California election positions

In California elections, we always have such large ballots.  I took a few hours this weekend to look into all this stuff, and here are my choices.

President: Hillary Clinton

Yeah… not really a swing voter.

US Senator: Kamala Harris

Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris are nearly equivalent (other candidates were eliminated in the primaries), so it’s mainly a matter of looking at their priorities and seeing which grabs me more.  Harris seems to prioritize criminal justice reform more.

US Representative, 13th congressional district: Barbara Lee

For US Congress, party is the most important factor, so I’d go with the Democrat.

State Senator, 9th district: Nancy Skinner

Sandre Swanson emphasizes on healthcare and education, while Nancy Skinner emphasizes gun control and criminal justice reform.  Those both sound great.  Kind of a tossup for me.

State assembly, 15th district: Tony Thurmond

At a glance, Thurmond is perfectly fine, and also seems to be the only competitive candidate.

Superior Court Judge, Office #1: Scott Jackson

Ugh, why are we voting on judges?  It’s not supposed to be political.  I’m just going with the candidate that has all the endorsements and won’t think too much about it.

Prop 51 School Bonds.  Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities:  No

While being in favor of education, I am also opposed to ballot box budgeting.  What tips the balance for me is that Governor Brown opposes this proposition, apparently favoring more flexible ways to spend on education.  The LA Times had a rather critical assessment, saying that it fails to treat school facilities costs as ongoing, and fails to target school districts in need.

Prop 52 Medi-Cal hospital fee program: Yes

It’s hard to tell what this proposition does–something to do with hospital money moving around in such a way that the federal government agrees to match it.  Also, it’s not really something new, it just extends an existing statute.  Support for this proposition appears to be nearly universal.

Prop 53 Revenue bonds. Statewide voter approval: No

Basically, this mandates ballot box budgeting for any bond trades exceeding 2 billion.  This sounds awful.  I don’t trust my own judgment regarding technical state budget decisions, much less the judgment of the typical voter.  (Also the official proponents of Prop 53 seem to think Prop 13 was a good idea rather than a disaster.)

Prop 54 Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings: Yes

This is a simple measure that requires that bills be posted on the internet for 72 hours before the vote.  The opposition claims this would give lobbyists more power, but if anything it seems like the full-time lobbyists are on the ground by zeroth hour, and the extra 72 hours let the rest of us catch up.  It’s apparently based on legislation in the US Senate sponsored by Obama and Clinton in 2006.

Prop 55 Tax extension to fund education and healthcare: No

In 2012, the California budget was in a dire state, and there was a temporary tax measure to fund education.  Prop 55 extends that tax for another 12 years.  I prefer that the legislature have more flexibility in their budgeting decisions, rather than needing to obey the whims of people like me, and for the next 12 years too.  LA Times argues that funding from Prop 55 would be too volatile, and see that’s the kind of budget thing I really can’t judge as a typical voter?

Prop 56 Cigarette tax to fund healthcare, tobacco use prevention, research, and law enforcement: Yes

Taxes on cigarettes tend to discourage new users.  This is a public good.  However, I don’t like that Prop 56 also taxes e-cigarettes, which are already expensive to buy in, and therefore usually aren’t the point of entry into nicotine.

Putting aside the proposition, the legislative analyst said some interesting things here: “California has one of the lowest adult cigarette smoking rates in the country.  The DPH reports that about 12 percent of adults smoked cigarettes in 2013, compared to about 24 percent of adults in 1988.”

Prop 57 Criminal sentences.  Parole.  Juvenile criminal proceedings and sentencing: Yes

This makes it easier for non-violent criminals to get parole.  Since 1982, the prison population in California rose by 500%, and I am in favor of nearly anything to rehabilitate criminals and reduce that number.

Prop 58 English Proficiency. Multilingual education: Yes

This repeals proposition 227, passed in 1998, which restricted bilingual programs.  Hey, I remember that, because I was in a bilingual program in 5th grade when that proposition passed!  I recall all the teachers making negative comments about it, although I didn’t understand what they were talking about, and it didn’t actually change the curriculum as far as I could tell.  Anyways, support for prop 58 appears to be universal.

Prop 59 Corporations. Political Spending. Federal constitutional protections: No

This is a purely symbolic resolution opposing the Citizens United vs FEC decision.  Contrary to conventional liberal wisdom, but in agreement with the ACLU, I think that Citizens United was decided correctly.  It’s quite clear that an organization has a right to create a documentary that is critical of a politician.  Allowing only unincorporated individuals to have their free speech rights would not actually improve campaign finance, as Super PACS get most of their money from wealthy individuals, not corporations.  Look elsewhere for campaign finance reform.

Prop 60 Adult Films.  Condoms.  Health Requirements: No

This proposition requires condom use by porn performers in California.  Although it is supposedly intended to protect porn performers from greedy producers, it is nearly universally opposed by them.  These days most porn performers are their own producers, and this law requires them to get licenses, opening them to harassment and litigation.  Chris Hall wrote about this.

Prop 61 State prescription drug purchases. Pricing standards: No

This requires that the state pay no more for drugs than the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  On some level this makes sense because tying your hands behind your back is a good bargaining strategy.  Drug companies may offer California lower prices, because California is legally unable to pay any more.  However, it seems like such a risky strategy.  What if the drug companies simply refuse the offer, and then the state is legally unable to save lives?  The chief proponent of prop 61 is apparently the same as the chief proponent of prop 60.

