Metro Endorsements: State Propositions

Proposition 13
Yes
In one day last week, 15 earthquakes occurred worldwide. Of course, one of them was in California, a small 1.7 magnitude temblor on the Mexican border. Earthquakes are a daily occurrence in the Golden State, and this year’s Proposition 13 is aimed at making homeowners at least a little bit safer when the next big one hits.

Like its circa-’78 namesake, this proposition deals with property taxes. But unlike the other, still-controversial one, this Prop. 13 is virtually unopposed.

Currently, homeowners who perform seismic retrofits on their homes, particularly those built of nonreinforced masonry (known to most of us as “bricks”), may find their home values reassessed after they’ve made improvements.

Under the new Prop. 13, seismic retrofitting would not result in higher property taxes until the building is sold, giving homeowners a chance to act before it’s all a rubble.

Estimations are that there may be a small drop in local property tax revenues resulting from the passage of Prop. 13, but no other unwarranted effects are forecast.

Proposition 14
No
The bipartisan group California Forward announced last year that it was working on a package of constitutional amendments designed to shatter the gridlock that has paralyzed Sacramento and made California essentially ungovernable. A few months later, inertia forced the group to back down from the challenge.

The substance of Prop. 14 comes from that reform effort. Without the accompanying measures, however, it could very well replace one political problem with another potentially bigger problem.

Prop. 14 would do away with party primaries and replace them with an “open primary,” in which Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and Peace & Freedom candidates would battle it out. The top two vote-getters would win the opportunity to face off in a general election.

Supporters claim the amendment would diminish the power of the two main parties, and more importantly, the special interests—unions and big business—who wield such power over the parties.

But there’s no guarantee that simply doing away with the primaries will have any such effect. In fact, the opposite could happen.

The proposition states: “Political parties may establish such procedures as they see fit to endorse or support candidates or otherwise participate in all elections, and they may informally ‘nominate’ candidates for election to voter-nominated offices at a party convention or by whatever lawful mechanism they so choose, other than at state-conducted primary elections.”

What’s to keep lobbyists and party insiders from holding backroom meetings with their moneyed sponsors, and then funneling gobs of cash to their chosen candidates? Nothing. The only thing Prop. 14 does is take the voters out of the picture.

California needs comprehensive political reform, along the lines of what California Forward recommended. Prop. 14 isn’t it.

Proposition 15
Yes
The California Fair Elections Act would take a small step toward getting special interests out of campaigns by creating a pilot program for publicly funded elections. It would focus, for symbolic reasons, on the very state office that oversees balloting.

Candidates for secretary of state would have the option of tapping into a pool of money collected from registered lobbyists (in the form of a $700 fee every two years) and using it to fund their campaigns, ostensibly freeing them from obligations to big donors. The initiative would also lift California’s 20-year ban on public financing of campaigns, paving the way for future publicly funded races.

The most common criticism of this initiative—that it would waste taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars—utterly overlooks the fact that funding would come from lobbyists, not taxpayers. Another criticism—that taxing lobbyists to fund elections has been proven unconstitutional—doesn’t take into account the fact that this is a fee, not a tax, and a modest one at that (the failed tax, levied in Vermont, was a hefty 5 percent of gross income).

Others fret that it’s a gateway to a gold rush by fat-cat politicians eager to stick taxpayers with their campaign bills. That’s pure Tea Party rhetoric and should be ignored.

We say one step at a time. Supporters point to successful “fair elections” frameworks in five states and relate intriguing anecdotes about what elected officials can accomplish when they’re beholden to no one (one such story involves an insurance commissioner actually ordering insurance companies to roll back rates and issue rebates to overcharged patients). There’s very little to lose here and an awful lot to gain.

Proposition 16
No
The “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act,” as it’s been dubbed by its corporate sponsor, has a patriotic ring to it. But this initiative has nothing to do with any existing right to vote. When local politicians point out that Prop. 16’s sole purpose is to eliminate consumer choice, and could cripple local governments seeking alternative energy sources, they are correct.

