Merlin 2018 Voting Guide – California Propositions


While I’m working this all of these propositions, I’m starting (presumably like the rest of you) with The California General Election Official Voter Information Guide.

For your information:
Election day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Polls are open from 7:00am to 8:00pm on Election Day

On page two of the Voting Guide is the Voter Bill of Rights in California. It’s worth a read to know what you can and cannot do regarding your vote.

Looking for your polling place? Click here.

So we’re all on the same page, let me establish a baseline of knowledge for us all to work off of…

What’s a ballot proposition?
The California State Government functions in much the same way the Federal Government does, passing laws in the State Senate and Assembly before the Governor signs them into law – but in California, we also have Direct Democracy. Either the Legislature or the people themselves via petition, can take a law directly to the voters. What’s particularly unique about California’s system is that once voters pass a proposition or ballot initiative it’s law and can only be altered or overturned by either another ballot initiative or, in rare cases, the State Supreme Court. The Legislature can’t overturn it. The Governor can’t. Only the people can. Good to keep that in mind when reading through these.

Also, while I’m defining things….

What’s a Bond?
Municipal Bonds are essentially proposed spending by the Government beyond what may already be outlined in law to spend on whatever project we’re trying to fund. In short, the state will create Bonds in the amount outlined and sell them in the Bond market to potential investors. General Obligation California Bonds can have “maturity” (when they’re paid back with interest) between one and forty years. The length of time is typically in the bond language.

That all clear? Here’s a guide if not.

Proposition 1 – Authorizes bonds to fund specified housing assistance programs. Put on the ballot by the Legislature.

What the guide says:

“Authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for existing affordable housing programs for low-income residents, veterans, farmworkers, manufactured and mobile homes, infill, and transit-oriented housing. Fiscal Impact: Increased state costs to repay bonds averaging about $170 million annually over the next 35 years.”

There’s a fair bit to unpack there – how is any of this defined? Looking at the text of the law, this is the relevant part for me: “The Affordable Housing Bond Act Trust Fund of 2018 is hereby created within the State Treasury. It is the intent of the Legislature that the proceeds of bonds (exclusive of refunding bonds issued pursuant to Section 54026) be deposited in the fund and used to fund the housing-related programs described in this chapter.”

Often times when I see a Bond on the ballot my first question is who has the authority to spend it and what is their authority to spend it. In this case, the intention is to create a dedicated fund to combat housing issues in vulnerable demographics.

If you read through the text of the prop, the money gets earmarked for a variety of purposes – two examples:

  • One billion five hundred million dollars ($1,500,000,000) to be deposited in the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Fund established pursuant to Section 50661. The amounts of money in the fund shall be used for the Multifamily Housing Program
  • Three hundred million dollars ($300,000,000) to be deposited in the Regional Planning, Housing, and Infill Incentive Account, which is hereby created within the fund.
  • Three hundred million dollars ($300,000,000) to be deposited in the Joe Serna, Jr. Farmworker Housing Grant Fund
  • Three hundred million dollars ($300,000,000) to be deposited in the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund
  • Three hundred million dollars ($300,000,000) to be deposited in the Self Help Housing Fund (Self-Help Housing Fund shall be used to provide grants or forgivable loans to assist in the rehabilitation or replacement, or both, of existing mobile homes located in a mobile home or manufactured home community)

Also from the CVG: “In total, the bond funds would provide annual subsidies for up to 30,000 multifamily and 7,500 farmworker households. The funds also would provide down payment assistance to about 15,000 homebuyers and home loans to about 3,000 veterans. In some cases, such as for the down payment assistance programs, Californians could quickly begin to benefit from the bond funding. In other cases, such as for the construction of new affordable multifamily housing, it could take several years for Californians to benefit from the measure”

Why you should vote for this: California needs affordable housing options in general, but specifically creating a fund to tackle this problem is a targeted approach. The $4B price tag is mitigated over the next 35 years (If I bought one of these bonds I’d be 75 years old when it matured).

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: Though California’s budget is well managed, it’s large, and this is an added expenditure. Over the course of the bond maturation, the actual cost (once factoring in interest) will be much higher than the initial price tag (closer to $8B according to an article I read). Most of the arguments against this are financial in nature and bureaucratic related.

Why I’m voting FOR this: In short, something needs to be done. The price tag (relative to our $2.7T economy) is small. The effects of these programs is fairly unknowable, but I think dedicating wallet and mindshare to creating housing solutions is a good place to spend our taxpayer money – which, by-the-by, is spent as interest on the Bonds as they accrue value. Addressing our homeless problem is necessary and what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. This, coupled with Prop 2, I think drives toward a solution that actually has an impact.


