The rest of the propositions, in brief

In my series on the major California propositions, I’ve previously analyzed and made recommendations on Prop 30 (yes), Prop 31 (no), and Prop 35 (no) in this space. Election Day is nearing, and I felt less need to go into the others in detail, so I’ve ended the long analyses. Below are the others, both for the state and for my own county.

State measures

32: No. A transparent assault on the ability of unions to conduct political campaigns. Pretends to be about getting money out of politics, but in fact bans paycheck deductions for political purposes purely in order to target unions – the ban doesn’t matter to corporate interests because they can use profits; for unions, deductions are all they’ve got. For all their faults, unions are an indispensable voice of working people in a political structure that now ignores them wherever possible. (And for the record, in case anyone’s wondering, the dues paid by non-members in unionized workplaces legally have to be reduced to avoid subsidizing any political activity.)

33: No. Says it’s about letting the car insurance industry give discounts to people with continuous coverage regardless of who it’s with; in fact, the intent is to let them jack up prices on all the others (possibly as much as tripling!) and try to poach the less risky, higher-income continuously-covered policyholders from each other. Exempts people laid off or on military service, but does not exempt those with long-term illness, those who shift to public transportation, those unemployed for more than 18 months, even (as I read it) those fired for cause rather than laid off (why should that rate you more expensive insurance?) and any number of other good reasons not to have continuous coverage. Those affected will be disproportionately low-income, and it will make it even more difficult for them to retain car insurance. Finally, regardless of its content, nobody should ever vote for a proposition that’s 99% financed by a single billionaire whose business it regulates.

34: Yes. Anyone who honestly studies the death penalty, even if they don’t agree it’s immoral in theory, will see clearly at this point that our judicial system is not reliable enough to avoid applying it to the innocent, and that it’s ridiculously expensive to implement. Commuting all their sentences to life imprisonment saves at least $100 million a year (going to $130m later on) without harming anyone.

The only argument against 34 I’ve seen from the left is that some death-row prisoners are against it because they’d lose their state-funded appeal and habeas corpus representation, and lose the chance of clearing their name. The way I see it, they get the extra assistance because they’ve been sentenced to death, and the obligation is less pressing when their sentences are commuted to life. If non-death-row prisoners deserve representation on appeal as well as trial, they should all be so entitled whether or not they were originally sentence to death, and that should be considered as a separate issue. Finally, I don’t see how this objection will ever stop being applicable; we need to rip the band-aid off and stop perpetrating more injustice.

36: Yes. No life sentences for third-strike bread-thieves. More easy money through by being more rational and humane as a society.

37: Weak yes. GMO labeling is very far down the list of social priorities. Labeling in general seems to do little to spur consumer action, and I doubt genetically-modified organisms pose health threats; however, they represent a big ecological leap we have taken without full scientific evaluation, and it seems to enhance the problems of monoculture, pesticides, and economic dependence by farmers on Monsanto and its like. So I feel a little more attention to the issue might not come amiss. I automatically categorize all industry complaint about the expense of labeling as insubstantial whining: food is subject to a great deal of computerized tracking already. I don’t think this will be effective, but don’t think it will be harmful either.

38: No. See my post on Prop 30 and why Prop 38 is a weak substitute.

39: Yes. It raises revenue by closing an exemption in the tax code for multistate corporations – definitely a group that can stand to bear more taxation. A drawback is that it dedicates a lot of the resulting funding to clean energy programs – more ballot-box budgeting that makes the budget more and more difficult every year. Clean energy is good, but I want the Legislature to have the option to allocate the money where it’s most needed. I was tempted to vote no, on the same principle by which I voted no on the Prop 29 tobacco tax. However, unlike 29, which specially dedicated all its revenue, this would leave behind a fair amount (in the hundreds of millions) to the general fund. At this crisis point, every little bit helps.

(For intellectual consistency, since I went after Chris Kelly in my post on Prop 35, I should mention that this seems to be a vanity measure as well – 94% of its funding is from hedge fund billionaire Thomas Steyer. However, I can set that aside when it results in a better proposition.)

40: Yes. The citizen’s redistricting commission has done a good job, and a yes vote will keep its work in place.

Alameda County measures

A1: No. Funding for the Oakland Zoo is nice in theory, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near a priority; there’s little political space now for new taxes, and I’d like to see what there is going to essential services. I’m also concerned that it’s self-dealing: the nonprofit that contracts to the City of Oakland to run the zoo is the writer and campaigner for the measure, and the money would go directly to them. There is an outside oversight committee, as usual, so it wouldn’t precisely lock the city into using the contractor as the East Bay Express has implied, but it still seems fishy.

B1: Yes. 1-cent dedicated sales tax for ten years to fund continued and expanded transportation projects. Sort of ballot-box budgeting, but a better type as they go, as the money goes to the AC Transportation Commission, which is a commission of elected city, county, and transit-agency officials – so properly coordinated with other public efforts. Effectively only a half-cent increase, because it would replace a similarly dedicated half-cent tax (Measure B). It is planned to go 48% to public and specialized (elderly/disabled/etc.) transit, 30% to roads, 9% highway efficiency and freight development, 8% to bicycle and pedestrian works, and 5% to sustainable land use and transportation projects. Desperately needed: the state and nation are eating seed corn by underfunding transportation infrastructure, our highways are falling apart, and as the car-dominant era ends one way or another we need public transit to grow into. Of course, the sales tax is regressive; in an ideal world this investment would be funded by a progressive tax. But counties are unable legally to levy income taxes; so if the levels that can won’t step up, we’ll have to do as much as possible ourselves. Then too, public transit and other car-alternatives primarily benefit the low-income, so like with Prop 30, the benefits will be progressive. 

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