Prop. 16 is really about the Right to Sell—and who owns the right to provide energy to the public. If it passes, Californians would be tied to just a handful of energy companies, and their dominance in existing and new markets would essentially be written into the state constitution.

Though three investor-owned utility companies would benefit from this arrangement, just one has financed the Yes on 16 campaign. Since the beginning of this year, PG&E has spent more than $35 million on the cause.

If Prop. 16 passes, it would amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds approval (rather than a simple majority) by local voters before a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) could provide electricity to any new customers if there was any public money or debt involved. It would require the same two-thirds approval by any community that a CCA wanted to expand into, whether or not public money or bonds were involved. In its assessment of the initiative, the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office said the voter-approval requirements could deter communities from pursuing CCA at all. District 3 Sen. Mark Leno has called it “a stake in the heart of CCA.”

Proponents of the measure say the electricity business is risky, and voters should be able to vote when public money is being leveraged. Opponents say Prop. 16 is just a thinly veiled manipulation of the initiative process, and that it would constitutionally guarantee a monopoly for companies like PG&E.

Proposition 17
No
If the Continuous Coverage Auto Insurance Discount Act sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. This act allows consumers to qualify for a continuous coverage discount while still shopping around for the lowest rate, promoting competition in the free market. But it would also have a pernicious effect that could cost the most needy Californians some serious money.

If passed, insurance companies would be permitted to ask a consumer for proof of auto insurance for the last five years without any lapse over 90 days, even if he or she hadn’t been driving during that time. If the consumer can’t prove coverage, an automatic penalty of up to $1,000 could be added to the premium.

Like Prop. 16, it’s entirely backed by one company, in this case, Mercury Insurance.

The allure of Prop. 17 is that consumers who choose to switch insurers can keep their continuous coverage discount and take it with them, saving up to $250 a year. Prop. 17 promises a 90-day grace period if drivers lapse on their car insurance payments. Under current law, if drivers qualify for the continuous coverage discount and then switch insurers, they cannot take that discount with them to a new company.

Penalties based on coverage history were made illegal in 1988 by voters as a discriminatory practice. Prop. 17 could easily make insurance companies less accountable while giving them the ability to raise premiums and add penalties.

35 Comments

  1. This new Prop 13 for earthquake retrofit is false reform curtained behind actual reform.  Currently, property owners can reinforce for their homes/buildings without incurring an increase in property taxes for up to 15 years afterward.  This Prop 13 only extends that your property cannot be reassessed for the life of which you own your property.  The LAO analysis stated that most property is sold before that 15 year mark.  So, what is this Prop 13 REALLY doing?

  2. > Proposition 15
    > Yes
    > The California Fair Elections Act would take a small step toward getting special interests out of campaigns by creating a pilot program for publicly funded elections. It would focus, for symbolic reasons, on the very state office that oversees balloting.

    NO! NO! NO! AND HELL NO!

    As bad as ‘special interest’ funding of elections is, government is ultimately the most special and the most abusive of special interests.

    It is as certain as the law of gravity that as soon as the government gets it’s hooks into election funding, it will start insinuating high minded but ultimately pernicious provisions into the electoral process.

    E. g., no government funding for campaigns that engage in “hate speech”; no government funding for campaigns that violate the “separation of church and state”; no government funding for campaigns that advocate “violence”;  no government funding for campaigns that use “code words” for “violence” or “hate speech” or “opression” of “minorities”, no campaign financing for campaigns that advocate “corporate” special interests,  etc, etc, etc.

    The creativity and inventiveness of the totalitarian mind intent on shutting down free speech cannot be overestimated.

    “Public funding of elections” is a virus, and the disease is ultimately one-party statism.

    • > E. g., no government funding for campaigns that engage in “hate speech”; no government funding for campaigns that violate the “separation of church and state”,. . .

      Exactly!

      It would take the leftwing moonbats about two nanoseconds to DEMAND that public election financing be withheld from every candidate who supported Proposition 8.

      And the leftwing moonbats in the legislature would accommodate them in less than one nanosecond.

