Proposition 51: $9 Billion School Bond
Rationale: This bond is so financially irresponsible that Governor Brown and many Democrats have opposed it, and so should we. It will cost around $500 million every year to pay off this new debt, which will require tax increases or cuts to other services. Most school districts will not receive any funding at all from this bond. Worst of all, this bond contains no school reforms at all and no spending reforms. Its will make it more difficult for future reform measures to pass.
Proposition 52: Hospital Tax Increase (“Fee Extension”)
Rationale: This is a tax increase, no matter how cleverly the proponents try to hide that fact. The current hospital tax is going to expire and the Legislature has not extended it. The current tax has been used to maximize federal funding for Medi-Cal services under a ridiculously complicated provision of the Obamacare healthcare system. We don’t want Obamacare, we don’t want higher taxes on our hospitals, we don’t want any more hand-outs to illegal aliens and people who refuse to work, we don’t want federal funds with strings attached, and we don’t want to encourage the corrupt special interests behind this ballot measure to raise tax revenues that will be statutorily dedicated to the special interests that campaigned for them.
Proposition 53: No Blank Checks Initiative
Rationale: This conservative reform measure would require a statewide vote for any revenue bond project in excess of $2 billion. Traditionally, the California Republican Party and the California Republican Assembly have supported a statewide vote on all borrowing in excess of $300,000. Back in 1879, Republicans successfully fought to place that $300,000 threshold in the current California Constitution. Republicans have been outraged that Democrats have often used “revenue bonds” to evade that $300,000 threshold. This reform measure would not solve the entire problem, but it would take the first step in the right direction by preventing Democrats from borrowing $2 billion or more by means of revenue bonds. California already has too much public debt and voters should have the right to approve or disapprove of any future debt, especially debts in excess of $2 billion. Calling something a “revenue bond” does not change the fact that taxpayers are ultimately liable for all public debt if the anticipated revenues fail to materialize, as has so often happened. The full State Central Committee of the California Republican Party voted unanimously to endorse this ballot measure on May 1, 2016.
Proposition 54: California Legislature Transparency Act
Rationale: This conservative reform measure incorporates Legislative reforms that CRA and its endorsed candidates have demanded for decades. It would prohibit the Legislature from passing any bill unless published on Internet for 72 hours before the vote. It requires the Legislature to record its proceedings and post the recordings on Internet, as it generally does already. It would authorize private citizens to record Legislative meetings. This measure was endorsed unanimously by the California Republican Party. Many years ago, CRA President Tom Hudson drafted a version of the 72-hour-in-print rule for State Senator Rico Oller, a former CRA Board of Directors member. This measure is necessary because the Democrats who run the Legislature have become addicted to behind-the-scenes, backroom deals that produce last-minute statutory revisions that never see the light of day until after they have passed the Legislature. Lengthy and complex amendments are often rushed to Senate Floor, still warm from the copy machines. Existing bills are often gutted and these new amendments are immediately approved, then the final bills are immediately approved (often on party-line votes) with no time for legislators or anyone else to read what they are voting on. This process has gotten worse, especially because rule waivers only require a majority vote and all of the recent Democrat leaders have been weak and unwilling to risk their positions by opposing the Democrat rule waivers that allow this “gut-and-amend” process to persist and expand. This initiative is the best opportunity in two generations to restore the deliberative, public, and transparent nature of our state’s republican form of government.
Proposition 55: Proposition 30 Tax Extension
Rationale: This massive tax increase is a twelve-year extension of Proposition 30, which CRA opposed unanimously. Under this initiative, California’s 13.3 percent income tax rate, the highest in America, would continue to damage our economy, chase away our highest earners, discourage investment and productivity, and place our state at a competitive disadvantage. State revenues have exploded since the end of the recession, so anyone pretending that this tax increase is necessary is lying or ill-informed.
Proposition 56: Cigarette Tax Increase
Rationale: This is a massive $2 per pack tax increase on cigarettes, with an equivalent tax increase on cigars, electronic cigarettes, and other tobacco products. Allegedly, the revenues would be used for health care for low-income Californians (but the history of similar tax increases should cause everyone to question where the money will really go). CRA has opposed several cigarette tax increases in the last thirty years, so our opposition to this one is consistent with our record. Taxes are already too high, our government already spends too much money, cigarette taxes are regressive, and higher taxes will lead to smuggling and illegal black market activity that is a threat to public safety and legitimate commerce. Smoking is unhealthy, but the taxes that smokers pay are already excessive.
