Just three of seven ballot measures were approved, and four measures were rejected, all by wide margins, in nearly complete, unofficial returns, according to the California Secretary of State’s elections office.
Here is a roundup.
Proposition 1: Court fight next on abortion laws?
California joined a wave of states affirming their support for abortion rights as voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1, an initiative to add "reproductive freedom" to the state constitution.
“Abortion is and forever will be protected in California,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who led the effort to put the measure on the ballot, said at a victory party at a downtown Sacramento hotel. “This is a historic moment and we have met it with a historic response.”
The approval of Proposition 1 won't fundamentally change abortion access in California. State law and court rulings already ensure that the procedure is available here until fetal viability, at about 24 weeks of pregnancy, and after that, if necessary for the life or health of the mother.
But following the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer overturning the constitutional right to abortion nationwide,
“Prop. 1 has opened the door to unregulated, late-term abortions, all at taxpayer expense, redirecting state funding away from solutions for the greatest needs of California families,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement after the election.. “Time and truth go hand in hand. The reckless language and realities of Prop. 1 will be realized in due time.”
Legal scholars say that is a highly unlikely outcome, since supporters of Proposition 1 have made clear elsewhere that their intent was to safeguard the current system rather than extend abortion access into the final months of pregnancy. Nevertheless, this measure appears headed for a court battle.
“Leaders in California will be prepared to do what we have to do to defend this right,” Atkins said, noting that Attorney General Rob Bonta has already promised to back the law in court.
Proposition 26: A bad bet on sports gambling
Californians were asked – in two different ways – if they wanted to legalize sports betting. Their resounding answer was No.
Proposition 26, bankrolled by about a dozen Native American tribes, would have allowed in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and at the state's four private horse race tracks. It also would have allowed tribal casinos to add roulette and dice games, and allowed private citizens and lawyers to bring lawsuits to enforce gaming laws.
Proposition 27 was paid for by a handful of large online gaming companies, including FanDuel and DraftKings. It would have allowed gaming companies and tribes to offer online sports betting.
The defeat is remarkable given the firehose of cash that flowed into the battle. The campaign committees for and against the two measures raised more than $450 million combined.
That's nearly double the previous record of $226 million raised to support and oppose Proposition 22, which exempted gig companies like Uber and Lyft from a new state law requiring them to treat workers as employees.
But the spending wasn't split equally between the two measures. “The reality is, we didn't undertake any meaningful advertising for Yes on 26,” said Jacob Mejia, vice president of public affairs for Pechanga Band of Indians, a tribe that supported the in-person betting measure and opposed the online measure. “Our focus was purely on defeating Proposition 27 after that measure came to fruition,” Mejia said.
Proposition 28: More money for arts and music education
Proposition 28 may have been the least controversial measure on the ballot, and it passed easily: No official opposition was filed against the initiative to require the state to spend more money -- likely around $1 billion annually -- on arts and music education in public schools.
Former Los Angeles Unified Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner, who spearheaded the campaign to place the measure on the ballot, said it will ensure arts and music programs -- crucial to helping students recover from the pandemic -- aren't slashed during economic downturns.
Prop. 30: Clean air and millionaires' taxes
Proposition 30 was rejected by voters and was one of the most confusing and contentious measures on this year's ballot -- and one of the clearest recent examples showing how politics makes strange bedfellows.
The rideshare company Lyft and a coalition of environmentalists, public health organizations and labor groups pumped millions into backing Proposition 30, which would have imposed a 1.75% personal income tax increase on California's top earners -- on income above $2 million per year -- to fund a slew of climate initiatives to clean up the state's dirty air.
California recently enacted swift and ambitious deadlines to phase in new sales of electric cars. The expected increase in electric vehicle ownership over the next two decades has brought into focus the growing need for public charging stations and subsidies to make zero-emission cars more affordable. But the state, which prides itself on setting aggressive climate policies, now finds itself facing an uphill battle when it comes to achieving those goals.
The measure would have raised as much as $5 billion annually, with most of that money going towards those electric vehicle incentives and half set aside for low-income communities. The remainder would have gone to wildfire prevention efforts.
California already dedicated $10 billion towards these incentives, but supporters said those investments alone wouldn't be enough to meet the state's goals. They argued the tax would generate a much-needed revenue stream to accelerate the transition and reduce the disproportionate burden of air pollution in disadvantaged communities. \
Proposition 29 – Regulating dialysis clinics
No 69 %
Yes 31 %
The third time was not the charm for Proposition 29, an initiative to tighten regulation of kidney dialysis clinics. Similar versions of the measure -- championed by the powerful labor union Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West -- were rejected by a large margin in both 2018 and 2020.
But DaVita Inc. and Fresenius Medical Care, two private companies that own or operate three-fourths of California's 650 dialysis clinics serving about 80,000 patients, didn't want to take any chances: They raised more than $86 million to oppose the measure.
Proposition 31 - Flavored tobacco products ban
Even though Proposition 31 passed, the mere fact that it was on the ballot represents a win for the tobacco industry. By gathering enough signatures to qualify a referendum on a 2020 law banning the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, the industry blocked it from taking effect until voters could decide whether to uphold or overturn it. That allowed tobacco companies to continue selling the products in question for another two years -- likely earning them at least $1 billion in profits. Still, the tobacco industry was outspent on the ballot measure campaign: It raised about $24 million in opposition to the law, compared to nearly $36 million from those in support -- much of which came from the pocket of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and anti-tobacco crusader.
“In California's battle against Big Tobacco, voters have overwhelmingly decided to protect kids from being lured into a lifetime of addiction to nicotine,” Lindsey Freitas, regional advocacy director of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement. “By stopping tobacco companies from using candy flavors to hook another generation of kids, Proposition 31 will save countless lives in the years to come. And it sets a powerful example for other states and cities, as well as the FDA, which has proposed nationwide regulations prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.”