    • Glad to see the conspiracy theorists haven’t taken the weekend holiday off. Somebody needs to stoke the fires of foolishness and nonsense during the holiday. Keep up the good work, kids!

      • > Glad to see the conspiracy theorists haven’t taken the weekend holiday off. Somebody needs to stoke the fires of foolishness and nonsense during the holiday.

        A little light on the substance, eh, Vet.

        Possibly suffering from a bit of Post Traumatic Government Education Syndrome?

  3. Proposition 14 would make a lot of general elections much more competitive and interesting.  For example, in San Francisco, where the winner of the Democratic primary is guaranteed like 80 percent in the general election, you would have a run-off between two Democrats, often one who’s very liberal, and one who’s more moderate, and members of all parties & independents would get to pick between those two.

    I’m often not a fan of political moderates (Dianne Feinstein, for example, seems to have an almost perfect track record of agreeing with the Republicans only when the Democrats are correct), but with the partisan breakdown of the Legislature, and the dire condition of our state’s chronic fiscal mess, the people of this state could definitely benefit from an increase in “moderates,” like Abel Maldonado, within the Legislature (its no coincidence he was the driving force behind putting this initiative on the ballot).

    The idea that this initiative, or likely any other, will somehow “diminish the power of…the special interests—unions and big business—who wield such power over the parties,” is ludicrous, and thus not a valid reason to oppose this initiative.  One needs to look at what effect this initiative actually will likely have on this state, not whether it will do what its supporters claim (has any initiative, since Proposition 13 in 1978, EVER accomplished what its supporters claimed, prior to its passage?).  The actual effect this initiative would likely have on this state ie., the election to the Legislature (and incidentally, to other offices) of relatively more “moderates” in both parties, is a desirable outcome.

  4. You guys came down on the right side of Prop 15! Thanks.

    I’m supporting Prop 15 because I’m sick of elected officials who are indebted to banks, oil companies, big agribusiness, and all the other corporate interests that have been running the show for too long.

    Since you mention the consitutionality of the lobbyist fee—worth mentioning the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld a similar fee in Arizona: http://bit.ly/9skG8m

    By the way Doofinator’s argument is logical and grammatical nonsense. Prop 15 has nothing to do with issue campaigns, it’s about candidates for Secretary of State.

    • > By the way Doofinator’s argument is logical and grammatical nonsense.

      Dear Max (Max what?)

      You neglected to address The Moderate and Respected Doofinator’s most most logical, most compelling and most on-target argument:

      government is itself a special interest, and when government starts financing campaigns, it will tip the scales in favor of pro-regime candidates.

      Or, are you one of those children who believes that “the government just wants to help” simply becasue they like you so much.

  5. > The actual effect this initiative would likely have on this state ie., the election to the Legislature (and incidentally, to other offices) of relatively more “moderates” in both parties, is a desirable outcome.

    Good grief!  This is self-congratulatory narcissism of the worst kind.

    “The desirable outcome of elections as that people vote for ‘moderates’”

    The definition of a moderate, of course, is someone who is at the center of the moral and political universe.

    Someone just like ME!

    • I’m not a moderate, sir.  I’m on the far-right, with respect to most issues.  But I also recognize the simple fact that a Legislature made up entirely of two factions, one big group of far-leftists, and another smaller group of far-rightists, isn’t really working for this state.

      Some people want to deal with this problem by getting rid of the 2/3rds majority to pass a budget, but the thought of the far-left majority being able to pass budgets at will is pretty horrific, I suspect even to many registered Democrats.  I think most people would prefer a bipartisan compromise (made more possible through the passage of Proposition 14, and the subsequent election of a greater number of moderates, who incidentally, would have very little ideologically in common with yours truly), to shut just letting the public employee unions dictate the annual budget.

      Care to try again?

      • > Care to try again?

        Why no.  I think you have eloquently failed to make your case.

        Whoever accepts your rationale has such limited grasp of political reality as to be beyond salvation.

        • So you assert.  I explained my reasoning).  You just acted like a jerk.  Maybe “acted” isn’t really the appropriate characterization, however.

