies and leaves them vulnerable to medical crises. So having a licensed physician on site at all times —not just sometimes — means that during emergencies, a physician can respond immediately.

  3. Opponents say: The proposition is unnecessary, as clinics already report infection data to the federal government. They also already have the necessary medical staff to keep patients safe, including a medical director. But adding physicians around the clock would only increase costs for clinics, pushing them to reduce hours or possibly close. What this is, at heart, is a union ploy to pressure clinics and organize dialysis workers

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Prop 24

Pros: Consumer privacy can still be violated by the sharing of data, even if that data isn’t ultimately sold. This measure would establish further protection in that area. This measure includes additional penalties for violating the data privacy of children and youth, who can be a particular target of these questionable business practices. Creating an agency, budget and staff dedicated to data privacy would likely lead to better regulations and enforcement. Prop. 24 is intentionally written to create parity between California law and GDPR, which could simplify compliance for businesses that work globally. 

Cons: Current data privacy law forces the consumer to opt out of the use or sale of their personal information in order to be protected, which can be confusing and onerous. This measure is a missed opportunity to expand consumer protection by requiring companies to request the information they wish to use. California’s data privacy law is very new — it just went into effect this year — so we should see how it plays out before changing it. Some of the updates in Prop. 24 would hurt consumers — delaying a rule that allows workers to find out what information employers collect about them, making it easier for businesses to charge you more if you don’t let them sell your data, and  allowing tech companies to grab your data when you leave California.

Prop 25

  1. Would eliminate cash bail, replace with system of assessed flight risk

  2. Suspects for misdemeanors would be mostly be released within 12 hours

  3. NOT an algorithm! Although a formula is partially used to determine risk, Judges still have final discretion over pretrial release decisions.

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Oakland Ballot Measure

Measure QQ

  1. Would allow the city council to let 16 and 17 year olds vote in school board elections

  2. Doesn’t actually enact the expansion of voting rights to 16-17 year olds, just changes the City Charter to make it possible for the City Council to do so (currently, the City Council doesn’t have to authority to do that)

  3. No recommendation

Berkeley Ballot Measures

Measure FF

  1. Would impose a tax of roughly 10 cents/sq ft on all renovations in Berkeley

  2. Would raise $8.5 million annually for emergency services

  3. No recommendation

Measure GG

  1. Would impose a 50 cent fee for rideshare trips (25 cents for pooled trips — per trip, not per passenger)

  2. Would raise $990K for general fund

  3. Recommendation: Vote yes —  it’s a reasonable tax that incentivizes more environmentally friendly and efficient (in terms of creating traffic) consumer behavior

Measure HH

  1. Would increase the tax on gas and electricity to 10%, with exemptions for low-income people and “programs to equitably reduce local greenhouse gas emissions” (whatever that means…)

  2. Annual revenue increase of $2.4 million

  3. Recommendation: Vote no. It is a fairly significant tax hike on an essential good. Flat tax rates on essential goods are regressive. There are more equitable ways to raise the same revenue (such as municipal payroll taxes — like SF). Also, consumers have no choice in how sustainable their utilities are. A better way to address climate change would be to have an opt-in program for a municipal utility using sustainable electricity sources and renewable natural gas (also like SF).

Measure II

  1. Would create a Police Accountability Board to investigate complaints, subpoena records and recommend discipline.

  2. The biggest difference between the existing commission and the new board is the establishment of a new position: director of police accountability.

  3. Would cost an additional $500,000 (The current board already costs $778,000)

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Measure JJ

  1. The mayor makes $61,304 and the council makes $38,695. Where in Berkeley can you live off of that?

  2. Those salaries were based off them being part time jobs. They aren’t and we should pay them for the work they do

  3. Measure JJ would set the Mayor’s salary at the median income for a three person household in the Bay Area and set the City Council’s salary at 63% of that with annual adjustments

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes

Measure KK

  1. This one is a grab-bag!

  2. Cleans up the phrasing of various city laws to bring them into compliance with state laws and removes gendered language 

  3. Removes a residency requirement for firefighters

  4. Recommendation: Vote yes. As housing in Berkeley becomes more and more expensive, hiring outside the city becomes more important. Obviously, to fix the problem that firefighters can’t afford to live in Berkeley, more housing needs to be built, but this measure works well as a stop-gap.

Measure LL

  1. Allows Berkeley to spend tax revenue that is in excess of previously defined appropriation limit. Specifically it is an extension for an extension that ended on June 30th.

  2. A state law, known as the “Gann Appropriations Limit” only allows cities to spend the amount it spent in the previous year, adjusted for changes in population and the cost of living unless voters deem otherwise. In 2016, Berkeley voters approved the expenditure of these tax proceeds through June 30. This measure asks voters for another four-year extension. “Unless the voters do so, half of any amount collected in excess of the appropriation limit must be refunded to the taxpayers within the next two years,” according to a staff report

  3. Recommendation: Vote yes

Measure MM

  1. Amends the City’s Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance in three ways.

  2. The measure would prohibit the eviction of a residential tenant for nonpayment of rent when a state or local emergency has been declared and emergency legislation has been enacted to authorize the tenant to withhold rent. 

  3. Secondly, the measure would authorize the Rent Stabilization Board to collect information from the owners of rented single-family homes, rented condominiums, and newly constructed rental units, and to set and charge a registration fee for those units. 

  4. The measure would also clarify the existing exemption for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to address a change in state law (Exempts only single family dwelling + ADU, making apartment complexes and multiple family dwellings not exempt from rent control.)

  5. Recommendation: Vote yes

Photo credit: Texas Tribune

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