Larchmont Buzz reports Ballot Measure Presentation from the Ebell

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November 3, 2018, Los Angeles On Thursday, October 25, the Ebell of Los Angeles hosted a talk by Mona Field, Vice President of the Los Angeles League of Women Voters, which provided helpful information about the lengthy list of ballot measures that will be on our local ballots for next Tuesday’s election.  This is part one of a two-part series on those ballot measures, with information and tips from both Field and votersedge.org, a non-partisan voter information website Field recommended at her talk.  

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 to encourage newly-franchised women to vote.  Today, it remains a non-partisan organization that encourages “informed and active” voter participation, understanding of major public policy issues, and voter education and advocacy.  And while we’ve seen some other very useful voter guides, Field’s talk provided some additional information that many people might find helpful or enlightening before filling out their ballots…and she was particularly adept at pointing out key information in each proposition that could prove to be pivotal decision-making points for some individual voters.

For example, Field began by pointing out something most voters are already aware of – that the flood of paid campaign ads and election-related paper mail you receive at this time of year are produced by highly partisan groups (no matter which side of an issue they’re touting). Those groups often try to hide their true origins with group names such as “Citizens for XXX”…or “Yes/No on XXX”  and you should simply ignore most of their materials. But Field also noted that following the money backing an initiative – especially figuring out which specific person, group or organization spent the approximately $2 million it costs to get a measure on the ballot in the first place – can tell you a lot about the true purpose of the measure.  And she provided that information in many of her summaries of the individual propositions.

Finally, before plunging into the state-level ballot measures, Field provided some information on LA County Measure W, so we’ll start there, too.

LA County Ballot Measure

Measure W

This is a new proposed property (or “parcel”) tax, designed to help capture much-needed rainwater and prevent untreated stormwater runoff from winding up in the ocean.  The measure was put on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  Under the measure, property owners would pay an annual tax on the amount of impermeable hardscape on their property, which would provide new funds to the county and encourage  property owners to increase the water-permeable ares on their lots. And that, in turn, would help replenish groundwater and prevent runoff.  The money raised from the new tax (estimated at about $300 million per year) would be used to fund new infrastructure improvements to capture rainwater and put it back into the local water supply before it runs out to the ocean. Also, worth noting:  because this is a property tax increase, it would need 2/3 approval by the voters (not just a simple majority) to pass.

Supporters: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles County Director of Public Health, the Los Angeles County Fire Chief, environmental groups such as Heal the Bay, and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Opponents:  Several other local business and anti-tax groups, including CalTax, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, and the California Small Business Alliance.
League of Women Voters recommends:  YES

California Ballot Propositions

Another of Field’s very helpful tips was to recognize that Propositions 1-4 are all bond measures.  Selling bonds is a way the state can raise money by taking on new debt, which is paid back over a very lengthy period of time.  That’s neither inherently good nor bad, but how voters feel about any or all of these first four propositions may hinge on how they feel about using bonds for financing, or at least as financing for specific types of projects.

Proposition 1

This measure would authorize the sale of $4 billion worth of bonds to help fund “existing affordable housing programs for low-income residents, veterans, farmworkers, manufactured and mobile homes, infill, and transit-oriented housing.”  (Yes, that would include Transit Oriented Developments in our local neighborhoods. And yes, these would be different projects from those funded by recent Measures HHH and JJJ.)  Which projects get the funding would be up to local city and county governments. The bonds would be repaid, with interest, over the next 35 years.  Money to repay the bonds would come from state income tax revenues.

Supporters:  The California Democratic Party and hundreds of housing and Veteran’s groups, as well as many California cities.
Opponents: The California Republican Party, the California Taxpayers Association and the Libertarian Party of California.
League of Women Voters recommends:  YES

Proposition 2

This measure would authorize the sale of long-term bonds to fund housing construction for the mentally ill.  And while housing and services for this population definitely go hand in hand, Field pointed out that funding for the two is separate…so this construction funding would work in tandem with other funding sources previously approved by voters for mental health services.  Also, unlike the Proposition 1 bonds, the debt from Proposition 2 would be paid back with funds generated by a previous ballot measure – Proposition 63 – which included up to $140 million per year for housing for the mentally ill. (That means the money comes from an already-in-place tax on people making more than $1 million per year. There would be no new taxes, no additional cost to the state or taxpayers, and no effects on the state budget.)

