A guide to the California, Los Angeles propositions

Gore Vidal famously said, “Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for president. One hopes it is the same half.” 

Turnout for recent nonpresidential year elections has been notoriously low in Los Angeles, and predictions are that the upcoming Nov. 4 election could suffer the same fate. And yet, as can be seen in the following summaries of the propositions on the ballot, significant matters are at stake. 


Proposition 1 — Water Bond 

Proposition 1 allows for the sale of $7.5 billion in general obligation bonds — $7.1 billion in new bonds and $425 million in unsold bonds — to pay for state and local water supply and water quality projects. 

The goal is to begin to shift the state off snowpack — currently the largest water source — and toward local, sustainable sources. With climate change threatening snowfall and groundwater sources dangerously low, this measure would begin to shift the burden away from California’s aging water infrastructure. 

In addition to allotting $2.7 billion to water storage projects, including possibly dams and reservoirs, Proposition 1 allocates roughly $1.5 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and $900 million for groundwater contamination cleanup. 

Also included in the $7.5 billion is money for water treatment and water recycling systems.

However, Proposition 1 does not earmark specific projects. It calls for grants to be made by competition, and in most cases local governments would be required to provide matching funds. 

The bond would cost taxpayers about $360 million annually over the next 40 years, though local governments would likely save money on water-related projects in the coming decades. 

Supporters say this proposition would increase California’s water storage capacity, clean up contaminated sources and safeguard water for farms. The bill passed the state legislature nearly unanimously and is supported by both major parties, The Nature Conservancy and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Opponents, including numerous environmental and fishing groups, contend that Proposition 1 undermines the public trust doctrine, does little for near-term drought relief and rushes in a new era of dam construction. 

Proposition 2 — State Budget Reserves

The measure would require annual transfers of 1.5 percent of general fund revenues to the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” officially known as the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA), and would allow the fund to grow to 10 percent of the general fund, or roughly $11 billion (from an existing maximum of around $8 billion). Once the maximum is reached, the annual transfer would instead be used to fund local infrastructure projects.

Support for Proposition 2 is as close as California has come in recent years to unanimous for a proposed measure. Opposed by a number of education reform groups, as well as by Delaine Eastin, former California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Proposition 2 would change the rules for how money is deposited in the BSA.

Beyond making it more difficult for the governor to stop funds from being transferred into the BSA and for the legislature to take funds out of the BSA, which currently have few restrictions, Proposition 2 would require that roughly half of the money apportioned to the fund for the next 15 years be used to pay down the state’s debts.

In addition to general fund revenues, capital gains tax revenues exceeding 8 percent of general fund revenues would also be added to the BSA. 

The one controversial component of the measure is a requirement that capital gains revenues also, under narrow circumstances, be set aside for a separate stabilization fund for public schools. This last stipulation would trigger another law that limits local school districts’ own reserves, forcing some districts to reduce their funds. 

While supporters argue that Proposition 2 would guard schools against deeper cuts, opponents maintain that it creates a double standard, allowing the state to grow its fund while limiting districts’ ability to do the same, perhaps resulting in deep cuts for districts in dire financial straits. 

Proposition 45 — Health Care Insurance Rates 

Backed by Santa Monica-based consumer interest group Consumer Watchdog, Proposition 45 would require individual and small-group health insurers to receive approval from the California Insurance Commissioner prior to changing rates. 

Consumer Watchdog is the same organization that helped pass Proposition 103 in 1987, making the insurance commissioner an elected position with the authority to veto rate hikes on auto and property insurance. 

Proposition 45 would expand the commissioner’s oversight to the health insurance industry, though the current proposal would not apply to employer large-group plans.

Supported by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer as well as the California Democratic Party, the proposition would require insurers to submit a statement to the commissioner swearing to the accuracy of their information, and to provide public notice and hearings on rate changes. 

Additionally, it would forbid auto, health and homeowner insurers from determining eligibility or rates based on prior coverage or credit history. 

Fearing potential financial losses from further regulation, insurance companies are spending big money to try to defeat Proposition 45. Kaiser Permanente alone has contributed $15 million to opposition campaigns, and Wellpoint has given about $13 million.

Some opponents to Proposition 45 object because it was written prior to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) taking effect in California, meaning that it does not take into consideration how the timetable for Covered California’s negotiations with insurers would be affected by the commissioner’s new veto power.