  6. > . . . relatively more “moderates” in both parties, is a desirable outcome.

    “This is Your Captain speaking:

    I know that some of you wanted to go to New York, and some of you wanted to go to Los Angeles.  But those both seemed like extreme destinations to me.

    So I’ve decided to land in Grand Island, Nebraska, which is actually not that far from New York or from Los Angeles.  That way, no one should really be as deeply disappointed as some of you would be if I actually went to New York or Los Angeles.

    So, enjoy the flight.

    I feel good about myself.”

  7. You have to be joking. You oppose Prop 14 which will help the state. We all know that currently both candidates just cater to their base and that is why nothing gets done in Sacramento. We need more moderate legislators. Yet, you support Proposition 15. Well I am not surprised that you support a proposition that will only increase spending. It is a bunch of BULL if you think that the money is only going to come from lobbyist fees. We all know that once the lobbyist fees can’t pay for public financing that it will come from taxpayers. There is always those damn hidden “fees” that people don’t know about.

    • Actually, Proposition 15 allow allows for a pilot program that will publicly fund the Secretary of State election only, just in 2014 & 2018.  Its not a system of general public campaign financing, and it will only be paid for by a new lobbyist registration fee.

      These are indisputable facts, which you can read for yourself, in the text of the initiative.

  8. I break into a cold sweat when I think of the possibility of our local government getting into the electricity business.
    It’s failed in the hotel business.
    It’s failed in the convention business.
    It’s failed in the car race business.
    It’s failed in the ethnic culture business.
    It’s failed in the golf course business.
    It’s failed in the bus and train business.

    Why would we want to trust the same city council who has historically had such poor judgement to somehow get it right in the electrical utility business?

    PG&E may indeed be completely acting in it’s own interest by sponsoring Proposition 16 but I have far more trust in their expertise and competency than I do in our elected politicians’.
    I think we should vote Yes on 16.

    • > It’s failed in the hotel business.
      > It’s failed in the convention business.
      > It’s failed in the car race business.
      > It’s failed in the ethnic culture business.
      > It’s failed in the golf course business.
      > It’s failed in the bus and train business.

      But it HAS succeeded in the city hall business!

      We are the envy of tin-pot oligarchs around the world.

      Now, if San Jose just had a nuclear weapons program, we would really get a lot of respect in the United Nations clown college and from third world despots everywhere.

    • My understanding is that municipal power generation has led to lower rates, such as in the cities of Los Anegles and Santa Clara, where they have it.  If you don’t want the San Jose City Council moving in that direction, because you think they lack the competency to do it as well as other places have, well, that’s a reasonable position, but its also largely irrelevant, since the San Jose City Council has demonstrated no interest in such a course.

      I might look more favorably on Proposition 16, if it only required a simple majority vote, but this 2/3rds super-majority requirement is clearly intended to safeguard PG&E’s price gouging, and little else.

      I think its only small towns in the inland counties that are going to be considering whether to make such a move; big cities like San Jose aren’t suddenly going to go this route (Los Angeles and Santa Clara adopted municipal power many years ago).  This is really about whether places like Chowchilla or Alturas should have the freedom to make these choices, without being subject to a 2/3rds super-majority requirement.  Why should voters in the Bay Area want to be directing the affairs of those communities?  Let them do what they want, by voting “No” on Proposition 16.

      • Actually if some green mayor leveraged redevelopment money to create power generating roofs on all public buildings than there would suddenly be a new supplier who was simultaneously increasing local supply and reducing the demand for imported power.  Think about all the public schools, libraries and such getting city sponsored solar roofs.  Would it help?

        • Have you noticed the massive solar panel arrays at all the local high schools? I’m not sure where the funding to build them came from but I think it’s fair to say that they weren’t cheap and that the cost of their construction is a hidden one that we DO pay somehow but would more accurately appear on our electricity bills. Solar panels are great but so far they do not provide electricity at a competetive price.  Redevelopment subsidized solar power would not create cheap electricity. Those who pay taxes once again would wind up subsidizing those who don’t.
          The people who squawk the loudest about being “gouged” by PG&E are often more than happy to gouge their fellow citizens by getting them to bear the cost of subsidizing their “cheap” electricity.
          For those admirable individuals who are genuinely concerned with being “green” there already exists a perfect opportunity to put their own money where their mouth is- pay to have photovoltaics installed on their own house. More power to them!