Proposition 57: Parole Changes and Release of Felons
Rationale: This measure was supposedly designed by Governor Brown to make it easier to release criminals from prison, particularly with regard to nonviolent felons. It would require judges to hold hearings to determine whether to try juveniles as adults, and it would develop a good behavior, parole-and-sentence credit system for prisoners. The net impact of this soft-on-crime approach would be to release more criminals onto our streets, despite the recent crime wave associated with Proposition 47. We agree with the proponents that prison spending it too high, but this initiative is the wrong way to fix that problem (and recent history has proven that the Legislature never reduces prison spending just because prisoners are released back into society).
Proposition 58: Overturns “English for the Children”
Rationale: This misguided measure is intended to undermine the “English for the Children” initiative that CRA supported at great cost. Long-time CRA leaders will remember that CRA had to fight our gubernatorial nominee (Dan Lungren), our State Party, and the California political establishment to pass “English for the Children.” That statewide campaign was led by former CRA President Jon Fleischman. This measure would return California to the dark days of the past when hundreds of thousands of students were trapped in Spanish-only classrooms, condemned to a life of poverty as second-class citizens on the fringes of society. Experience has taught us that English language instruction is the fastest way to force every public school student to become proficient in English and ready to fully participate in our English-speaking society.
Proposition 59: Advisory Measure concerning Citizens United
Rationale: This non-binding advisory measure would express meaningless public support for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010). Such advisory measures represent an unconstitutional abuse of the initiative process. They allow the Legislature and special interests to manipulate turn-out, waste public resources, and distort public perceptions without the off-setting benefit of permitting voters to resolve the underlying dispute and approve binding new laws. In terms of the substance, CRA has always supported the First Amendment and the free speech rights that were upheld and protected by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The plaintiffs in that case had been told that they could not release a movie against Hillary Clinton (who was then running against Barack Obama) because of unbelievably complicated campaign finance restrictions and red tape. The attorney for the Federal Election Commission actually told the Supreme Court that the government’s legal theory would allow the government to ban books about candidates during the “blackout period” before federal election. Think about that. The people backing this initiative insanely believe that government has the constitutional authority to ban books and movies about candidates during the periods before primary, general, and special elections. We need to stand for freedom while we still can.
Proposition 60: Mandatory Condom Use in Adult Films
Rationale: This initiative requires the use of condoms by adult film performers. More significantly, the initiative creates an extensive regulatory framework and a new state bureaucracy to oversee adult files, requiring, for example, film producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. We conservatives need to view this proposal in the context of our ever-growing, over-regulating, freedom-crushing state government. Adult films typically involve immoral acts, unhealthy behavior, and objectionable themes. However, we are no better than the Democrats if we support the over-regulation of industries that we disdain, while opposing over-regulation for the industries that we prefer. If adult film production remains legal, we conservatives should consistently oppose the over-regulation of this industry the same as we would oppose over-regulation in any other legal industry. Furthermore, it is worth noting that there is no evidence that this initiative would have any impact at all in terms of preventing sexually-transmitted diseases. By driving film production underground our out-of-state, or by encouraging the false belief that condom use is completely effective, this measure might actually be counter-productive. Whether that is ultimately true or not, CRA should not tarnish its good name by supporting a condom mandate and a dubious new state bureaucracy to enforce it.
Proposition 61: Price Controls for Prescription Drugs
Rationale: This initiative would allegedly fix the state’s price for prescription drugs as the lowest price paid by United States Department of Veterans Affairs. CRA has consistently opposed wage and price controls and we voted to oppose this one unanimously. Aside from the way this initiative tramples on the free market and violates basic freedoms of drug sellers, it is also impossible to implement because the prices paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs are not normally public information under federal law. Furthermore, even the threat that this misguided rule might someday be enforced would inevitably encourage drug sellers to increase the prices they charge the Department of Veterans Affairs for the drugs needed by our wounded warriors. This is a terrible idea.
