MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
Visit me at my new blog, MsGeek.Org v3.0

Heard the Word of Blog?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The California Ballot Propositions: my take.
(Originally posted October 3rd, modified October 28th)

In California, we do things differently than the rest of the 49 states. Most of our legislation comes from ballot initiatives. Some argue that California is a purer democracy because of it, where others will argue that it's an unwise usurpation of the Founders' vision of our representative democratic system. Certainly, it's tied the hands of both the legislative and executive branches here in California, and made cutting the budget to bring it back into balance a labor worthy of the Hercules of Greek legend, not merely "Hercules In New York comes to California."

Anyway, there's some biggies on the ballot this time. I know I weighed in on one proposition, and I have changed my mind about it after all. So forget what I said previously...this is my list. And I'm sticking to it.

First up, 1A. This one looks good on the surface, because it's a safeguard against raiding local coffers to balance the State budget. One of the dirtiest little secrets of the Schwarzenegger administration is how Ah-nold raided local budgets to balance the current budget. I'm starting to get suspicious about it though, because Ah-nold is backing it.My suggestion: maybe.

Next up, 59. This is a "sunshine law" to open up most State Government meetings to public observation. Many of the most important meetings held to decide the minutia of the current California budget were held behind closed doors. While this will not affect Schwarzenegger's private smoke-filled tent, it will go a good long way towards opening the rest of California government to citizen scrutiny. My suggestion: YES.

Then there's 60. This was designed as "defensive legislation" against an open primary system. However, it goes exactly the opposite direction and ossifies the current system, outlawing interesting ideas like instant runoff voting and so forth. We need the flexibility to try new ideas. Open primaries are an old idea that doesn't work, but so is the status quo. My suggestion: NO.

Confusingly, the next proposition is 60A, but it has no resemblance whatsoever to its ballot neighbor. This is simply an amendment which will assure that surplus property sold by the State will go to paying off bonded indebtedness, rather than to any other application. Since I'm not a big fan of bonded indebtedness, except for very worthy causes, I would suggest a YES vote.

Next up: 61. OK, this is a bond proposition, but it's for a very good cause. Children's Hospital of Los Angeles is getting a bit long in the tooth, and could use some modernizing. This bond proposition is a relatively modest one, and will go a long way to helping these hospitals of last resort for underinsured and uninsured children. YES.

Next: 62. This proposition holds that the two primary election candidates receiving the most votes in the primary, regardless of party, will go on to face each other in the next general election. Can you see how that would suck? Imagine if you had, as a choice on the ballot, either a raging right-wing Republican or a moderate, Ah-nold anointed Republican? No Democratic choices, no Libertarians, no Greens, nothing else. Just Bob Bible-thumper and Jim Corporate Candidate. Great choice, eh? Big NO.

Next, Prop 63. This is the kind of funded mandate I can get behind. Rather than further committing the State to more bonded indebtedness, this proposition seeks to fund expanded mental health services for the indigent by a 1% tax on income above $1 Million. OK, it's a tax. But if I were making more than a million dollars a year, I would consider this a minor price to pay to make some serious inroads against the problem of the homeless mentally ill. Yes, I know the arguments about "The Millionaires Next Door" and how more people are in that category than you think. But really now, 1%? Is that skin off anyone's behind, especially the prosperous? Think of it as insurance against getting your Bruno Magli shoes puked on by a mentally ill homeless person on the streets. Big YES.

From a good idea to a really, really BAD idea: Proposition 64. I knew something was funky about this proposition when I saw commercials in favor of it starting in September, the first out of the gate. They give sob stories about small businesses getting "shaken down" by rapacious trial lawyers, but in reality the people behind this initiative are Big Oil, Big Banking, Big Insurance, and Microsoft, to name but four. Who are Unocal, Bank of America, State Farm and Microsoft trying to fool? Us. Big NO.

OK, now we come to Proposition 65. This is one of two “zombie” propositions that are on the ballot but are not being supported by their original supporters. It's sort of, kind of, like Prop 1A, but it's more radical and everyone who initially supported it is treating it like yesterday's garbage. Eew. Verdict: NO.