Supporters: The California Democratic Party, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Republican Party, and hundreds of other mental health, labor, housing and other groups.
Opponents: The Libertarian Party of California and the Orange County Register.
League of Women Voters recommends:  YES

Proposition 3

According to votersedge.org, this measure would authorize the sale of $8.9 billion in bonds to pay for water and environmental projects such as “watershed protection, drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat improvements, dam and reservoir repairs, [and] flood protection.”  Paying back the bonds would cost the state government about $430 million per year for the next 40 years…while saving local governments “a couple hundred million dollars each year over the next 20-30 years.”  Field pointed out that this is one of those measures where support and opposition are a mixed bag, with some big environmental groups on both sides.  For example, while the Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife Foundation both support the measure, the Sierra Club does not.  Also, said Field, it’s worth noting that a) a large number of hunting and large agricultural business organizations support the measure, b) that the measure would shift the cost of water conservation from those who use the most water (e.g. agriculture) to individual taxpayers throughout the state, and c) a number of opponents argue that the projects included in the measure are not well designed, and there’s a significant amount of political “pork” included (including some for the City of Los Angeles).

Supporters: The aforementioned agricultural and environmental organizations, as well as a number of California cities.
Opponents: Other environmental groups, the California Taxpayers Association, the Green Party of California, the Libertarian Party of California, the Los Angeles Times and a number of other major newspapers.
Neutral:  Neither the California Democratic or Republican parties have endorsed a position.
League of Women Voters recommends:  NO

Proposition 4

According to votersedge.org, this measure would authorize the state to sell $1.5 billion in bonds for the 13 hospitals in California specifically serving children. Voters have previously passed two other similar children’s hospital bond measures, which were used to fund construction, renovations and equipment, but most of that money will run out soon and this measure would pick up where those leave off. Money from the new bonds could be used for the same purposes as funds from the last bond measures (including seismic retrofits and capital improvements), but to receive the funding, the hospitals would have to prove that the money would specifically benefit children from low-income families and those who don’t have health insurance. Funds to repay the new bonds would come from state income taxes, and would cost the state “about $80 million each year for the next 35 years.”  Aside from those basic provisions, Field pointed out that many, if not most, of the hospitals on the list are private (non-profit) institutions, and not public hospitals.   So for many voters, support may hinge on whether or not they support public money being used to fund private hospitals.  At the same time, however, many voters may also not be aware that many of our best-known children’s hospitals – like Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles – are private, non-profit companies.

Supporters:  A long list of hospital and medical associations (including the American Academy of Pediatrics), Chambers of Commerce (including Los Angeles), the Los Angeles City Council, the California Democratic Party, and the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents:  The California Republican Party, the California Libertarian Party and the Orange County Register.
League of Women Voters recommends: NO

Proposition 5

Whether or not you support Proposition 5 probably has a lot to do with how you feel about Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot initiative that decreased property taxes by assessing property values at their 1976 levels for existing owners, or the year of purchase when a property is bought by a new owner. Prop 13 also set tax rates at a maximum of 1% of a property’s value, and limited tax increases to a maximum of 2% per year.  The big winners since then have been longtime property owners (especially older owners who have held their properties the longest). According to the link above, those owners have saved about $528 billion in taxes since Prop 13 became law.  The losers, of course, have been younger home buyers, who face a market shortage of larger homes when older buyers decide to stay put instead of selling and downsizing, and who also bear a larger share of the tax burden when they do buy and are taxed based on the current market value of their homes.  And the other big losers, of course, are the state and local coffers (and the schools, infrastructure and other public benefits they support) that did not receive the $528 billion that homeowners held onto.  In effect, Prop 5 would extend certain aspects of Proposition 13, by allowing homeowners over 55 years old, those with severe disabilities, or those whose homes were affected by a natural disaster, to sell their home, move to another, and take their longtime low property tax payments with them – no matter where they move, how many times they move, or whether their new home(s) costs less, the same as or more than the old one.  Supporters say this would encourage older homeowners to downsize to smaller homes, make new housing more affordable for seniors on fixed incomes, and thus open up more larger homes for young families. Opponents, however, say the only people who would benefit are real-estate-wealthy seniors, and the realtors who profit from the increased sales activity.  Also, independent budget analysts say our governments and the services they provide (schools, infrastructure, emergency responders, etc.) would lose about $100 million per year if Prop 5 passes.

