PROPOSITION 1 – CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO GUARANTEE RIGHTS TO ABORTION AND CONTRACEPTION – YEAH, FINE
I will vote “yes,” but I’m a little put off by this one. I get that Democrats want to draw progressive voters, particularly young women, to the polls by putting abortion onto the ballot. But as the legislative analysis points out, the law that gets passed will have no legal effect – will not enhance reproductive rights and will cost nothing because it’s just adding words to the state Constitution.
But it’s redundant, embarrassingly performative, and manipulative. The authors are banking on young women being ignorant of the law and thinking that they will actually be making some sort of difference for reproductive rights. And while they’re at the ballot, they’ll vote for pro-choice candidates, namely Democrats.
And the opposition doesn’t help. They claim that because there is no stated regulation of third term abortions that it means more women will be getting “partial birth” abortions. But the guaranteed right of privacy already in the Constitution also contains no such explicit exception. The exceptions are in existing laws and this amendment will not overturn them.
In 1972, the year before the Roe v. Wade decision came down, California voters amended the Constitution with the following revision:
It was and is understood that the right to privacy guarantees the individual reproductive decisions. Abortion rights were recently overturned partially on the basis that privacy is not a right specifically stated in the Bill of Rights and is so not enforceable at the federal level. It was authored by then State Senator George Moscone (later elected Mayor of San Francisco and assassinated along with Supervisor Harvey Milk) in order to protect reproductive rights, along with privacy rights jeopardized by technological advances in surveillance. It passed by a huge margin. This is an important moment in California history, as well as the women’s movements as they mobilized hard to win this one even as the majority of Californians were voting to reelect Nixon. I think my biggest objection to Proposition 1 is that it essentially erases this history.
That being said, I have to vote “yes,” because I know that any “no” vote will be interpreted as a vote against choice. So, yeah, I’ll vote for it. But I don’t appreciate that the Democratic leadership put me into this position.
PROPOSITIONS 26 AND 27 – SPORTS BETTING – NO ON BOTH
In 2018 the Republican-appointed majority of the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal laws that had banned sports gambling on a really odd take on the Commerce Clause and states rights. Under the Commerce Clause the federal government has the right to regulate sports betting, but not ban it outright. If they ban it, the federal government is then ceding it’s right to regulate it to states. And since nothing which interferes with “free enterprise” is going to get by a Senate filibuster, basically states can legalize and regulate sports gambling on their own. 35 states have opted in, while California has held out against it. Sports gambling is extremely conducive to problem gambling and addiction according to studies. But there is money to be made, and revenues to be generated.
Americans spent 57 billion dollars on sports betting in 2021 – an increase of 165 percent from 2020.
Along come competing gambling industry interests offering 2 competing measures. Tribes with casinos, with a few exceptions, are supporting Prop 26. Existing online betting companies are supporting 27 (and a couple of Tribes which hope to corner the market making deals with these companies.
Proposition 26 would allow for sports bets to be placed in participating Tribal casinos and horse racing establishments. It would also allow casinos to offer roulette and craps. It would put a portion of the gambling proceeds into the general fund as well as special funds for addiction treatment and mental health programs, and enforcement of gambling laws to shut down illegal competition (notably it focuses on bets being placed in privately non-Native owned card rooms).
Proposition 27 would allow Tribes with state compacts as well as large gambling companies with licenses in at least 10 states to offer online sports betting anywhere in the state (as opposed to in casinos or other betting establishments). Fees would be collected on the profits with 85 percent of them going to address homelessness and 15 percent to non-compact Tribes. It would be a special fund independent of the general fund, which is drawing opposition from teachers for the same reason they opposed Proposition 30 – it would bypass the education spending mandates of the general fund.
Basically, 27 would turn every phone and computer into an at-your-fingertips casino.
26 is the lesser evil of the two, but really both should be defeated. I supported and still support Tribal gaming even though I’m really down on gambling as an industry and I find casinos extremely depressing places. I’m partial to Hunter Thompson’s account in Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas where he described casinos as what all of pop-culture entertainment would have been like if the Third Reich dhad won the war. You walk through the places and there are these lights and sounds filling in for the absolute lack of joy in most of the participants – commanding you to believe you’re happy and that something wonderful is going on, when it’s just a lot of glare and noise as people dump their security and kids’ inheritances into the stingy machines. I felt this way about it the very first time I ever stepped foot into a casino in Reno when I was a kid. Gambling preys on the math-challenged, the addicted, and the desperate. It’s a God-awful thing IMO.