Proposition 2 – Authorizes bonds to fund existing housing program for individuals with mental illness. Put on the ballot by the Legislature.

From the CVG:

“Amends Mental Health Services Act to fund No Place Like Home Program, which finances housing for individuals with mental illness. Ratifies existing law establishing the No Place Like Home Program. Fiscal Impact: Allows the state to use up to $140 million per year of county mental health funds to repay up to $2 billion in bonds. These bonds would fund housing for those with mental illness who are homeless.:


What’s the No Place Like Home Program?

“On July 1, 2016, Governor Brown signed landmark legislation enacting the No Place Like Home program to dedicate up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing for persons who are in need of mental health services and are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness. The bonds are repaid by funding from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).”

This is the bond to pay for that program:

Here’s how the financials break down on this according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (who supports it but oddly is the group on the CVG advocating against it):

  • Proposition 2 offers counties $2 billion through state bonds, which are financed by MHSA funding, to build supportive housing units through the No Place Like Home Plan.
  • The California Department of Housing and Community Development will award these funds to counties through non-competitive and competitive grant allocations.
  • No Place Like Home offers counties approximately $190 million in non-competitive grants.
  • No Place Like Home also offers $1.8 billion in competitive grants.
  • All counties are eligible to receive a minimum of $500,000. For any funds above this amount, the funds are allocated to each county based on the county’s proportional share of the state’s homeless population as measured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Why you should vote for this: Endorsed by the State Sheriffs Association, the Firefighters Association, the league of women voters, habitat for humanity, and many others, this law intends to support a pre-existing law to fund supportive housing for the mentally ill, in theory, helping many of them out of homelessness.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: NAMI Contra Costa branch is against this because they think it seems to cost too much and it’s not necessary to spend more because of previous legislation.

Why I’m voting FOR this: Funding for this program and the support it has from the community and respective associations is very swaying. I read through the law and beyond the argument of “more bureaucracy” and “we can do it without the government help,” I’m not swayed by counter-arguments. Homelessness and mental illness are problems are things that should be in the realm of government obligations to its citizenry. If we can provide better housing options, and we can provide better mental illness services, than the rest of us get to live in a nicer society. This is a big picture vote for sure, and isn’t without some hope that it works, but still worth the try in my opinion.


Proposition 3 – Authorizes bonds to fund projects for water supply and quality, watershed, fish, wildlife, water conveyance, and groundwater sustainability and storage. Put on the ballot by petition signatures.

From the CVG:

“Authorizes $8.877 billion in state general obligation bonds for various infrastructure projects. Fiscal Impact: Increased state costs to repay bonds averaging $430 million per year over 40 years. Local government savings for water-related projects, likely averaging a couple hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades.”

By petition signatures? Who really wanted this on the ballot?

From BallotPedia:

“Gerald Meral, who developed the ballot initiative, was deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), overseeing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, from 2011 to 2013. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Meral to the CNRA. […] Meral described his ballot initiative as a follow-up to Proposition 1. He said, “We pretty much modeled this on Prop. 1. It’s very heavy on groundwater (restoration), wastewater recycling and water for fish and wildlife.”


“Who is contributing to the campaigns surrounding this ballot measure?

The committees in support of Proposition 3 had raised $4.88 million. The largest contributions to the support committees were the California Waterfowl Association ($495,000), Ducks Unlimited ($415,000), and Western Growers ($275,000). There were no committees registered to oppose Proposition 3.

Looking at the text of the initiative, there’s a lot of interesting tidbits. Chapter 4: “Accountability” provides some transparency to the citizens. For example: “The Natural Resources Agency shall provide for an independent audit of expenditures pursuant to this division no less than every three years.”  And this one: “On or before January 10, 2020, and every six months thereafter, the Natural Resources Agency shall publish on its website a report that contains all of the following information relating to this division for the previous six months with the information summarized by section of this division: (A) Funding encumbrances. (B) Summary of new projects funded. (C) Summary of projects completed. (D) Discussion of progress towards meeting the metrics of success”

So where does the money go?

Great question internet reader who’s somehow managed to make it this far… In short, it’s all over the place. $750m to improve water quality with caveats outlined about the types of projects this money can fund. $500M for grants and loans to improve public water infrastructure with more caveats. Etc. etc. To be honest, the project list is pretty exhaustive but always comes with caveats.

Why you should vote for this: If you’re a Californian, you know water is important to this state. It’s infrastructure money.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: It’s a lot of money frankly. It’s money we’re going to have to spend anyway at some point, but with the scope of this bond there is an argument to be made that with size comes waste, and we could fund these projects on a smaller scale to curb that.

