Election Proposition Guide

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Every election cycle, I research the various state and local propositions and send the results of my research to family and friends. For the first time, I’m publishing my research here on the RSF Post. There are a bunch of very consequential ballot initiatives in front of us this election and some of these proposition are so complex, you’d have to be a subject matter expert to even begin formulating a position. So, I’m genuinely interested in what you think of my recommendations. Either post a comment on our forums, or send me a private note to editor@rsfpost.com.

Election information for San Diego County voters including drop off locations is available here. If you don’t want to mail your ballot, the RSF public library has an official drop box location available weekdays 10-4. These official drop off boxes are padlocked, QR code scanned, chain of custody signed and get delivered to the registrar intact. Whether you mail your ballot or drop off your ballot at one of these official locations, your ballot will be scanned and counted the day of the election.

CA State Prop 14

Obligates California to pay $7.8B over 30 years (including interest) to fund basic scientific research primarily in stem cell/regenerative therapies. California, like most other states, is financially reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 economic shutdown and will have to cut various programs to balance the budget. Tacking on another large spending program like this means that some other worthy program will need to be cut. Also note that this kind of research is also funded by private industry, the federal government and other countries.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 15

Many businesses have already packed up and left California in anticipation of the passage of this proposition. It dismantles the famous Prop 13 property tax protections for businesses and commercial properties. You may know of Prop 13 as the unique California law passed in 1978 that freezes property tax assessments to the value of property purchase price (plus up to 2% per year). It has had profound effects to neighborhoods and Rancho is no exception. Without Prop 13, all our property taxes would have marched quite a bit higher over the years which would have forced residents on a fixed income to sell their properties and move. Prop 13 is the reason why Rancho and other California communities remain economically diverse. 

To be clear, this proposition does not touch prop 13 protections for residential property. It is effectively an escalating tax increase on commercial businesses. I mentioned the prop 13 residential protections because successful passage of this proposition is seen by opponents as a first step to repealing the rest of prop 13. 

If this proposition passes, even more businesses will leave California. This will particularly hit manufacturing, farming, silicon valley, Hollywood, defense, basically all major industries. Those that remain (mostly service industries) will be forced to increase prices to match increased taxes, so restaurants, for instance, will be more expensive.

If California wants/needs to raise taxes, they can go the usual legislative way with a broad based state income tax increase rather than what is effectively a hidden business tax increase. 

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 16

In 1996, voters approved prop 209 which generally prohibits state and local governments from granting preferential treatment to (or discriminating against) individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, education or contracting. This proposition would eliminate this protection. 

This proposition, to undo prop 209, was put forward to voters on behalf of the CA state legislature (on votes 30-10, 60-14), presumably so that going forward they can discriminate, or if you prefer, grant preferences on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

This will be an interesting litmus test to see how much California has changed between 1996 and 2020 since it will be voters both times voting on essentially the same question. Back then, prop 209 passed 55/45. I think that passing this repeal will only prolong and exacerbate race/gender “wars”. California is a plenty progressive state already and it does not need to provide this leg up for certain citizens over others.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 17

Currently if you are serving time in state prison (which would usually be for a serious felony) or have been released but are still on parole from prison (usually a period of three years), then you cannot vote. This proposition would amend this rule such that parolees would be eligible to vote immediately after being released from prison. 

Currently there are around 50,000 people on state parole. Statistics show that about half of parolees are convicted of new crimes within three years of release. So we are looking at about 25,000 people who ought to get voting rights three years earlier than they currently would. That’s .06% of California’s population. And for that, we will incur expenses across county registrars to put people on and off the voters roles, no doubt introducing errors and possibility for voter fraud along the way. I just don’t see the usefulness of this since it won’t affect voting outcomes much either way. 

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 18

Allows 17 year olds to vote in primary and special elections (typically held in the spring), if they will turn 18 by the next general election (in November). Again, another state legislature sponsored proposition.