But you can’t ban it, so you might as well regulate it and draw revenues. In the 1990s I voted for Tribal gaming on the basis that someone was going to profit, and I would much rather First Nation folk do so than the legitimated gangsters in Nevada who own the Laxalt family.
My preference would be for sports betting to remain illegal in California (and everywhere else). But if California does come around to legalizing it, my preference is that it require a physical location and not be a prize to be one by one industrial interest or another.
And hopefully it won’t involve an absolute saturation of manipulative advertising across all media forms.
In the meantime, just no.
PROPOSITION 28 – MONEY FOR ARTS AND MUSIC IN K-12 SCHOOLS – YES
The measure does not generate new money in bonds, taxes, or revenues. It simply adds 1 percent of the school funding allocated in any given year (past year) to the education budget from the general fund, above what would have been allocated by law and legislative decision. The money will be spent on programs and music, with 99 percent of it being sent directly to school sites (no more than 1 percent for administration). 80 percent of the funding must be used to hire staff. 70 percent of the funding would be allocated proportionately based upon total enrollment, and the remaining 30 percent will be allocated according to proportionate low income enrollment.
It’s a pretty decent measure based upon complaints that schools have become test-preparation mills. Even businesses have been complaining about the lack of depth in the education of potential employees.
Next we need a bond measure for building facilities and purchasing supplies. And also we need to revise education away from funding strictly based on test scores. And we need to allow for more discretion for teachers away from standardized curriculum, especially for humanities. And we need to shut down the book banning, restore civics education, and critical thinking. I could keep typing. But Proposition is one brick in the wall.
PROPOSITION 29 – DIALYSIS CLINIC REGULATIONS, FOR THE THIRD TIME!
Four years ago, Proposition 8 was introduced to place some regulations and profit caps on dialysis clinics of which private for-profit companies have a death grip and are being accused of having different tiers of levels of care depending on the source of your coverage – specifically suggesting that Medi-Cal and Medicaid patients don’t get the same quality of treatment. It would have required that a physician be present for all treatment except in circumstances of shortage of availability. It would have required reporting to the state of all infections resulting from treatment with strong fines for non-compliance. It would have required state approval before closing clinics or reducing services. And it would have prohibited discrimination in treatment based upon your coverage; maintaining the same standards no matter what neighborhood you’re in.
And probably it would have made non-union clinics non-existent, which is fine with me.
It failed. And then Proposition 23 was introduced in 2020. Pretty much the same proposal.
The clinic private industry spent over 100 million dollars to defeat Proposition 8 and a similar amount against Proposition 23. They went down in flames, partly because the American Nurses Association opposed them, though the more progressive California Nurses Association was curiously silent both times, and remain silent re Proposition 29.
Again, I do have some reservations about a ballot measure like this one. The initiative process is probably not the best vehicle to set medical treatment policy. Do dialysis patients really need a medical doctor present, or are skilled nurses more than adequate? I asked that question two years ago, and apparently the proponents have responded and Proposition 29 no longer requires a physician be on the premises, but a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. I mean, this seems more than reasonable to me.
This is the type of question which should be addressed by taking input in legislative committee with experts making their pitches one way and the other. But I have absolutely no doubt that in the affluent area clinics there is at least one physician present always, if only to give the affluent peace of mind.
And what I do know is that a for-profit model of health care is problematic when it is allowed to close clinics in poor areas and cut corners in treatment for patients whose coverage pays less after having displaced public and/or non-profit clinics. We hear the private insurers and health industry touting the benefits of free enterprise in generating the best care for everyone, but when expected to make good on those promises they say, “Hey, we’re trying to run a business here!” And in fact, they are cynically arguing that the SEIU wants to drive costs of operation up so that private businesses will close because unionization of dialysis workers has been difficult, which is patently ridiculous on several different levels. And if having to report infections is really a cost-prohibitive burden, then maybe you’re infecting too many people! Note to the industry – show us that your vaunted for-profit business model works and support these very basic regulations. That you are spending tens of millions to oppose this is really telling.
Deja vu. I said that last part word for word two years ago. Hope nobody minds if I recycle. If it fails again and SEIU gets this onto the 2024 ballot, I’ll probably recycle this one.
I’m told by someone I trust that despite the 8 to 15 percent profit margin which is like 2 to 3 times that of a hospital, passing this measure might result in clinics being closed in poor and remote areas. That would be a bad thing. We’re in this mess because the legislature has failed to lead on the issue. They couldn’t create exceptions, but they could subsidize clinics. We’ve got this huge surplus. Maybe this would be a good use for some of it. It would employ physicians – or at least nurses and P.A.s.
PROPOSITION 30 – TAXING RICH PEOPLE TO FUND THE CONVERSION TO ELECTRIC VEHICLES AND FOREST FIRE SUPPRESSION – YES, WITH RESERVATIONS
The proposal would increase the taxes of those earning more than 2 million per year by 1.75 percent to create a fund independent of the general fund. 45 percent of the money would go towards rebates and other incentives to purchase EVs and half of the money must go to low income individuals and communities. Another 35 percent would go to charging stations and other infrastructure. And 20 percent would go to wildfire suppression, with a priority to hiring and training new firefighters.
Most environmental groups support the measure, and a slew of unions – obviously the firefighters union and electric workers union. The Democratic Party supports it, but Gov. Newsom opposes it as do most rich people.
The opposition submitted for the Voter’s Guide consists of representatives of the tax posse, the Chamber, and a pro-business conservative group masquerading as a progressive Latino community action group. Their primary arguments are what you would expect – taxes bad and electric cars are bad for the power grid.
But a more salient concern comes from both of the teachers unions who are opposing the measure. They are concerned that by creating a separate fund the proponents are by-passing the requirement of the general fund which mandates a proportion of the money be spent on education. They are concerned that this measure will set a precedent to allow for more carve-outs and ultimately the general fund itself will languish and result in less money for schools. I do agree that this is a concern, but I would support pressuring the legislature to address this for future measures. Right now, we need this one past badly as our dependence on oil/gasoline is wreaking havoc on the economy as well as the climate, and giving despotic regimes a great deal of power.
Another concern is that this is basically a subsidy to help Lyft and Uber meet their mandates for EV vehicles, and they are quietly supporting the measure with a bunch of money and their drivers will gobble up a bunch of that rebate money. But the suggestion that the measure is a hustle on their part is a bit over the top. The measure will in fact help to facilitate the transition towards a lower-emission energy economy, and that has to be made the priority.
PROPOSITION 31 – BANS FLAVORED TOBACCO – YES
This is a voter-confirmation of a law that passed the legislature and got signed by the Governor in 2020. It’s on the ballot because opponents obtained enough signatures to put it there, so the law has been on hold for two years.
Supported by the NAACP, the California Medical Association (doctors), the California Nurses Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, both teachers unions, and a slew of groups oriented towards protecting kids. The marketing and proliferation of candy-flavored tobacco has led to increases in child use of cigarettes, and it has hit the black communities disproportionately. In the 1950s, fewer than 10 percent of African American smokers smoked minty-menthols and now over 85 percent of them do based upon patterns established in childhood.
The NAACP says, “Tobacco companies use minty-menthol to mask the harsh taste of tobacco, which makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit. After targeting African Americans for decades, Big Tobacco is turning an enormous profit—while rates of tobacco-related heart disease, stroke and cancer skyrocket. Yes on 31 will take Big Tobacco’s candy-flavored tools of addiction out of our communities, saving lives and improving public health.”
The primary opposition is coming from business and chamber groups with the refrain “Prohibition doesn’t work!,” which is a clever turnaround of a slogan often used by the cannabis legalization movements. But actually, sometime prohibition does work. It’s reduced the proliferation of child pornography for one thing. Will there be a black market targeting kids with candy cigarettes? There already is, but it’s one thing for an adult to go to a store and buy up a bunch of the stuff to sell to kids in their neighborhood. It’s another to organize shipments from out-of-state. It will happen. But it will be easier to control.
Yes, we would lose some tobacco tax revenue. Worth it.