High-stakes state ballot draws national attention

With a presidential race, 80 Assembly races, 53 Congressional races and 20 Senate campaigns to deal with, many voters were overwhelmed by the 12 initiatives on this year’s state ballot.

Some, like the proposed ban on gay marriage and animal rights initiative, received more attention than others. The gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8, even received considerable coverage in the international media.

Other propositions, like legislative redistricting, probably seem downright arcane to most voters.

What follows is Capitol Weekly’s rundown on the November initiatives. Here, all 12 measures are broken down. Our goal is to help explain — if any explanation is needed — the issues that confronted voters and to give the results.

Proposition 1A: High Speed Rail
Yes: 52.3 percent
No: 47.7 percent
The state budget woes didn’t seem to affect California’s penchant for spending money at the ballot box. Voters opted to approve a $10 billion down-payment on a high-speed rail system that could wind up costing more than four times that amount. This measure will allow the state to sell $9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund the first installment of the $45 billion high-speed rail system. This initiative was originally placed on the ballot back in 2002, but has been delayed as the state wrestles with deep budget problems.
The budget situation has not improved, but proponents have decided they could wait no longer. So now voters will be asked to put $9 billion on the credit card to build the first leg of the rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles. When fully built, the train would run from Sacramento, through the Central Velley and Inland Empire, and on to San Diego. The train would travel more than 200 miles per hour.

The measure also contains $950 million for local rail and transportation systems to provide connection service to the high-speed train. Some $190 million would be dedicated to intercity rail systems, and the other $760 million would be used for other rail connections.

Proposition 2: Standards for Confining Farm Animals
Yes: 63.3 percent
No: 36.7 percent
Other than Barack Obama, chickens may have been the big winners in California Tuesday.

This initiative, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, imposes new rules on farms for housing and treatment of veal calves, pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens. Mainly, it would increase the amount of room each animal must be allowed, and would make many current systems for housing animals obsolete. But there isn’t much veal raised in California, and the pork industry has decided to sit this one out. That left the egg industry, which has poured in most of the $8.5 million contributed to defeat the measure. The No campaign, Californians for Safe Food, has been using this money to run a flurry of ads warning of more expensive food prices and less safe eggs coming in from Mexico. The Yes side has countered with their own economic arguments and an undercover video shot at one of the state’s largest egg-laying facilities. The provisions of Prop. 2 do not take effect until 2015, in order to allow farms time to comply.

Proposition 3
Children’s Hospital Bond
Yes: 54.8 percent
No: 45.2 percent
Like Proposition 1A, this is another state general obligation bond that voters opted to approve. This is the second installment of a bond for children’s hospitals, the first of which was approved by California voters in 2004. That bond, Proposition 61, authorized the sale of $750 million in bonds for hospitals dedicated to treating sick children. Now, voters are being asked to fork over another $980 million for construction and expansion projects for these 13 hospitals statewide.

Proponents say the money is desperately needed for these under-funded facilities, while taxpayer groups say the increased bond debt amounts to an unnecessary tax increase on Californians.

Proposition 4: Parental
notification of abortion

Yes: 47.6 percent
No: 52.4 percent
For the third time in as many years, Californians have rejected a measure that would require the notification of a minor who wants to have an abortion before the abortion is performed.

Proposition 4 would have prohibited a pregnant minor – except for those who are known as legally emancipated minors – from getting an abortion until 48 hours after the doctor notifies the minor’s parent or legal guardian. There are exceptions to the notification rule in cases of emergency, a court’s determination that the minor is mature or the abortion is in the best interests. Proposition 4 requires doctors to report abortions, and holds them liable for damages if they don’t. A Yes vote seeks to change the constitution to require the notification; a No vote seeks to keep the existing law.

Proposition 5: Drug-treatment and diversion programs
Yes: 40.2 percent
No: 59.8 percent
After wide, bipartisan opposition to the measure, including a thumbs-down from U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein, Californians easily defeated Proposition 5. The measure would have provided $460 million to sharply expand and improve drug-treatment programs for people who have been convicted of drug and other offenses. A fundamental goal of the measure is to reduce prison overcrowding.
The estimated cost of the measure was about $1 billion annually, largely through the expansion of offender-treatment programs.
The measure was backed by the same people who sought changes in the state’s three-strikes law back in 2004.

Proposition 6: Funding for law enforcement, crackdown
on gangs
Yes: 30.5 percent
No: 69.5 percent
Voters sent mixed messages on law and order issues this week, rejecting Proposition 5 and 6, while passing Proposition 9.
Proposition 6 would have allocated more money for state and local law enforcement, and a crackdown on criminal gangs and gang-related offenses. The measure requires $965 million in state funding – directly from the state’s General Fund – for police and sheriff’s agencies, prosecutors, parole offices, jails and juvenile halls. The funding would be pegged to the Consumer Price Index, which means it could rise in future years.

It also adds time to prison sentences for some offenses, such as a 10-year enhancement for use of a possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, in some cases, and adds to the length of sentences in some car-theft cases, and for possession and trafficking in methamphetamine. It requires the development of databases to target gangs, imposes a 10-year sentence increase on gang members for violent felonies and provides GPS gear to monitor gangs, sex offenders and others.

Proposition 7:

Solar and Clean Energy
Yes: 35 percent
No: 65 percent
This year’s ballot featured a pair of environmental initiatives opposed by most environmental groups. And in the end, both measures were easily defeated.