Proposition 62: Death Penalty Repeal
Rationale: CRA has consistently supported the imposition of the death penalty for premeditated murderers who kill without provocation. This initiative would repeal the death penalty in California and it would apply retroactively to existing death sentences, so CRA must oppose it. As we have so often argued in the past, the death penalty is a critical tool to save innocent lives by deterring potential killers and preventing murderers from killing again, as they often have. This penalty is inherently controversial, but it serves an important purpose and repealing it would cost lives. The death penalty has not been properly implemented in recent decades, as a result of judicial sabotage and the intentional misuse of our appellate court system, but those problems need to be addressed directly and they will not be solved by repealing the death penalty (and those problems are equally common in our attempts to impose life sentences on murderers).
Proposition 63: Gavin Newsom’s Attack on Gun Rights
Rationale: This initiative would require a burdensome background check from the California Department of Justice for anyone seeking to purchase ammunition. It would prohibit mere possession of ammunition magazines that hold over ten rounds, including those that were “grandfather in” or permitted by prior bans. It would even punish the victims of firearm theft by turning them into criminals if they failed to promptly report the theft. This misguided initiative seems designed to make life difficult for law-abiding gun owners, while doing nothing at all to punish real criminals who use guns to commit actual crimes. CRA might already have voted to oppose this item, but my records and recollection are confusing because we discussed this initiative in a slightly different format, before it had qualified for the ballot, and before it had been assigned a ballot number. By voting to explicitly oppose this initiative now, we can remove any doubt about prior actions. CRA has consistently supported the fundamental right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.
Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization
Rationale: This initiative would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California. It would impose a new tax on sales and cultivation, as well as a new licensing scheme. It would explicitly allow, and perhaps encourage, local regulation and taxation. CRA has traditionally opposed the legalization of marijuana. It is very difficult to say anything good about California’s current marijuana laws, especially in the two decades since California began allowing widespread marijuana use for an endless list of real and imagined medical issues. By any measure, current law does not appear to be working very efficiently. However, rather than solving the problems we face with current law, Proposition 64 is yet another big government, bureaucratic, tax-and-spend program that will surely expand the size and scope of state government just as surely as it will expand the use of marijuana.
Proposition 65: Bag Ban, Re-direction of Bag Revenue
Rationale: This confusing initiative was placed on the ballot in response to the Legislature’s corrupt scheme to require retail stores to charge ten cents for paper bags and then keep all the money collected for themselves. As most of you know, the lobbyists for grocery stores fought for the mandate to charge ten cents for paper bags and fought to be able to keep the money for themselves, even though the mandatory charge was essentially a tax in all but name. This initiative would punish those folks by taking the quasi-tax money away from them and giving it to certain environmental programs. For conservatives, it is critical to understand that this measure would only go into effect if the “Bag Ban” that CRA opposes (Proposition 67) is approved by the voters. Thus, Proposition 65 does not necessarily transfer funding from grocery stores to state environmental programs; that outcome would only happen if the evil grocery store lobbyists were to succeed in their correct effort to mandate a ten-cent charge for paper bags. If Proposition 65 passes and Proposition 67 is defeated, there will be no statewide requirement for bag charges and such matters will be left to the free market (or to local regulation in the liberal parts of California).
Proposition 66: Streamlines the Death Penalty
Rationale: Streamlines and reforms the procedures governing challenges to death sentences, potentially speeding up the process of implementing the death penalty and saving millions of dollars, without sacrificing the right to appeal. This measure is easy to support, even if it might not result in more executions of guilty murderers. The current procedures are so inefficient an unworkable that it takes decades to resolve even the most pointless of death penalty appeals. Under current law, it routinely takes several years for defendants to be assigned an appellate attorney! Thus, this initiative would improve the process greatly, even if it does not solve every problem.
Proposition 67: Referendum on the Bag Ban
Note: This is a referendum to overturn Senate Bill 270 from 2014, which was a law that was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. That means that a “yes” vote at the ballot box will uphold the law that the Legislature passed and a “no” vote at the ballot box will defeat it.
Rationale: Customers and merchants should have the freedom to decide by means of the free market what sort of bags to use, what they should cost, who should pay for them, how sturdy they should be, etc. Furthermore, expensive, bacteria-infested, multi-use bags may actually be worse for the environment. SB 270 represents a corruption of the Legislative process, since certain retailers essentially bribed legislators to compel them to charge ten cents for paper bags and keep the money as profit.