Asked about this concern, Consumer Watchdog President and Chairman of the Board Jamie Court responded, “There is a one-year window to get rates to market and get them approved, and it happens in 35 other states. Why can’t it happen here? This is window dressing by the insurance companies.”

Throughout the campaign, the insurer-funded opposition has repeatedly been accused of making misleading statements, including referring to Covered California as an “independent commission.” 

While true that Covered California is an independent organization within the state government, the governor and the state legislature appoint its board members. 

However, those who oppose the current proposition believe that it puts too much power in the hands of one politician. 

The Legislative Analyst’s office estimates the fiscal impact of the bill in the low millions, to be funded from new fees paid by the insurers. 

Proposition 46 — Medical Safety and Lawsuits

This year, the most costly and controversial ballot fights are over regulation of the health-care industry. The second of two is Proposition 46, which is backed by consumer attorneys, patient-rights advocates and Consumer Watchdog, and bundles together a few distinct items. 

First, it would require clinics and hospitals to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on the doctors they employ, and that positive tests be reported to the state’s medical board. It would also mandate tests within 24 hours of an “adverse event” at a clinic or hospital.

Second, in an effort to crack down on “doctor shopping,” Proposition 46 would compel doctors to check CURES, a statewide patient drug history database created in 1997, prior to prescribing certain substances with a history of consumer misuse.

Finally, and most controversially, Proposition 46 increases the cap from medical malpractice lawsuits on noneconomic damages, also known as quality-of-life damages. The current cap of $250,000 was set by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975. This proposal would link the 1975 cap to inflation, effectively increasing it to about $1.1 million (though that amount would fluctuate year to year). 

The Legislative Analyst’s office estimates the cost to state and local governments of the proposition could range from tens of millions of dollars to several hundred million dollars annually. However, it also estimates that those governments would save an uncertain amount from the drug and alcohol testing and prescription drug provisions of the proposition.  

Asked why it made sense to bundle these three items into a single proposition, Consumer Watchdog’s Court responded, “It’s all about patient safety. It’s about detection of impaired doctors, curbing of reckless prescribing and access to justice for victims of both, so that there is deterrence and dangerous doctors don’t keep practicing.” 

Dr. Noachim Marco, incoming chief medical officer of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, agrees that the stated goals of this proposition have value, but he takes issue with how the law is written. 

Asked about the testing stipulation, Marco noted that doctors would be compelled to take drug and alcohol tests within 24 hours “regardless of whether their actions had anything to do with the event, regardless of whether they were even working when the event was recognized, or were on vacation. Failure to do so would lead to suspension of that doctor’s license.”

He also said the CURES database has been underfunded and underutilized since coming online. It is currently only voluntary for doctors, and tens of thousands of health-care providers have yet to sign up for the system.

So, though Proposition 46 would require doctors to begin using the CURES database the day after the election, the law includes no funding to assist in the processing of applications.

“I don’t currently have access to the database,” Marco said. “This means that if I need to prescribe pain medication for an elderly patient at the Jewish Home, I will be put in the unfair position of having to choose between what’s best for my patient, which involves breaking the law, and doing what’s legally obligated of me, which involves denying my patient the medication they need.”

A few doctors have expressed concern regarding the state mandating how they practice medicine, and the No On 46 campaign has repeatedly claimed that CURES is particularly vulnerable to security threats.

However, the reality is that, to date, the CURES database has never been breached. The statistic cited in commercials funded by the No On 46 campaign — that 4.5 million patients’ data was recently stolen from hospital networks — is not from CURES, but rather from an announcement by Community Health Systems, a national, publicly traded hospital operator. 

“There has never been a breach of CURES database,” Court wrote in an email. “By contrast, the hospitals that have opposed us have been breached 10 million times.” This last statistic does not refer to the number of individual occurrences of unauthorized access, but rather to the number of records breached at facilities affiliated with groups funding the No On 46 campaign. 

While consumer and physician groups are actively involved in the debate, much of the financing for the two campaigns has come from ancillary groups — insurers who oppose the measure because they stand to pay more in damages, and malpractice lawyers who support the measure because higher damages mean higher pay. 