Why I’m voting FOR this: I like clean water. The detail about where the money can be spent is there and no committee is against this. I also am very in favor of the transparency measures they include in the text of the bill. All-in-all, this isn’t about getting more water, it’s about getting cleaner, safer water, and providing an infrastructure that prevents what happened to Flint, MI happening here.


Proposition 4 – Authorizes bonds funding construction at hospitals providing children’s health care. Put on the ballot by petition signatures.

From the CVG:

“Authorizes $1.5 billion in bonds, to be repaid from state’s General Fund, to fund grants for construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of qualifying children’s hospitals. Fiscal Impact: Increased state costs to repay bonds averaging about $80 million annually over the next 35 years.”

What the text of the initiative says:

  • “The proceeds of bonds issued and sold pursuant to this part shall be deposited in the Children’s Hospital Bond Act Fund, which is hereby created.”
  • “The purpose of the Children’s Hospital Program is to improve the health and welfare of California’s critically ill children by providing a stable and ready source of funds for capital improvement projects for children’s hospitals. The program provided for in this part is in the public interest, serves a public purpose, and will promote the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of the state.”

Let’s not overcomplicate this one.

Why you should vote for this: Dude. Sick kids.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: You should vote for it. Literally, no one but a game named Gary Wesley is against it. He wrote: “As to this particular measure (borrowing money to further subsidize children hospitals), I suggest we first look at improving the entire health care system.”

Why I’m voting FOR this: Sick kids need hospitals. It’s really that simple. If we’re going to dare to call ourselves a moral society it starts by coming together to support sick kids.


Proposition 5 – Changes requirements for certain property owners to transfer their property tax base to the replacement property. Amends the State Constitution. Put on the ballot by petition signatures.

Well, we’re out of Bonds and on to laws.

From the CVG:

“Removes the following current requirements for homeowners who are over 55 years old or severely disabled to transfer their property tax base to a replacement residence: that replacement property be of equal or lesser value, replacement residence be in the specific county, and the transfer occurs only once.

Removes similar replacement-value and location requirements on transfers for a contaminated or disaster-destroyed property.

Requires adjustments to the replacement property’s tax base, based on the new property’s value.”

Explain all this please – From the Sacbee:

“Under existing law, a home’s tax value is only changed when it is sold. Property taxes are set at 1 percent of the purchase price, and that tax value can only increase by as much as 2 percent a year. Since Proposition 13 passed in 1978, that has produced huge disparities in property tax bills between identical houses, depending on when they were bought.

Since Proposition 13 became law, voters also added further protections for seniors. Homeowners who are older than 55 – or who are disabled or whose house has been destroyed by a natural disaster – can make a one-time “transfer” of the tax value of their home to a new house, as long as its market value is not higher than the old one.

Proposition 5 would allow all homeowners older than 55 to use this same tax break to buy a more expensive house, as many times as they want. Also starting Jan. 1, it would allow transfers from anywhere in the state. As of November, only 10 counties will allow transfers from outside counties, none in the Sacramento region.”

Why you should vote for this: You’re over 55 and want to upgrade your house, but not pay more property taxes

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: The revenue for property taxes are what fund local schools, police, fire, and general services of municipalities. The long-term budget effects could be devastating. From the Legislative analysis in the CVG: “The revenue losses from people who would have moved anyway would be bigger than the gains from higher home prices and home building. This means the measure would reduce property taxes for local governments. In the first few years, schools and other local governments each probably would lose over $100 million per year. Over time, these losses would grow, resulting in schools and other local governments each losing about $1 billion per year (in today’s dollars).”

Why I’m voting AGAINST this: This is just creating a tax shelter for people who otherwise don’t really need one, and it has detrimental effects on the budgets of small towns – like mine. People are choosing to sell their house and buy a more expensive one – no one is forcing them into that, and providing a tax shelter for that so those people can arbitrarily pay fewer property taxes than their younger neighbor who bought the house the same day is silly.

 


Proposition 6 –  Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding. Requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees be approved by the Electorate. Put on the ballot by petition signatures.

From the CVG:

“Repeals a 2017 transportation law’s tax and fee provisions that pay for repairs and improvements to local roads, state highways, and public transportation.

Requires the Legislature to submit any measure enacting specified taxes or fees on gas or diesel fuel, or on the privilege to operate a vehicle on public highways, to the electorate for approval.”

Explain this to me:

Right now taxes on gas or diesel can be passed by the State Legislature (and have been), and the revenue from those taxes can be designated to be spent on road repair. This proposition would reverse the most recent tax (passed in 2017) and require all tax increases of this type be put on the ballot as a proposition. In short, the State Legislature will lose the power to pass gas tax increases.