One of the problems with this proposal is that primary elections aren’t only for deciding general election candidates. They also feature many propositions, bond measures, and local measures. This is going to yet again complicate county registrars for no likely significant change in final outcomes.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 19

This is a complex and tricky proposition. It modifies Prop 13 property tax laws in the following ways:

  • Currently, parents and grandparents can transfer any value property (house, farm, business) to their children/grandchildren with no reassessment to current market value. Prop 19 would remove this unless the home was a primary home for the child/grandchild or the property was a farm. But if the inherited home/farm were valued at more than $1M over the property’s taxable value, then some clawback would occur meaning the tax break wouldn’t be as good.
  • Currently, homeowners 55 and older, or severely disabled, or been impacted by a natural disaster can, once in their lifetime, move to a different home within the same county and pay the same property tax if the new home is not more expensive than the older home. Prop 19 would change this to allow such moves three times in their life, allow moves anywhere in the state, and allow purchases of more expensive homes, while still retaining a pro-rata property tax break (ie a more expensive home would increase their tax, but not as much without these provisions).

As I said, complex and frankly I didn’t even capture the totality of the nuances in the above summary. OK, so this is a tax law change that realtors have been pushing for since the net effect of the above changes would be that more homes would be bought and sold.

The legislative analyst also estimates that in aggregate, local governments would collect tens of millions of dollars more in property tax revenue per year. The mechanism I see from my summary above that would increase property taxes is the limitation of transferring properties between generations that aren’t primary residences. ie. wealthy people with large real estate holdings and/or non-farm businesses would lose out. 

On the one hand, I can see how prop 19 would benefit a lot of people, and far be from me to tell people to vote against their own pocketbook. But I’m sensitive to the inequities that the existing property tax exceptions promogulate. This is especially acute in the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant since our HOA fees are based on the property taxes we pay and prop 19 will only make those inequities worse.

So I looked at what various newspapers around the state are recommending. I was surprised that Ballotpedia showed four editorials, all against prop 19, none for it, and they all used some variation of the propagation of inequities of property tax assessments as the reason.

Recommend voting NO, but make up your own mind based on your own circumstances.

CA State Prop 20

This is a tough(er) on crime proposition. This is a complex proposition in a very complex policy area. To be a truly informed voter, you would have to almost become an expert in crime/police/justice/sentencing/prison topics and even then which way you would vote would depend on your own personal predilections when it comes to crime/police/justice/sentencing/prison. So I’m going to bail on making a recommendation here since I am not a policy expert in this complex policy realm. To learn more, start by reading the section on Proposition 20 in the California Official Voters Guide, which is the newspaper booklet that you should have received in the mail, but if not, here is a link to the PDF.

CA State Prop 21

Getting tired yet? What’s the point of representative democracy when we get asked to vote on very complex policy issues like these? Anyways, onwards to the next one.

This proposition would expand the ability for cities and counties to enact rent control laws which limit the amount of cost increases landlords can charge renters. Some cities (for example, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose) have rent control laws, but these laws are limited by the Costa-Hawkins act which:

  • Prevent rent control from applying to single family homes.
  • Exempts homes built after Feb 1, 1995 from being subject to rent control.
  • Allows landlords to set new, presumably increased, rents for new renters.

This proposition would modify Costa-Hawkins such that rent control could be applied to housing more than 15 years old, would include single family housing if the landlord owned more than two properties, and would allow caps on how much a landlord could increase rent for new renters. 

In general, specific rent control limits are typically set by local rent boards that are paid by a fee assessed against landlords.

Rent controls are an attempt to address the inability of people to find affordable housing. But they are almost a self defeating mechanism. They limit incentives to become a landlord (and thus further up the chain, limit the market for builders to build new housing) resulting in less housing being available rather than more resulting in increased rents. I just think this is bad economic policy for everyone, renters and landlords combined.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Pro 22

Wow, we really have quite a diverse bunch of interesting propositions don’t we?

Have you been following California’s war against Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing companies? With the enactment of California law AB5 this year, California has made the way Uber operates illegal. Uber’s drivers are currently not employees, they are contractors and can decide for themselves when and where to work. Indeed, the vast majority of Uber drivers I’ve talked to are driving very much as a side gig, and in some cases, just to usefully pass the time. AB5 will force Uber to treat their drivers as employees with all the associated costs limiting their driver’s ability to work when they want where they want. 

Uber and Lyft were days away from entirely shutting down their California operations in August when a judge gave them a reprieve pending the results of this ballot initiative. If this proposition fails, we can expect to see Uber, Lyft and others leave California.

