Endorsements: The Propositions

Here's my take on the five voter initiatives on next week's ballot:

Proposition 13 -- I always thought they ought to retire the numbers of the really notable [or notorious, as the case may be] ballot initiatives -- such as Prop. 187, Prop. 8, Prop. 22 and of course, Prop. 13. This year's Prop. 13, though real estate related, has zero to do with its behemoth namesake. It's a relatively innocuous measure that exempts all buildings that undergo seismic retrofit from property tax reassessment. The assessor in our own county (San Luis Obispo) has already unilaterally decreed this is the case, as have many (if not most) of the others, making this legislation a redundancy, a waste of election resources, and a moot point. Voting YES on 13.

Proposition 14 -- This measure purports to "open" the primary process in such a way that the top 2 vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to meet in the general election. Its main proponent is our own Abel Maldonado, most famous state-wide for his recent selection by Arnold Schwarzeneggar as Lieutenant Governor (an appointment which, by the way has left our County holding the bag on a special, single issue, election on June 22 to fill his now vacant Senate seat...for five months, until we have another election in November).

You can read more about this Republican Trojan horse of a ballot initiative here and here, but suffice to say it is primarily a novel attempt at breaking the Democratic hold on statewide politics. Voting NO on Prop. 14.

Proposition 15 -- This measure will supplement public financing of elections by increasing state registration fees for lobbyists from $12.50 per year [yes you read that right] to a modest still paltry $300 a year. It also repeals a statewide ban on public financing, thereby allowing individual cities and counties to set up their own publicly-financed election system. Such a change would be particularly helpful in smaller and less wealthy municipalities. The anticipated result is a net savings to government. Voting YES on 15.

Proposition 16 -- The most odious measure to come down the pike in quite some time, Prop. 16 --support of which is funded entirely by Pacific Gas & Electric ($41.1 million of $41.2-million to be precise) -- would require a 2/3 vote of the people in order for any local agency (city, county, community services district) to create a public utility agency. The irony here is that PG&E is using the simple majority rules of the ballot initiative (50% + 1 vote) to impose a draconian 67% "super-majority" rule on what is usually a grassroots, citizen-supported decision. Oh, by the way, PG&E made $1.22-billion in profits last year. Voting NO, NO and NO (Chicago-style) on Prop. 16.

Proposition 17 -- They call them "voter ballot initiatives," but all you really need to know about Prop. 17 is that, much like PG&E and Prop. 16, it was placed on the ballot by Mercury Insurance. The measure will allow insurance companies in the state to give what are known as "persistency discounts" to new customers. That's an admirable bit of newspeak. What it really means is that if you allow your auto insurance to lapse -- even for a day -- your insurer will be allowed to jack up your rates, in some cases by double what you had been paying. The measure would also unfairly penalize people who might choose to live without a car for some period of time [e.g. college students, military personnel, residents in the Bay Area etc...]. Voting NO on Prop. 17.

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