On November 8, we recommend …

Illustration By Kloss

We wrote plenty of editorials in this space throughout the spring spelling out why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election shouldn’t happen at all. We argued that it would be a waste of time and money. We warned that the ballot box can’t substitute for governing. We made a case that California’s problems were not likely to be solved by election-campaign spinmeisters and 30-second TV spots.

But the special election went forward. So now we have no choice but to go out and make our voice heard. Otherwise, it’s a victory for Schwarzenegger, a man who was supposed to kick the special interests out of state government, but instead has put all his might into backing a set of initiatives (especially Propositions 74, 76 and 77) that don’t come close to addressing our state’s deep-set problems.

The following are SN&R’s endorsements on statewide propositions.

Proposition 73—parental notification
NO If passed, this proposition would amend the state constitution to require health-care providers to alert the parents of women under the age of 18 who request an abortion. The measure also would require a 48-hour “reflection period.”

Let’s be honest: Most young women consult with their parents when facing an unwanted pregnancy. Those who fear to do so frequently have good reasons for their fears. Parental-involvement laws have been passed in 30 states and studied thoroughly. The results are well known.

They don’t result in fewer pregnancies. They don’t result in fewer abortions. And they don’t turn dysfunctional families into healthy ones. The only thing they do is increase the risks faced by the most vulnerable of young women, such as daughters who know that disclosure of a pregnancy might lead to being kicked out, beaten or worse.

So why is Proposition 73 on the ballot? Because the real agenda here is to pave the way for future court challenges to Roe v. Wade and to threaten access to safe, legal abortion as part of the reproductive rights of all women.

Proposition 74—teacher waiting period
NO The way it works now, a new teacher can be dismissed at any point during his or her first two years on the job, without cause. Proposition 74 would lengthen that period from two to five years. Governor Schwarzenegger says the change would help weed out bad teachers, but we believe it would basically result in making it even tougher to convince smart, talented young people to pursue a career in teaching.

Another provision of Proposition 74 would redefine how “tenured” teachers can be dismissed. Now, there are certainly examples where school administrators have to go to unreasonable lengths to get rid of a bad teacher—and that should be addressed and corrected. But Proposition 74 is not that fix. It’s badly worded and creates new definitions (such as one that newly determines what constitutes an “unsatisfactory performance”) that the California School Boards Association say would make it more difficult than ever to get rid of bad teachers.

Proposition 75—public employee union dues
NO Proponents of Proposition 75 say this measure is about helping individual employees protect their paychecks from union leaders who divert mandatory dues into political campaigns. But public employees already have the ability to opt out of such contributions, and tens of thousands of them do this every year.

The true goal of Proposition 75 is to diminish the power of unions by attacking their funding base. Why? Because they’re the only force in California politics so far that’s been capable of going head-to-head with big business in raising the sums of money needed to be competitive on Election Day. (See millionairesforprop75.com for a list of people who’d like to see the unions crippled.)

Don’t support an effort to cut organized labor out of politics. Flawed as the big unions can be, they’re usually the only players at the table in California politics who regularly go to bat for the working families and regular people.

Proposition 76—state-spending and school-funding limits
NO This constitutional amendment—seen by many as the most sweeping state-spending proposal to come along since Proposition 13—would change the state’s spending cap and increase the governor’s power to make budget cuts. The measure is an attempt to force California to “live within its means,” but there’s no doubt it would backfire against local governments and the poor.

Among other things, in throwing huge new monetary powers to the governor, Proposition 76 would eliminate guaranteed school funding by revising the current Proposition 98 minimum guarantee to schools. It would reduce the state’s flexibility to address changing needs. And it is likely to alter the way California allocates money for police, fire services and public-service programs.

As the League of Women Voters say, “our system of checks and balances will be undermined by giving this and all future governors the power to make cuts unilaterally.”

Proposition 77—redistricting
NO California needs to reform the way legislative and congressional district lines are drawn once a decade; lawmakers have an obvious conflict of interest in plotting their own political districts. But Proposition 77 is definitely not the way to proceed.

This flawed plan, which calls for redistricting by a panel of three retired judges, is fundamentally undemocratic and a flat-out move to get more conservatives elected to office in the blue state of California.

The devil lives in the details, but suffice it to say that the three judges might be picked in a way that would allow a state controlled by Democratic voters to have their districts drawn by a Republican-controlled panel. Also, the proposition would neglect “communities of interest” in drawing up the districts (such as some heavily Latino communities in Southern California) which would result in breaking up traditionally Democratic voting blocks.

Propositions 78 and 79—discounts on prescription drugs
78: NO, 79: YES The best thing California could do for its own health is enact a statewide, single-payer health-care system that would insure everyone. In fact, there is a bill—SB 840, introduced by Senator Sheila Kuehl—that would put just such a system in place.

What we get to vote on, however, are two measures having to do with prescription drugs. Both propositions try to address a very real problem: the drug companies’ gouging of millions of Californians who do not have health insurance. These consumers, who tend to be low-income, are often charged substantially higher prices for drugs simply because they don’t have an insurance company to negotiate on their behalf.

Proposition 78 is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, which has spent a record $80 million to put it on the ballot and promote a “yes” vote. The measure proposes that drug companies participate in a voluntary program of price reductions—with no penalties for not getting involved. Needless to say, if these companies are willing to voluntarily reduce prices, they don’t need to pass an initiative to do it. The only reason this measure is on the ballot is to prevent the passage of Proposition 79, a similar reform sponsored by consumer groups after a long community-based effort.

This second initiative requires the state to negotiate better prices on behalf of uninsured patients, and includes a serious penalty for drug companies that don’t comply, banning them from participation in the state’s lucrative Medi-Cal program. Proposition 79 has an enforcement mechanism to hold drug companies accountable for the discounts. It’s the better measure of the two.

Proposition 80—regulation of electric-service providers
NO Proposition 80 is a well-intentioned measure that would change how electricity utilities in California are regulated. The idea behind it is to help control the state’s electricity future on behalf of consumers; obviously, none of us want to return to the days of rolling blackouts and unregulated cowboy profiteers, like Enron buying and selling short-term electricity contracts.

But let’s face it: Energy policy is too complex for the initiative process; Proposition 80 would cause more problems than it solves. The measure claims to make a priority of encouraging renewable energy, asserting it would double, by 2017, the amount of electricity California would derive from renewable sources. But, in fact, the measure would require a two-thirds vote by the Legislature for this to occur. That’s a very difficult undertaking to say the least.

We’re also disturbed that the measure would, in the name of protecting consumers, prohibit utilities from using the utterly reasonable technique of increasing the price of electricity during peak-hours. Ultimately, this measure would lock in too many variables, when some flexibility would better serve the state and our unknown energy future.

This initiative took some good ideas too far.