Why you should vote for this: Taxes are evil! The Government is too big! Put it in the hands of the people! – I’m kidding, but not by much. The argument against this prop is fundamentally that taxes are bad, and the calculus of putting the power directly to the electorate is that they’ll also think taxes are bad. Voting yes on this will lower the cost of the average tank of gas.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: Putting aside the idea that “taxes are [good|bad],” the roads belong to the people, and it’s up to the Government to ensure they are drivable. Gas taxes are a good way to fund that cost (as the wear on the roads is related to the gas consumed while driving on them). Repealing the tax at this point won’t lower your costs that much, and furthermore, putting the power of direct taxation with the people may have unintended consequences and lead to infrastructure projects being funded through other, less related means.

Why I’m voting AGAINST this: I like my roads repaired, I like them paid for, and I think a gas tax (I drive an SUV FWIW) is a good way to pay for it. Gas taxes are contentious for sure. Regardless of how much costs go up, people still buy gas. Oil companies know that. The Government knows that. In this case, I’d rather my money go to road repair rather than corporate bonuses.


Proposition 7 –  Conforms California daylight saving time to federal law. Allows legislature to change daylight saving time period.

From the CVG:

“Establishes the time zone designated by federal law as “Pacific standard time” as the standard time within California.

Provides that California daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November, consistent with current federal law.

Permits the Legislature by a two-thirds vote to make future changes to California’s daylight saving”

What’s the deal, yo? Why is this even a thing I’m voting on?
While it seems like this is from the big book of “I don’t care,” there are some people who want California to abandon the whole clock change thing, but, because of a law passed in 1949, California can’t decide to do that without a ballot initiative. Welcome to that initiative. The point here is to essentially nullify that 1949 law, put us in line with the current federal standards, and most importantly, give us the opportunity to change our participation in DST via Legislative action rather than a ballot initiative.

Why you should vote for this: If you want the Legislature to control whether or not we control our participation in DST.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: You see this as a first step toward eliminating DST and you think that’s a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

Why I’m voting FOR this: I lived in Arizona and liked that the clocks didn’t change. Made it simple. I don’t really care one way or the other. Seriously, I don’t. I’m voting for simply because it creates the opportunity to change, and that, at very least, may compel me to actually care about this issue in the future.


Proposition 8 –  Regulates amounts outpatient kidney dialysis clinics charge for dialysis treatment

From the CVG:

“Limits the charges to 115 percent of the costs for direct patient care and quality improvement costs, including training, patient education, and technology support.

Requires rebates and penalties if charges exceed the limit.

Requires annual reporting to the state regarding clinic costs, patient charges, and revenue.

Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for care.”

What’s the deal, yo? Why is this also a thing I’m voting on?

The short version is that Dialysis is life-prolonging/saving, essentially, and expensive. The purpose of this is to curb those costs to 15% more than it costs the Chronic Dialysis Clinics (“CDCs”) to provide the service. But how out of control is the profitability on Dialysis? I don’t know, but what I do know is that when presented with regulations regarding profitability chained to costs, costs seem to magically change. This proposition may not change the cost of an individual’s treatment, but because of how things are categorized, could impact the cleanliness of the facility, the “niceness” of centers, and so forth. With every regulation comes a way to skirt the regulation.

Why you should vote for this: This bill *could* lower costs per patients, and could force CDCs to provide better care as they add services and facilities to raise costs to keep pricing the same.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: You think that this bill is too flawed and could have lasting unintended consequences. You could also be against regulation in general and think that the Government shouldn’t get involved in the profitability of a private company.

Why I’m voting FOR this: I’m voting for this because I don’t see a problem regulating the profitability of life-saving services. There’s still plenty of money to be made, and as long as there is money to be made, clinics will remain open. I’m less worried about unintended consequences than I am bankrupting people who need medical treatment.


Proposition 9 –  Splits the state into “CALIFORNIA,” “NORTHERN CALIFORNIA,” and “SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA”

Removed from the ballot by the State Supreme Court. If you wanted to split us up – sorry. Better luck next time.


Proposition 10 –  Expands local Government’ authority to enact rent control on residential property. 

From the CVG:

“Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent-control policies that cities and other local jurisdictions may impose.

Allows policies that would limit the rental rates that residential-property owners may charge for new tenants, new construction, and single-family homes.

In accordance with California law, provides that rent-control policies may not violate landlords’ right to a fair financial return on their rental property.”

This is one of the most contentious ballot propositions in this election. Prop 10 has the potential to create widespread change in a very tough housing market. We all know rent has reached the ridiculous in many areas. The main focus of this ballot proposal is to repeal a law known as “Costa-Hawkins.”