No uncertainty about the next one, Proposition 66. When the Three-Strikes proposition was passed, (also known as a "Three-Time Loser" law) we were told that only serious, violent felons were to be affected by it. In practice, people were getting their third strike from stealing food, selling pot, and other non-violent crimes. Three-Strikes has made our society a more, not less dangerous one. Why is it that we have more hit-and-run accidents and dangerous car chases now then before Three-Strikes? Why is it that our prisons are crammed full with inmates? Three-Strikes is not the total reason why our prisons are overcrowded hell-holes...responsible decriminalization of soft drugs and medicalization of the hard drug problem is another solution that deserves a good, honest look. In this "just say No" society, however, sanity in drug laws is a solution that dare not speak its name. However, fixing the flaws in Three-Strikes would be a good start. BIG, BIG YES.

Proposition 67 is next. This would put a new surcharge on phone service to fund improvements in 911 service and to the Trauma Care system. While I am against most regressive taxes, and a phone surcharge is a regressive tax that hurts lower and middle class people more than the rich, this is necessary. On October 3rd of this year, the Van Nuys Campus of Northridge Hospital is closing its emergency room, and King-Drew Medical Center has already voluntarily eliminated their Trauma Care service in a neighborhood which desperately needs it. Real universal health care for all Americans is what is needed, but this isn't a half-bad bandaid measure until we get there. Big YES.

Proposition 68 and 70 are both measures to expand gaming in California. While I believe there is nothing morally wrong with gambling, I think that expanding it further, particularly in urban areas, is unwise. Prop 68 is the other of the two “zombie” propositions that are still on the ballot. Churchill Downs, the racetrack company that owns horse and dog racing facilities all over the US, and Gardena card clubs, particularly the one owned by Larry Flynt, the Hustler Casino, have all washed their hands of this measure. Only the anti-68 commercials are running now. Prop 70 is slightly less repugnant, and is basically set up so that the tribes that didn't enter into compacts with Gov. Schwarzenegger can start or expand their casinos. Still, enough is enough. I'm giving both a little NO...research it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Proposition 69 would be something I could get behind if it weren't for how broad it is. I think that setting up a DNA database on convicted felons is a damn good idea. However, it's much broader than that. Anyone arrested for a felony would be added to this database. These felonies can include victimless crimes, not just violent crimes. And we all know that not everyone arrested for a felony is actually a criminal. There are enough innocents being arrested, and enough erosion of the presumption of innocence, to where this is a bad idea. Big NO.

OK, now we come to Prop 71, which I initially was against. However, I have been convinced that, even though this is a big-ass bond issue which I normally do not support, it's indeed worth the extra debt. It's not a sure thing that Kerry will triumph over Bush, and Bush is the one who forced this issue to come to the ballot in California. I don't like giveaways to big industries, particularly one as rapacious as Big Pharmaceuticals. The cost of this measure might be paid back, however, if pharma companies flock to California to set up shop, because high-tech jobs is what California needs. And if one of them finds a big cure, the State of California is going to get a cut of whatever money is made. Also, purely from an emotional level: who's going to refuse Christopher Reeve what seems to be his dying wish? No fair, man...I'm getting dewy-eyed...[sob] Anyway, YES.

Lastly among the State ballot measures is Proposition 72. This is a public referendum on the "Pay or Play" limited plan to make sure that medium-to-large scale employers pay for their employees health care. If a business employs 19 or fewer employees, they would be exempt from this program. If a business employs 20 to 49 employees, they only have to participate if a business tax credit to defray their costs is also passed. If a business employs 50 to 199 employees, they must either provide insurance for their employees or pay into a State insurance pool that would cover their employees. If a business employs 200 or more employees, they will have to cover not only the employee but the employee's dependents in the same manner. Notice that this is all contingent on being employed. This does nothing for the unemployed, this does nothing for employees in very small businesses. This is not universal health care for California, this is not universal health care, period. Big Insurance will make out like bandits with this proposition, just as they have with universally mandated Automobile Insurance. This is a bandaid on a person who's suffered traumatic amputation and is hemorrhaging furiously, folks. But it's a start. There have been tons of scare ads on the TV about this proposition. The people who support Prop 72 simply don't have the money to answer this barrage of misinformation and disinformation. They have to settle for voices crying in the wilderness, like me. Lucky them. BIG YES.

OK, so now you know...VOTE! VOTE LIKE THE WIND!!!