        • > Have you noticed the massive solar panel arrays at all the local high schools? I’m not sure where the funding to build them came from but I think it’s fair to say that they weren’t cheap and that the cost of their construction is a hidden one that we DO pay somehow but would more accurately appear on our electricity bills. Solar panels are great but so far they do not provide electricity at a competetive price.

          Nice work, Galtie, and I think your instincts are correct.

          According to columnist Deborah Saunders of the SF Chronicle, the solar panel company in Fremont, Solyndra, recently visited by Dirty Barry, has an accumulated debt of a half billion dollars.  (My guess is that most of this is the half billion in “stimulus” funds lent by the government).

          Deborah asks, snippishly, “Couldn’t Obama have found a PROFITABLE company to visit to hype the solar power industry?”

          But, yes.  Solar power is, currently, NOT ECONOMICAL, REQUIRES LARGE SUBSIDIES paid by the tax payers, and is therefore ECONOMICALLY UNSUSTAINABLE.

          For the benefit of the trust fund children in the audience, ECONOMICALLY UNSUSTAINABLE means that solar power is “unsustainable.”

        • By all means, Galtie, if you think solar power works for you, go for it.

          I believe that the technology is still, today, economically unviable for most uses.  Someday, it may become viable, but cramming gubbermint money in the pockets of solar industry lobbyists is NOT the way to make it happen.

        • Well thanks BTW!
          Actually I like the concept of solar power and have considered installing it on my own house. If I do though, I’ll pay for it myself. Just the thought of going to my fellow taxpayers with my hand out demanding that THEY pay to indulge MY extravagance makes me cringe with shame.
          Too bad most of our leftist politicians HAVE no shame.

    • sounds like you drank the pg & e kool-aid.  I guess the 44 million worth of ads that pg & e used from their captive customers does work.

      you don’t think pg & e itself is a wasteful, government style monopoly? I guess you have not had to deal with pg & e much, but from my experience, they are worse than the city of San Jose when it comes to bureaucracy and non-responsiveness in customer service.

      At least if pg & e was an actual government owned utility, they would not have been allowed to spend 44 million of their customer’s money on those deceptive ads.  As a captive customer, you have NO SAY IN HOW YOUR MONEY IS SPENT BY PG & E.  say,how about lower rates instead of tv ads trying to protect your monopoly.

      just compare the city of Santa Clara’s city owned electrical provider (SVP) to pg & e, not just in terms of rates but customer service and service charges.  If you think SJ has failed miserably, pg & e is worse.  The problem is, they have no competition and no incentive to do better. Prop 16 is their way to ensure they never have to improve themselves.

      just remember to look at each issue in its relation to actual reality and not just thru the lense that all government is bad.

      this article has alot of truth in it.
      http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15189938

      • Thanks for the link to that editorial from the Mercury News- the largest local distributor of koolaid. Seems like they’ve got your favorite flavor.
        Or am I being condescending by suggesting that you are brainwashed by the mainstream media and are incapable of forming your own opinions?

        Don’t we in northern California (even those in Santa Clara) all rely on PG&E to maintain the immense transmission and distribution infrastructure? Do we not acknowledge that this must be paid for? PG&E’s operating costs would not go down if their customer base dwindled. So they’d be forced to pass the cost along to their remaining customers. As an extreme hypothetical example, imagine that every city formed it’s own power purchasing utility and paid independent generators directly. PG&E would be broke and unable to bring us that power. Or every bill would have to include a much larger surcharge to pay PG&E to continue to provide it’s invaluable service.