Supporters: The California Association of Realtors, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Republican Party, California Taxpayers Association, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Libertarian Party of California, San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Orange County Register.
Opponents: The California Democratic Party, a long list of education, housing, union and labor groups, the California State PTA, and the Los Angeles Times.
League of Women Voters recommends:  NO

Proposition 6

Field pointed out at last week’s talk that Prop 6 was placed on the ballot by the California Republican Party, hoping it would bring more Republicans (a significant minority in California) to the polls this year, especially in areas where Democrats are running against other Democrats and there are no Republicans on the ballot.  In effect, Prop 6 would repeal SB1, a new state law (passed by the legislature, not a voter initiative) that created a new gas tax and vehicle registration fee to fund transportation projects, and road and bridge repairs, throughout the state.  The new revenue is expected to bring in up to $4.4 billion this year, and $5.1 billion next year, for critical infrastructure improvements.  Prop 6 would eliminate those new funds, though, and also require that all future gas taxes be voted on by the electorate.  Supporters of Prop 6 say gas taxes are too high, especially for low income workers who are forced by high urban housing prices to live far from their jobs.  Opponents say the existing taxes and revenues are critical to maintaining our transportation infrastructure, which will become much less safe if Prop 6 passes.

Supporters: The California Republican Party, the Libertarian Party of California, the Congress on Racial Equality, a number of farmerworkers groups,  and about 30 “Taxpayers” groups that generally support lower taxes.
Opponents: A list of more than 600 labor, construction, civil liberties, transportation, bicycle and safety organizations, along with dozens of California cities, the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles Times, and the California Chamber of Commerce.
League of Women Voters recommends:  NO

So that’s it for Part 1.  We’ll be back on Monday with information and Field’s insights on Propositions 7-12.  Stay tuned!

(See full article Part 1 of 2)

November 5, 2018, Los Angeles This is part two of a two-part series on the propositions (you can find part one here), with information and tips from both Field and votersedge.org, a non-partisan voter information website Field recommended at her talk.  

Proposition 7

This is one of two measures on the ballot (the other is Prop 10, below), which don’t actually put any new regulations into place, but simply open the door for new rules to be made, if certain governmental bodies decide to do so.  In the case of Proposition 7, which was put on the ballot by state legislators, passage would allow state lawmakers to vote on making a change to permanent Daylight Saving Time, if the federal government ever voted to allow such a law. (That would not be legal under current California law if Proposition 7 does not pass.)  According to Los Angeles League of Women Voters Vice President Mona Field, at the October 25 voter information event at the Ebell of Los Angeles, year-round DST was briefly enacted twice before – once during World War II, and once during the gas shortages of the 1970s – but Arizona is currently the only state that still has it. Again, though, actually making the change to year-round DST would be up to Congress (which has not yet taken up the issue), and Prop 7 would just make a potential change legal under California state law.  Supporters say a change to permanent DST would have positive health and safety effects…while opponents say having different states on different time schedules would be confusing, and morning commutes would be darker in the winter, which would have negative effects on schools, businesses, etc.

Supporters: The California Democratic, Republican, Green Parties, and the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents: Several other major newspapers, such as the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle.
League of Women Voters Recommends:  No formal position.

Proposition 8

Proposition 8 deals with a rather complex, and very specific, health care issue – privately-owned kidney dialysis centers, on which many people with kidney disease depend for their lives.  According to Field, in her Ebell presentation,70% of dialysis centers are privately owned, and the question here is whether those private dialysis centers should provide rebates to health insurance companies if their profits exceed a certain level.  Field noted that the measure was placed on the ballot by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents health care workers and wants to pressure dialysis clinics to provide better working conditions. According to votersedge.org, “dialysis treatment is paid for by Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurance. Private insurance companies usually pay clinics much more for dialysis treatment than Medicare and Medi-Cal.” But under Prop 8, private “clinics would [only] be allowed to charge for the cost of providing “direct patient care” and “quality improvements,” plus an additional 15 percent.”  They would also have to provide refunds to insurance companies if they overcharge for their services, and would not be able to treat patients differently based on the kind of insurance they have. Supporters say Prop 8 will prevent clinics from overcharging patients and insurance companies for the care they provide, and will help control overall health care costs.  But the clinics themselves argue that the new billing limits and refunds would prove so onerous, many dialysis clinics would be forced to close and their patients would overwhelm hospital emergency rooms with dialysis needs or the need for other emergency services if patients don’t get their dialysis elsewhere.

Supporters: California Democratic Party, and a long list of more than 100 medical, patients’ rights, emergency responders, labor, union, and immigrants’ rights groups.
Opponents: California Republican Party, and more than 200 medical industry, insurance and anti-tax groups, as well as a number local Democratic Party organizations, other union and labor groups, and the Green Party of California.
League of Women Voters Recommends: No formal position.

Proposition 9

Proposition 9 – which was placed on the ballot through the efforts of billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, and proposed splitting the current state of California into three new, separate states – will not appear on the ballot in tomorrow’s election, even though it did clear all the required hurdles for inclusion.  In what Field called an “unprecented” move, the California Supreme Court stepped in and removed Prop 9 from the ballot, ruling that it is simply not up to state voters to decide this kind of question.

Proposition 10 

Like Prop 7, Proposition 10 – which deals with rent control laws – does not put any new laws on the books.  Instead, it repeals the statewide Costa-Hawkins law, which caps or prohibits rent controls on certain kinds of properties (like those built after 1978).  Passing Prop 10 would put full control over rent control rules back in the hands of local city governments, which could then enact (or not) new rent control ordinances, with whatever kinds of limits they choose.  Prop 10 was placed on the ballot by a large coalition of tenant and labor groups, with major funding from Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Health Care Foundation. Supporters say current housing prices are jeopardizing housing security for many California residents, and cities need to be able to enact stricter rent controls (e.g. on newer as well as older properties) to help control spiraling housing costs. But opponents say if cities are allowed to enact tighter rent controls, property owners might simply choose to remove much-needed rental units from the market (possibly by turning them into condominiums), thus reducing the number of available units and making rental housing even more scarce and unaffordable.  Again, though, any of those more specific laws would be up to local city governments if Prop 10 passes; the proposition itself would only allow cities to make new rent control laws at the local level, with specifics varying from city to city.

Supporters: The American Civil Liberties Union, California Democratic Party, hundreds of housing, tenant, labor, justice and civil liberties groups, a long list of cities (including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Oakland), and many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents: More than 100 Chambers of Commerce, real estate, property owners’ and taxpayers’ groups, as well as other newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and Orange County Register.
League of Women Voters Recommends:  YES

Proposition 11

Proposition 11 would bring rules for employees of private ambulance paramedic companies into alignment with those for public first responder organizations (like LAFD), and require that employees on breaks still be required to respond to emergency calls. (If employees do miss a break, another equivalent break would be provided later.)  According to Field, another recent state law allowed private companies to make employee breaks “sacred” and inviolable, so another new law (like this one) is required to change that.  Supporters say the measure would improve public safety. No official opposition statement has been provided, but there are, as listed below, several prominent opponents.

Supporters: More than 100 medical organizations, ambulance and emergency response companies, chambers of commerce, taxpayer groups and the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents:  The California Democratic Party, the Green and Libertarian Parties, SEIU and several other major labor organizations.
League of Women Voters Recommends: No formal position.

Proposition 12

According to Field, the details of and support/opposition for Prop 12, which proposes specific rules for the confinement of certain farm animals, have resulted in a bit of “a food fight among the animal rights groups.”  The measure was placed on the ballot by one of those groups – the Humane Society. According to votersedge.org, the rule today is that pregnant pigs, egg-laying hens and veal cows must be kept in certain kinds of cages that allow the animals to “lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their legs.”  But Prop 12 would create even more specific rules for the size of cages and crates, and would make it illegal to sell meat or eggs from animals kept in cages or crates that do not meet the rules. Field noted that many animal rights groups support the measure, saying it would create more humane conditions for animals and keep them healthier as well. But at least one other major animal rights group (PETA) says the new cage/crate-size regulations are either not generous enough, or could, in some cases, actually be more restrictive than what some farms are already using.  According to votersedge.org, the measure would be likely to increase the cost of eggs, pork and veal, and would cost the state about $10 million per year to enforce.

Supporters: The California Democratic Party, the Green Party of California, a long list of animal hospitals and animal rights groups, the Gentle Barn, the Humane Society of the United States and the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents: The California Republican Party, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
League of Women Voters Recommends:  No formal position.

So that’s it for the state-level ballot propositions.  Field noted at the end of her talk on October 25 that California has had ballot propositions since 1911 (it one of the first states to use them widely), but the way ballot propositions are used has changed greatly over the decades.  Today, Field said, proposition drives are most often used by special interest groups that would like to force legislators to act on specific issues, by threatening to go to the voters with a ballot proposition if their issues aren’t addressed through a satisfactory legislative solution.  So the ballot landscape has become a bit like the “Wild West” these days, Field said, and voters are being asked to weigh in on all sorts of issues on which they have no specific expertise (e.g. kidney dialysis, paramedics’ coffee breaks, the use of bond funding, etc.)

But weigh in we must…so please do some homework on this year’s crop of propositions, and please vote tomorrow!

(See full article Part 2 of 2)

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