I want to first talk about the way I customarily evaluate these propositions. Anyone who has watched the metastasis of the process of putting propositions on the ballot over recent decades knows that many of them are deceptively written by corporate shills, and it is almost impossible to figure out what they are really about. So, I have found that the most reliable guide to whether these propositions are good or bad is to look at the statements in the voter guide for and against the propositions, and see who is advocating and opposing them. In the great majority of cases, I have found, you need look no farther to make your decision. For example, if the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association is for a proposition, you can be sure it is a corporate missile aimed right at the population of California. So, in analyzing these propositions, I will often not have to go farther than that.
Well, let's get to work:
Proposition 51: A proposition to authorize funding for construction and modernization of schools and community colleges.
For: PTA, Retired Teachers Association, Community College League of California
Against: California Taxpayer Action Network, whatever that is. I could find no information online about where they get their money, but the name should be clue enough about who they are.
Verdict YES on Proposition 51
Proposition 52: Extends an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund Med-Cal services.
For: California Hospital Association, California Association of Nurse Practitioners, California Senior Advocacy League
Against: Three people with no stated affiliation.
Verdict: It's not like, say, the California Hospital Association, would be above promoting a proposition out of mere self- interest, but it is interesting that no known organization was willing to speak out against the measure. Verdict: A qualified YES on Proposition 52, based on who is for or against it.
Proposition 53: Requires Statewide voter approval before any bond issue over $2 billion can be approved.
I was already suspicious of this one, as it would make it extremely difficult for the State government to meet its obligations- face it, $2 billion is just not that much money in a State with over 40 million people.
For: Dino Cortopassi, described as a "retired farmer" in the voters' handbook, but actually a massively wealthy real estate investor who is the sole funder of this measure, a retired sheriff, and (we've been waiting for it) the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association
Against: California Professional Firefighters, Association of California Water Agencies, California Office of Emergency Services
The intent of this proposition is essentially to destroy Jerry Brown's high speed rail initiative, large scale water allocation projects and anything else that costs the government real money. Verdict: NO on proposition 53.
Proposition 54: Places some limits on the ability of the legislature to pass bills, particularly imposing a 72 hour period between introduction and passage of bills, to allow for public input.
For: League of Women Voters, California Planning and Conservation League, California Chamber of Commerce
Against: Californians for an Effective Legislature
This one is a little complicated, and requires a little more knowledge about what is going on here. This proposition was solely financed by one billionaire, Charles Munger. His intent with the 72 hour waiting period is not really to give citizens access, but to allow him and his fellow rich guys to gin up a publicity campaign against anything they don't want passed. I'm troubled with the support of the League of Women Voters here, but the Chamber of Commerce being involved is almost an immediate red flag.
Please note that a number of other propositions have arguments from the "California Senior Advocates League." This is a right wing front group financed by the aforementioned Charles Munger, and a number of malicious corporate front groups.
Verdict: NO on Proposition 54
Proposition 55: Extends a tax increase on those earning over $250,000 a year, primarily to fund schools.
For: California State PTA, Childrens' Defense Fund, California State Superintendant of Public Instruction
Against: (Here they come again) the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Verdict: A strong YES on Proposition 55, based solely on who is for and against this.
Proposition 56: Increased cigarette tax
For: American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association
Against: Former director of California State Board of Education, former director of maternal health, L.A. county department of health, Association of Orange County Ceputy Sheriffs.
A confession: I saw my father, a smoker, die of cancer when I was a teenager, and as far as I am concerned, the "tax" on sales of cigarettes should be about twenty years in prison.
Verdict: What do you think? A strong YES on Proposition 56.
Proposition 57: Allows parole for nonviolent felons and makes some other modifications in the draconian sentencing rules that have burdened the State since Reagan was our governor.
For: Jerry Brown, Chief Probation Officers of California
Against: San Francisco Police Officers' Association, Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, California District Attorneys Association
I'm not about to allow police and prosecutors to give themselves job security by throwing more people in jail. Verdict: A strong YES on Proposition 57.
Proposition 58: Deals with English proficiency in public schools
For: California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association, California Language Teachers' Association
Against: Ron Unz, "English for the Children," Oceanside Unified School District
An all star list for, and Ron Unz, one of the most belligerent right wing figures in California political history; and the school district of a very right wing California city against. I was initially suspicious of this measure, as these sort of english-promoting measures have so often been covers for jingoistic nationalism, but here is a real case to show how important it is to know who is supporting and attacking the proposition.
Verdict: a strong YES on Proposition 58.
Proposition 59: Deals with an attempt to have the California government take a stand on repealing Citizens' United
I'm not even bothering with the for and against arguments for this one. Any enemy of Citizens' United is a friend of mine.
Verdict: YES on Proposition 59
Proposition 60: Requires condom usage for adult film actors
Hold it- I really don't care how anyone votes on this one. Sorry.
Proposition 61: Requires the State to buy prescription drugs at the lowest price
For: California Nursing Association/National Nurses Organization, AARP California, Art Torres, retired chair of the California Democratic Party
Against: Vererans of Foreign Wars, Latino Diabetes Association, California Association of Rural Health Clinics
Honestly, I don't know who got promised what to have these three groups sign up against this bill. Verdict: A clear YES on Proposition 61.
Proposition 62: Repeals the death penalty in California
For: A former long-time California death row warden, and the author of California's current death penalty law
Against: DA of San Bernardino County, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Marc Klaas, father of famous murder victim Polly Klaas.
Just to be clear, the "Peace Officers Research Association of California" is not a research organization at all, but a lobbying outfit. Again, I have to say that, after all I have seen in my life, I believe that certain acts do deserve the death penalty, but it is also clear to me that there are now over 700 death row inmates in California, with only 13 having been executed in the last 40 years. I think we need to face the fact that it is unlikely that any of the rest are going to be executed, and divest ourself of the monstrous cost of keeping them on death row. Verdict, a qualified YES on Proposition 62.
Proposition 63: Requires background checks to purchase ammunition. Prohibits large-capacity magazines
For: Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor, Dianne Feinstein, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Against: California State Sheriffs Association, California Reserve Peace Officers Association, Coalition for Civil Liberties
The "Coalition for Civil Liberties" appears to be a front group for the NRA. Why those other two groups want more armed people out there with the ability to kill them is anyone's guess. Verdict: In this crazy era, there is nothing we can do to tamp down gun violence but nibble around the edges of gun proliferation. Still, it's something. Verdict: a strong YES on Proposition 63.
Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization
Whoopee! Who Cares who is for it or aganst it!
Verdict: a strong YES on Proposition 64.
Proposition 65: Requires money collected by stores for carryout bags to be used for environmental purposes, and not to just increase their profits.
For: California Taxpayer Protection Committee, California Senior Advocates League
Against: Californians Against Waste
Here's one where the groups for and against it don't seem to tell us much, except the California Senior Advocates League, about which see the comment above on proposition 54. So I have to rely on that dreaded criterion, my own judgment, which tells me that $300 million in the hands of environmentalists is a much better thing than $300 million more in the pockets of supermarket chains. Verdict: YES on Proposition 65
Proposition 66: Changes appeal process for death penalty cases, exempts prison officials from regulations regarding execution methods.
For: Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs Association, one random prosecutor and one random family member of a murder victim
Against: California Death Row Warden- 1999-2004, Antonio Villaraigosa, an innocent man sentenced to death.
Hopefully, Proposition 62 will pass and all of this will be moot, but in any case, I will vote against this useless and vindictive measure. Verdict: NO on Proposition 66.
Proposition 67: Ban on single-use plastic bags
For: Monterey Bay Aquarium, California Ocean Protection Council, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery
Against: California Manufacturers & Technology Association, California Taxpayer Protection Committee, California Senior Advocates League
A clear example of taking some small measure to protect the environment versus pure corporate greed. Verdict: A strong YES on Proposition 67.
And there you go. Not much value if you are not from California, and perhaps not if you are from here, but this is a particularly difficult election for propositions, and I hope it helps someone beyond me and my own family in sorting it all out.