        • wow, talk about drinking the pg & e kool-aid. do you have any evidence of that scenario you just laid out. 

          just because you don’t like the merc does not mean that the info on pg & e in their editorial is wrong.  and way to sidestep of the issue of the pg & e monopoly by talking about unrelated issues like the mainstream media and brainwashing.

          By the way, brainwashing is what pg & e is trying to do to uninformed voters.  Or maybe they are spending our millions to PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO VOTE just because they are such a caring company. yes, just keep on drinking that kool-aid.

        • The “monopoly” problem is certainly very real. But even if we are allowed to exercise total choice about which power producer we want to give our money to, we’re still reliant on PG&E’s grid to bring that power to us.
          It’s as though Safeway owned the only grocery store in town and was required by law to keep it’s shelves stocked but shoppers could take stuff off the shelves and not compensate Safeway for the service.

          Realistically, once PG&E purchases power from a generator and that power is “in the grid”, it’s exactly the same stuff as any other power in the grid and should be sold to it’s customers at the same price. Electricity distribution is by it’s very nature a regulated business. It’s the PUC’s job to determine what a fair price is. Fair to PG&E and fair to the customer.

        • I don’t know why he needs “evidence,” when applying simple arithmetic should be sufficient to see that the scenario he outlined is entirely plausible (he never claimed it necessarily would occur, and most likely, it would not).

          There’s still no reason why a 2/3rds super-majority should be required with respect to this issue, however.  We used to have a 2/3rds super-majority for parcel tax increases, but even that’s been scaled down to 11/20ths.  If this initiative required a simple majority vote, I might well support it.  But there’s simply no good justification for imposing a 2/3rds super-majority.  This issue (getting away from the PG&E monopoly) should not be treated like its somehow different from all others undertaken by our elected officials.

  9. A simple majority vote on tax increases would make sense IF all the voters would actually have to pay those taxes. But we’ve gotten to the point in this country where the people who want something for free outnumber the people who would then have to pay for it.
    I think in cases where a certain segment of the population would have to bear the brunt of a tax increase, a 2/3 majority is not an unreasonable requirement.

    • Prop 16 is pure garbage, nothing more than a way for PG&E to strengthen their monopoly under false pretenses.

      As a Santa Clara Resident, I have no complaints with paying 7.5 to 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour… how much are you guys paying with PG&E again? wink  SVP also pays their employees much better than PG&E and has one of the best renewable power programs for any boutique power company in the US.

      I think I’ll vote for whatever increases competition and drives down consumer costs… huge NO on Prop 16.

      • SVP was established in 1896- back when decision makers were more practical and less political.
        I have ZERO confidence in today’s San Jose city council making a sound, non-political judgement about whether this city should run it’s own electric utility.
        I’d appreciate having a direct say in the matter.

        As Kevin O’Keefe pointed out, there is no current move in that direction but from past experience I’m all too familiar with the spectacle of our city “leaders”  falling under the hypnotic influence of slick, well connected pitchmen like Diridon or McEnery and pledging vast sums of taxpayers money on some boondoggle or another.

        • You need a 2/3 requirement to “have a say.”  Even PG&E executives admitted they were overreaching on this one.  They thought they could get away with protecting their monopoly.  A public vote is one thing, but requiring a 2/3 vote?  That’s actually the opposite of giving the public a say.  It allows a small fraction of the public to block something that even the majority supports. NO on 14!

        • I believe you meant to say “NO on 16!”.
          Not 14. 16.
          Got that?
          16.

          You have successfully demonstrated why we need a 2/3 majority vote on tax increases. You are the perfect representative for that 1/3 of the population who doesn’t know what they’re saying.
          Or doing.
          Or voting on.

          It’s that last one that’s killing us.
          You guys are allowed to vote.

        • Nice, John.  I make a typo and I’m an idiot in your book.  Fortunately, the voters of California saw through this PG&E’s attempt to buy monopoly status and voted down Prop 16.

          Yes, I meant to type NO on 16.  Thanks for pointing out my mistake.

  10. You’re right. My bad.
    Use a consistent screen name and you won’t be the recipient of such obvious, gratuitous cheap shots.
    Unless of course your name is Tony D.