The proposition would make the following changes for drivers of app-based ride sharing and delivery companies (like doordash and other restaurant delivery companies):

  • Enshrine driver status as independent contractors.
  • Drivers would be paid a minimum of 120% of the minimum wage while driving.
  • Drivers who work more than 15 hours a week would receive a health insurance stipend.
  • If a driver was hurt while driving, they would get their medical costs paid and some lost income replacement.
  • Prohibits drivers from working more than 12 hours out of 24 for a single rideshare or delivery company.

Uber, Lyft and the app based door delivery companies are a great service and wonderful economic innovation. It would be a reduction in the quality of life for all concerned, drivers and customers combined, if we lost them.

Recommend voting YES.

CA State Prop 23

Would add requirements to Chronic Dialysis Clinics (CDCs), the biggest one would require CDCs to have an on-site doctor during all treatment hours. Supported by the SEIU-UHW West union. Opposed by the California Medical Association, Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association, San Mateo Medical Association and more than 25 other medical groups throughout the state. No patient group supports the proposition. Ballotpedia shows no editorial support for the measure, and six newspaper editorial boards against it.

Having no expertise in this area, I defer to the above information.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 24

Only two more to go, hang in there!

Gawd. Another really complex proposition (52 pages long) in a complex policy arena, in this case consumer privacy rights. You know, there is a good reason why laws are normally passed with lobbyists from both sides negotiating language. It is because the topics are very complex and poorly thought out legislation has tons of unintended and usually bad consequences. Maybe this law fixes problems with the existing California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (as supporters say) or maybe it is a sop to tech companies to get around it (as opponents say). I find it interesting that the ACLU is against this proposition.

One thing I definitely don’t like about it is that it creates a new state enforcement agency. This agency would investigate violations, assess penalties, and develop even more regulations. I do not like extra-judicial state agencies having these kind of powers for all sorts of abuse of power reasons. And we already have a consumer privacy act that was passed just two years ago, so it can’t be too out of date already.

Recommend voting NO.

CA State Prop 25

Congrats! You made it all the way through to the last proposition. Give yourself a cookie for a reward.

This proposition is a referendum on SB 10 (criminal bail reform) which is in abeyance pending the results on this vote. Voting YES would allow SB 10 to be enforced. SB 10 would:

  • Eliminate cash bails.
  • Allow automatic release on recognizance for most misdemeanor crimes before arraignment. 
  • For felonies and the rest of the misdemeanors, jailed defendants would be assessed by staff whether or not being released on their own recognizance is appropriate (with possible stipulations like check ins or electronic monitoring). 

The argument against the current cash bail system is that it disproportionally penalizes poor people since they must work with a bail bond company to post bail, and then pay a bail bond fee of typically 10% of the bond amount. While this 10% bail bond fee does not sound like much, it is enough of a problem than many people remain in jail for many months or longer pending their trials due to the inability to pay this fee. Reliable statistics of how many people are awaiting trial in jail due to the inability to pay bail bond fees are hard to come by. Suffice it to say it affects thousands of people in California every year. A $2,500 bail, necessitating a $250 bail bond fee might not seem like a lot, but to people living paycheck to paycheck, it is. And it certainly disadvantages poorer people.

On the flip side, SB10 could incarcerate people who heretofore paid bail. If you are accused of murder, your bail might be set quite high, say $250,000 for a middle class defendant. You would figure out a way to pay the $25,000 bail bond fee, and then the bail bondsman would make sure you showed up at trial (or else the bail bond firm would lose $250,000). Absent cash bail, now the justice system must make a determination whether or not you are a flight risk (using what criteria?), and might be more inclined to put you in jail until your trial. This is among the reasons why some criminal defense attorneys and the ACLU are against SB10. 

And I haven’t even touched on the subject of whether or not this would cause an increase in crime due to low level criminals being put back on the street right away. The bail bond industry isn’t just an insurance industry. They work to ensure defendants show up for their hearings. Eliminating this function is going to change how many people show up to hearings. A similar bail bond reform was passed in New York, with initial statistics showing problems with bail bond reform, including some revolving door criminals committing crimes again and again. 

So, it’s complicated. You can read this LA Times article to read other perspectives. When I look at the Yes On 25 website, I see predominantly socio-economic class based arguments, and zero information on how to mitigate the increased missed court hearings you are inevitably going to get with bail bondmen. I personally would like to see some replacement method for ensuring defendants make their court appearances. Maybe ankle monitors? Heck, even an app that gets put on each charged person’s phone would be something

Given this, I’ll be voting NO.