California ballot measures hold opportunities for advance as well as reversal
Citizens wait to vote in Belvedere Park polling booth in East Los Angeles, Nov. 2, 2010. | Damian Dovarganes/AP

This is the second of a two-part article highlighting the major races of the November elections in the state of California. In Part 1, the major state and federal campaigns are covered. Here, the measures and bonds that will be on the ballot for voters’ consideration are analyzed.

Californians can be a rowdy people. It is relatively easy, compared to other states, to get statewide measures on the ballot. For that reason, it has what is reportedly the longest Constitution in the world.

This November, the ballot contains 12 measures, except that number 9, a proposition to divide California into three separate states, has been removed by order of the state Supreme Court. Other measures affect the environment, jobs, housing, healthcare, property taxes, and more.

Here’s a rundown, by the numbers, of what Californians will see on their ballot when they enter the booth on November 6.

1. Authorize Bonds to Fund Specified Housing Assistance Programs. If this $4 billion measure is passed, it would authorize distributing bonds to finance various existing housing programs and new low-income housing, and pay for infrastructure and public services such as transportation, parks, and recreation. One-fourth of the amount is earmarked for the Cal-Vet Loan Program, providing home loans to veterans.

2. Authorize Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Programs for Individuals with Mental Illness. This bond would fund the program No Place Like Home in order to ensure the efficient and timely development of supportive housing for the mentally ill. This measure seeks to resolve a legal challenge made to a 2016 legislative housing bond with a new tax on millionaires.

3. Fund Projects for Water Supply and Quality. Since California is often subject to severe drought, monies from this $8.9 billion bond would help to preserve safe drinking water and use various wastewater recycling operations, improve groundwater sustainability and conservation programs, along with preserving the native California fish population.

4. Fund Construction at Hospitals Providing Children’s Health Care. This $1.5 billion in bonds will be used for constructing, expanding, or remodeling the pediatric program of any eligible California hospital.

5. Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer Their Property Tax Base to Replacement Property. The wordy title belies a simple proposition: to protect and expand the infamously harmful Proposition 13 of 1978. Prop 13 capped property taxes until the property was sold. That included commercial property as well as homes, even though the value of property has skyrocketed in the last 40 years. Prop 13 has kept taxes low, depriving the state of resources it needs for schools, healthcare, environmental protection, etc. If you sell your home that you have occupied for a long time and paid low taxes on it, and you buy a new home in California, you will pay a higher property tax bill, as your new home is assessed at current market value. This measure is—not surprisingly—backed by the California Association of Realtors, and would allow some homeowners to transfer their Prop 13 tax savings on the old house to their new one. Thus the underpayment of property gets passed from house to house, from generation to generation, a boondoggle for the rentier class, allowing wealth to further accumulate among families that already have means.

6. Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding. In 2017, legislation passed by the legislature increased California’s gas tax and vehicle fees to fund transportation improvements—potholes and such—to raise projected revenue of about $5 billion a year for 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown argued that California continues to grow at a very fast rate, and the added funds should be made available for the state’s infrastructure. Not satisfied with recalling Sen. Josh Newman (see ‘Gas tax recall’ in Part 1), Republicans seized on this issue as a populist rallying cry and placed a repeal of the tax on the ballot for voters to decide. Many have observed that in such a blue state, a measure like this is designed to pull out Republican voters—who will also loyally send their Trumpist representatives back to Congress.

7. Conforms California Daylight Saving Time (CDST) to Federal Law. This measure would make DST permanent. If approved, the state would become the first in the nation to enjoy year-round DST, with no need to turn clocks back and forth twice a year. The argument for it is that with more daylight in the evening hours there would be fewer car accidents and more time for people to spend outdoors. If passed, the measure would go to the state legislature for approval, and then it would need a Congressional waiver.

8. Regulates the Amount Outpatient Kidney Dialysis Units Can Charge for Dialysis Treatments. For many people, dialysis is an absolutely necessary procedure. In order for those who may not have the income to pay for it, insurance companies would be regulated so as not to have the authority to turn down the working-class poor. Healthcare unions are promoting this measure as a means of capping profits at 115 percent of the cost of care for patients with kidney problems as one way of trying to bring healthcare costs under control, especially for our most needy.

10. Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Many working families are having to pay as much as two-thirds of their take-home wages for rent. That leaves little money for other vital necessities. This measure would free California cities to expand rent control by repealing the landlord-friendly Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prevents cities from enacting rent control on new buildings and allows property owners to raise the rent to market rate when a tenant vacates the apartment. A legislative bill repealing Costa-Hawkins failed to pass earlier in the year, so this measure is the people’s response. In the face of a disastrous housing crisis exacerbated by the emergence of Airbnb units being taken out of the rental market, the entire progressive community in California is behind Measure 10. If it passes, it will be enacted the day after the voters’ approval.

11. Requires Private Sector Emergency Employees to Remain On Call During Work Breaks, While Eliminating Certain Employer Liability. In 2016, the California Supreme Court ruled that requiring EMT workers to remain on-call while on meal and rest breaks was unconstitutional. This measure proposes to revert to past practice and require such private-sector workers and paramedics to remain on-call through their entire shift.

12. Establishes New Standards for Confinement of Special Farm Animals. Also Bans Sale of Non-Complying Products. This act is intended to reduce cruel confinement practices for farm animals, such as pigs, cows, goats, poultry, and sometimes horses. It would ban the sale of meat and eggs taken from animals with insufficient square footage enclosure. A calf, for example, must have at least 43 square feet of floor space.

One problem with bonds is that they are held by Wall Street banks, which profit—exorbitantly, we could say—from such public works. Californians, like other Americans, are beginning to talk about establishing a state bank, or even municipal banks, so that the income is retained in-state and redirected back into state projects. But these discussions are only tentative so far.

The Secretary of State’s site to see this year’s qualified statewide ballot measures can be accessed here.


Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon, People’s World Cultural Editor, wrote a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein and co-authored composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography. He has received numerous awards for his People's World writing from the International Labor Communications Association. He has translated all nine books of fiction by Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese, available from International Publishers NY.

Jo Allen-Eure
Jo Allen-Eure

Jo Allen-Eure writes from Los Angeles.