From the CVG:

“A state law, known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Costa-Hawkins), limits local rent control laws. Costa-Hawkins creates three main limitations.

  • First, rent control cannot apply to any single-family homes.
  • Second, rent control can never apply to any newly built housing completed on or after February 1, 1995.
  • Third, rent control laws cannot tell landlords what they can charge a new renter when first moving in.”

Repealing that law allows local municipalities to enact their own rent control laws SHOULD THEY CHOOSE TO. Whether or not you think Rent Control is a good idea is what you’re deciding here. What you’re deciding is whether or not you think your local town should decide on whether or not rent control is a good idea. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of this, Vox has a good article. In short, Rent control has good and bad, but if your a homeowner renting your house, it could be bad.

Why you should vote for this: Rent Control in the big city is fine, but I think it’s a good idea for my town too. Moreover, I want the power to decide on rent control to be done by my local government, rather than the state level.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: Rent control makes sense in the big city, but if I want to rent out my house I shouldn’t have to have that potentially controlled by a small city government appealing to the lowest common denominator. The problem isn’t solved by limiting prices, the problem is solved by increasing demand.

Why I’m voting FOR this: I’m voting for prop 10 because I think we should be deciding this at the local level. I’m not even necessarily in favor of rent control – but I am in favor that a town in Orange County has different issues than West Sacramento, and our locally elected leaders should have the power (like they do in LA or SF) to make those changes. Does Rent Control work? That’s not really relevant to the discussion. For me, let’s have that argument in small-town city halls.


Proposition 11 –  Requires private-sector emergency ambulance employees to remain on-call during work breaks. 

From the CVG:

“Makes labor law entitling hourly employees to take work breaks for meals and rest, without being on-call, inapplicable to private-sector emergency ambulance employees. Regulates timing of meal breaks for these employees.

Eliminates employers’ liability—in actions pending on or after October 25, 2017—for violations of existing law regarding work breaks. Requires employers to provide training regarding certain emergency incidents, violence prevention, and mental health and wellness.”

The short of it:

While Fire and police services are mostly public agencies, EMTs and Ambulances are private sector companies contracted with the Government. Because they are private sector they are required to give breaks throughout the day (as are any private sector employees in California). When a call comes in there then exists a quandary where either the company insists that their EMT end their legally actionable break to “go back to work,” or not do that and potentially cost someone their lives.

In the CVG no one bothered to submit an argument against this.

Why you should vote for this: While not public employees, they’re in the business of saving lives and your In n Out Double Double can wait.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: You… um… shit. I don’t know.

Why I’m voting FOR this: This one is a no-brainer for me. Err on the side of saving lives.


Proposition 12 –  Establishes new standards for the confinement of specified farm animals; bans sale of noncomplying products

From the CVG:

“Establishes new minimum space requirements for confining veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens.

Requires egg-laying hens be raised in the cage-free environment after December 31, 2021.

Prohibits certain commercial sales of specified meat and egg products derived from animals confined in a noncomplying manner.

Defines sales violations as unfair competition.

Creates good faith defense for sellers relying upon written certification by suppliers that meat and egg products comply with new confinement standards.”

The Veal of it:

Sorry about the veal pun. I love meat, but I don’t eat Veal. Anyhoo, this essentially provides for a better environment for animals to be raised in before they create or become food. Egg-laying hens currently just have to be in a cage that allows them to turn around freely. Starting in 2020 they have to have 1 square foot of cage space each. Starting in 2022 they must all be cage-free. The same phases in approach apply to Breeding pigs (I love pork), and Calf raised for veal. The intent here is to raise these animals in a more humane way (before we double-tap them and turn them into a McRib).

Factory farming is terrible in many ways (besides production and costs), and animal cruelty is awful and this law attempts to address that. The downside is the costs associated with the transition farmers will have to make to accommodate this law.

Why you should vote for this: You believe that the current practices in housing these animals is cruel and want to enact change, while still giving time for the Farmers to implement this over the next four years.

Why you shouldn’t vote for this: This law creates un-needed restrictions on farmers that will drive up food costs and allows cruel animal practices to continue until 2022.

Why I’m voting FOR this: This one is also a no-brainer for me. While I enjoy the eating of the animals, I’d prefer to ultimately remove myself from the factory farming system and hunt my meat. Until someone teaches me how to hunt (or rather, I seek it out), and I buy my meat at the grocer, making changes to the system I think is necessary and wanted, and furthermore, the scaled, measured implementation makes sense to ensure our farmers have time to get this done.


That’s it. Twelve propositions…

Next up… Candidates!


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