Proposition 7, known as “Big Solar,” was put on the ballot with $7.25 million from Peter Sperling, the son of the founder of the University of Phoenix. The bad blood flowed early, with meetings between clean energy groups and the sponsors degenerating into confrontations. Prop. 7 would boost California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements to 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025. But opponents say it is badly written—for instance, excluding small-scale solar arrays, which should be one of the most scalable technologies, from counting towards the RPS. Much of the oversight of the process would move over from the Public Utilities Commission to the California Energy Commission. The main opposition group is Californians Aga
inst Another Costly Energy Scheme, a marriage of convenience joining green groups with huge utilities like PG&E, Sempra and Edison International, who have poured in nearly $30 million. The Yes side, in turn, has made the power company involvement a centerpiece of their campaign.

Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry
Yes: 52.1 percent
No: 47.9 percent

This initiative received national attention, as more than $80 million poured into the battle over same-sex marriage in California. The state became the focal point of the national struggle over gays’ and lesbians’ right to marry after the state Supreme Court ruled a voter-approved ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The race was emotionally charged, including a late ad from opponents of Proposition 8 which featured Mormon missionaries ransacking the home of a lesbian couple. The commercial was referencing huge new contributions coming from Mormon groups to pass Proposition 8. Ultimately, the Yes side won the battle over messaging, pivoting the focus away from gay rights and on to what children may be forced to learn about in school.

The initiative’s passage was also a setback for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is exploring a run for governor. Newsom was turned into the poster child of the No on 8 movement by the Yes campaign, as the campaign used a Newsom speech on the issue repeatedly in its television and radio spots.

Proposition 9: Crime
victims rights
Yes: 53.3 percent
No: 46.7 percent
This was the crime initiative that did pass. Proposition 9 will alter the state constitution and expand the rights of families of the victims of violent crime.

The measure requires officials to provide victims with notice about the criminal’s – or alleged criminal’s – passage through the judicial system. The victim would be notified, and allowed to offer input, about bail, sentencing, parole, pleas and release from custody. The proposition places victim safety as its primary goal, and increases the number of people allowed to attend and testify on behalf of victims at  hearings. It also reduces the number of people that the prisoner is allowed.

Over the years, a number of victims’ rights groups have evolved in California, in part because of the perception that the judicial system deals too leniently with criminals. The measure was developed in part by Henry Nicholas III, a wealthy high-tech businessman, whose sister, a college student, was murdered years ago by her boyfriend.

Supporters of Proposition 9 say the measure will protect victims by alerting them when criminals are released, require judges to take victim safety into account, allow victims to prevent release of confidential information to criminal defendants, blocks the release of prisoners to alleviate prison overcrowding and curtails the number of prisoners’ parole hearings. The backers include the head of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.

 Opponents note that Proposition 9 was financed almost entirely by Nicholas, who had personal reasons for putting the measure before voters. A number of the provisions of Proposition 9 already exist in California law, such as the rights for victims to be heard throughout the legal process, which was approved by voters earlier. They also note that California has some of the strictest parole laws in the nation. For example, they say the annual parole rate for those convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter, for example, is less than 1 percent of those eligible for 20 years.

Proposition 10: Alternative Fuels
Yes: 40.1 percent
No: 59.9 percent
Despite the recent push for green technology, California voters were in no mood to experiment with Proposition 10. The measure would have allocated $5 billion from the state’s general fund towards renewable energy research and promoting cleaner cars. But the main sponsor is Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CEF)—a company owned by billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, the man behind the infamous “Swift Boat” ads that helped sink Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. If that wasn’t enough to sour environmentalists on their measure, many also say it would amount to a huge giveaway to the Picken’s company. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles would get a huge subsidy under Prop. 10, even though many environmentalists say they won’t be a major part of the state’s path towards limited greenhouse gas emission. CEF, which is one of the leading suppliers of CNG vehicles and related technology, has given $3.7 million to support the measure. So far, there hasn’t been much organized—or funded—opposition. The Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups have been trying to draw attention to the measure. A No on Proposition 10 has formed and gathered $125,000 from labor unions and others.

Proposition 11: Redistricting
Yes: 50.6 percent
(4,503,899 votes)
No: 49.4 percent
(4,414,018 votes)
At long last, it looks like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gotten his redistricting reform measure – even if many view Proposition 11 as half-a-loaf. This measure will take the power of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of the state Legislature.

But unlike past redistricting plans which have been rejected by voters, the map making process for Congressional districts is not impacted by Proposition 11. The Legislature will continue to draw the Congressional maps.

But now, map-making for the Legislature and Board of Equalization will be handed over to a new, 14-member commission. The commission would consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four members not affiliated with either party. Commission members may not have been political candidates for any state or federal office, may not be lobbyists and may not have contributed more than $2,000 to any one political candidate.

The initiative will return the idea of  “nesting” two Assembly districts within one Senate district. But nesting would be done “to the extent possible, without conflicting with other criteria.”

Divisions exist over how much impact, if any, Proposition 11 will have on legislative races and districts. But now, the process-oriented reformers of California government will have a chance to see.

Proposition 12
Veterans Bond
Yes: 63.4 percent
No: 36.6 percent
California voters opted to extend the popular Cal-Vet program, which eases veterans’ ability to purchase homes. This measure was placed on the ballot after unanimous votes in both the state Assembly and state Senate. Proposition 12 will provide $900 million for loans to help veterans purchase homes or farms.

The bond is the latest in the Cal-Vet program, which first received funding from state voters in 1921. The bond money is used by the state Dept. of Veterans affairs to purchase homes, which are then sold to veterans. Veterans pay their monthly payments to the department, instead of a bank.

Unlike other bond measures on the ballot, this one had wide support from Republicans as well as Democrats. The ballot arguments in favor of Prop. 12 were authored by three current and former Republican Assemblymembers – Mark Wyland, Greg Aghazarian and Tony Strickland.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: