Proposition run-down

A handy guide to what’s on the 2010 ballot

The Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is one of hundreds of state parks that stands to gain funding if Proposition 21 passes. The measure calls for an addition of $18 to the vehicle-license fee, in exchange for free entry into state parks.

The Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is one of hundreds of state parks that stands to gain funding if Proposition 21 passes. The measure calls for an addition of $18 to the vehicle-license fee, in exchange for free entry into state parks.

Cn&r file photo

The initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot strike at the core of what’s important to Californians today. From legalizing marijuana to eliminating tax breaks to creating jobs, the nine propositions cover a lot of ground in a little space. Because we know it can be difficult to sift through all the arguments for and against each initiative, we’ve put together a quick guide to each. See The CN&R endorses … and Endorsements for council, school board … for the CN&R’s endorsements.

19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act

This is probably the most confusing measure on this year’s ballot because its implications are uncertain. It would allow those 21 and older to possess, cultivate and transport up to an ounce of marijuana, while putting regulation of production and sales into the hands of local authorities.

Those for it say it would make marijuana production and sales taxable, which could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s anorexic coffers. By decriminalizing some aspects of marijuana sales and possession, law enforcement could focus on other crimes.

Those against it say that, as with Prop. 215, leaving regulation up to local governments can be confusing and frustrating for everyone. Also, because the sale of marijuana is illegal under federal law, it very well might be taken to court on a federal level, where it could be stricken down.

For more on this proposition, see Counterintuitive pot politics .

20: Congressional Redistricting by Commission

This measure would take the job of drawing congressional district maps out of the hands of state lawmakers and have the Citizens Redistricting Commission handle it instead. The commission, created in 2008, is already set to take over redistricting for state legislative districts. This would add congressional redistricting—which happens every 10 years, following the U.S. Census—to its plate.

For: It will keep the playing field fair by eliminating the possibility of lawmakers redrawing districts to favor a particular party.

Against: The commission does not answer to voters, so this proposition would not ensure fairness.

21: Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act

Proposition 21 would raise vehicle-license fees by $18—generating an estimated $500 million a year—to fund state parks. The money currently used for maintenance and keep-up—about $200 million—could then be used for other purposes. The current entrance fees at most state parks, which range from $5 to $15, would be waived for California drivers.

For: Budget cuts have hurt the state parks and this would ensure they’re being taken care of and are safe.

Against: This is just a way for the Legislature to avoid making spending cuts.

22: The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act

This measure would effectively block the state government from borrowing from local transportation and redevelopment coffers to offset losses. Just last year, the state raided local-government bank accounts, collecting about $5 billion in money taxpayers had set aside for local projects.

For: Cities and counties would be ensured a steadier revenue stream and wouldn’t have to resort to laying off emergency personnel to balance the budget.

Against: Currently, the state can redirect local redevelopment funds to schools. If the measure passes, law enforcement’s gain would be education’s loss.

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23: The California Jobs Initiative

Proposition 23 would suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, until the California unemployment rate reaches 5.5 percent or lower—and stays there for a year.

For: Postponing the clean-air act will help California retain and create jobs by preventing tax increases. The biggest political backer is Dan Logue, who represents local Assembly District 3.

Against: Opponents call this the Dirty Energy Initiative, since it’s being backed by big Texas oil companies, who fear being forced to clean up their pollution. It would put a crimp on clean-technology innovation in California at a time when it is growing and adding jobs.

24: Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks

This measure would stop in their tracks several tax breaks—equaling about $1.3 billion—to businesses that are set to take effect in 2010 and 2012. Among those breaks are laws that allow businesses to use losses to reduce taxable profits, and to transfer tax credits to affiliates. Another would allow businesses that operate in more than one state to choose a cheaper way to files taxes.

For: The tax breaks this proposition would repeal would benefit only 2 percent of California businesses.

Against: Opponents argue that repealing the tax breaks will result in a loss of tens of thousands of jobs and a higher cost to consumers.

25: The Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act

As things are, passing the state budget requires a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate, as well as a two-thirds majority to overrule the governor’s veto. Prop. 25 would allow for a majority vote (50 percent plus one) to pass the budget. In addition, it would revoke salaries, living and traveling expenses to lawmakers for every day the budget is late.

For: Passing this measure would help California lawmakers pass the budget on time and hold them accountable if they don’t.

Against: Prop. 25 would make it easier for one party to rule on important budget decisions. Also, despite what supporters say, it would allow a majority vote to approve new taxes by working them in through the state budget.

26: The Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act

As things are now, new taxes require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature, but regulatory fees need just a simple majority vote. Prop. 26 would treat new fees like new taxes and require a two-thirds vote to pass.

For: Legislators will no longer be able to label taxes as fees and get them passed more easily.

Against: Opponents call this the “Polluter Protection Act” because it will make it harder to impose fees on big corporations that harm the environment.

27: Elimination of Citizen Redistricting Commission

This measure would eliminate the Citizen Redistricting Commission, approved by voters in 2008 to draw district lines for state offices with each new U.S. Census report. Prop. 27 conflicts with Prop. 20, which would add redrawing congressional districts to the commission’s job description. Should both pass, the one with more votes will take effect.

For: Legislators will once again have the power to redraw their own district lines, which will save money by eliminating a costly commission.

Against: The significant reform passed by voters would be undone, again allowing politicians to draw their own district lines—that is, select the voters they want in their districts.