Prop 62 Death Penalty: Yes

Repeals the death penalty.  I don’t see the point of the death penalty, isn’t a life-long sentence enough?

Prop 63 Firearms. Ammunition sales: Yes

This has something to do with increasing gun regulations.  The details aren’t important to me, since I support repealing gun rights entirely.

Prop 64 Marijuana legalization: Yes

Legalizes marijuana under state law.  It would still be illegal under federal law but I think the feds aren’t pursuing it at the moment.  I oppose the war on drugs.

Prop 65 Carryout bags.  Charges: No
Prop 67 Ban on single-use plastic bags: Yes

These are two opposing propositions regarding carryout bags.  In California, grocers are required to charge an extra 10 cents for bags at checkout.  I admire the bag policy, because it uses penny barriers to the advantage of the environment.  People just respond to 10-cent incentives in disproportion to its actual cost.  Prop 65 proponents claim that the plastic bag charge is a hidden tax (it isn’t because the grocers just keep the money), and then say that the money should instead go to environmental causes (which would actually be a hidden tax).  They’re wrong–the benefit to the environment isn’t in the 10 cents, it’s in the incentives.

Prop 66 Death penalty. Procedures: No

This proposition is intended to speed up death penalty procedures.  I’m pretty tempted to vote yes, since if you’re going to kill people, you could at least get it over with, instead of wasting money on courts.  But I guess a No would be more consistent with opposing the death penalty.


There are also a bunch of county and city measures, but I will skip them on the theory that they aren’t relevant to most readers (and most are unopposed anyway).


  1. Ogvorbis: I have proven my humanity and can now comment! says

    Legalizes marijuana under state law. It would still be illegal under federal law but I think the feds aren’t pursuing it at the moment.

    I am not a federal law enforcement officer, though I do work with them, or supervise them when assigned as a Type 2 Security Specialist or Security Manager at a federal incident (such as a wildland fire (I was at the Rough Fire east of Fresno a little more than a year ago (in beautiful downtown Squaw Valley (which (to my disappointment) was not the one in the Tahoe area)))). Via discussions with federal LEOs, in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, they enforce the federal laws only on federal land. And it is (unless someone is growing marijuana illegally on federal land, or has a massive amount of marijuana on them or in a vehicle) generally a ticket ($50.00 fine (from an NPS LEO that I worked with in Idaho this year)) and they don’t even issue warrants for non-payment of the fine (though it does show up on a federal background check if it has not been paid). So, in Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal, but don’t take it on federal land (or, if you do, don’t leave the baggie on your dashboard or light up in a really obvious place).

    I oppose the war on drugs.

    So do I.

    Some years ago, I was at a wildland fire up on the Siskiyou, in a little town called Forks of Salmon. I was staffing a roadblock in the middle of nowhere and, every day, a county sheriff’s deputy stopped by to make sure all was good. I talked with one of the deputies, and his take on recreational drugs was to legalize them all. Sell them through state stores (like Pennsylvania does for alcohol), set very strict standards on processing and manufacturing to remove most of the harmful add-ins from basement processing, set strict standards on purity so that heroin users would be far less likely to overdose, and tax it heavily. His recommendation was a 100% tax — 25% federal, 75% state — and mandate that half of all state taxes collected on alcohol, tobacco, and recreational pharmaceuticals go for free addiction treatment for whoever wants it. For those in prison, if they are there strictly for a drug conviction, set them free with a clean record; for those who committed a crime and then had more time added on because of drug involvement, reduce the sentence by whatever the drugs added.

    He admitted that it won’t happen because of for-profit prisons, high and mighty moralists, and the alcohol lobby.

    Sorry for the tl;dr, but our drug policy in the US is self-defeating.

  2. Jake Harban says

    Ugh, why are we voting on judges? It’s not supposed to be political.

    In my state, I’m asked to vote for judges every year.

    But at no point have any of the judicial races ever actually been contested. Every ballot is simply padded with anywhere from 2 to 20 “races” that consist of a single candidate running unopposed.

  3. Mookie says

    I’m pretty tempted to vote yes, since if you’re going to kill people, you could at least get it over with, instead of wasting money on courts.

    The reason current Californian death row inmates oppose both bills is because if either are implemented (according to Mother Jones, “if both pass, the one with the most votes will supersede the other”), prisoners will now have fewer opportunities for appeals and for access to full legal representation.

    However, the reason California no longer executes its prisoners has nothing to do with long court procedures but because it has no access to methods for execution approved by the state. 66 will not hasten anyone’s death, but just, after a certain arbitrary deadline, no longer offer them any hope of exoneration.

  4. snuffcurry says

    Luckily for them, the state — which has both executed innocent people and which was completely exonerated deathrow inmates on the strength of appeals and the thorough review of new or existing evidence — disagrees with you.

  5. says

    Right, but why do we care so much about granting appeals to 700 death row inmates, when there are like 160,000 prisoners in California who might also benefit from opportunities to appeal? I want criminal rights for all criminals, not disproportionate attention given to the few. It makes sense that death row inmates prefer more legal resources for themselves, but I don’t find their preference compelling.

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