“Most people agree drug-testing doctors could be a good idea, that asking doctors to use the CURES database to ensure they are prescribing appropriately could be good,” Marco said. “Unfortunately this proposition is so poorly written to address those issues that I think they are only using them as a smokescreen designed to get more money to the trial attorneys.”

Conversely, some trial attorneys assert that the current cap is not high enough to make malpractice cases financially worthwhile. 

Although increasing the cap would incentivize lawyers to take on more malpractice claims, there is also worry that quadrupling the cap all at once would force doctors and hospitals to purchase larger insurance policies, perhaps driving them out of practice. And yet, supporters of the measure point out that states that have raised their caps have not reported this effect. 

Proposition 47 — Reducing Criminal Penalties

At its worst, California’s prison system was filled with inmates to almost twice its design capacity. In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the system in a state of emergency, and in 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the overcrowding was unconstitutional. 

After years of fighting court rulings requiring the state to drastically reduce its prison population, a three-judge panel finally offered a reprieve, providing two extra years, until February 2016, to lower overcrowding to 137.5 percent of design capacity. 

Proposition 47 would reduce felony sentences to misdemeanors for a range of nonviolent crimes, including drug possession and petty theft. It would also open a three-year period in which inmates serving felony convictions for these same crimes could apply for consideration for reduced sentences. 

“Prop. 47 is the sort of common-sense reform that is difficult to oppose. Once people actually learn the effects of the law, they tend to get behind it,” said Evan Kuluk, an attorney in the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s office who is also on the San Francisco Bay Area regional council of progressive, Jewish organization Bend the Arc.

“It is important for us to shift our priorities to address the root causes of incarceration by investing in mental-health and substance-abuse treatment,” Kuluk said.

The state estimates that up to 10,000 felons would be released from its prisons. However, the reduced sentencing would not apply if a person had previously been convicted of a crime such as rape, murder or child molestation.

Opponents of the measure, including the California Police Chiefs Association and the California District Attorneys Association, contend that the release of so many inmates would put the citizens of California at serious risk. 

The resultant reduction in the prison population would save the state an estimated $150 million to $200 million annually. The County of Los Angeles also stands to save a few hundred million dollars annually. 

The current measure would allocate money the state saves to a new Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund, to be used on schools, drug-treatment and mental-health programs, and crime victims.

Proposition 47 is supported by the California Democratic Party, an assortment of the major unions, the Children’s Defense Fund of California and the League of Women Voters of California, among others.

Proposition 48 — Indian Gaming Agreements

Proposition 48 will either ratify or overturn gaming agreements between the state and the North Folk Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe. 

If passed, the agreement would permit the North Fork Indians to build a new, 2,000-slot-machine casino in Madera County, about 38 miles from the tribe’s reservation and closer to major roads and Central Valley communities. 

In 2005, the North Fork Tribe sought permission from the federal government to acquire the 305 acres of land and put it into trust. The federal government lent its support for the site in 2011, and California Gov. Jerry Brown formally agreed in 2012.

As a part of the agreement, the North Fork Tribe would make a one-time payment of between $16 million and $35 million to local governments in the Madera County region to pay for costs related to the operation of a new casino. This initial reimbursement would be followed by annual payments of $10 million over the next 20 years.

Approval of Proposition 48 would also ratify a compact between the state and the Wiyot Tribe. The tribe would agree not to build its own casino on its tribal land near an environmentally sensitive region of Humboldt County. 

In exchange, the Wiyot Tribe would receive between 2.5 and 3.5 percent of annual slot-machine revenue from the new North Fork casino, estimated at around $6 million for each of the next 20 years. 

Although a few public officials oppose the measure, including Sen. Feinstein and Madera County Supervisor David Rogers, most of the financing for the oppositional campaign has come from California tribes that already have casinos and are alarmed by possible competition. 

Some opponents are worried that the North Fork casino would inspire other tribes to build casinos outside their reservations, closer to highways and populated communities. 


Measure P — Safe Neighborhood and Parks 

Added to the ballot by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Measure P levies an annual, per-parcel tax of $23 for 30 years to fund neighborhood park improvement, gang prevention, youth and senior recreation, and wildlife preservation.  

Measure P replaces the expiring Proposition A, approved by voters in 1992. However, unlike Proposition A, the current measure levies a flat, regressive tax. Also unlike Proposition A, Measure P is not itemized. It splits use of a large portion of the funds evenly among the five county supervisors. 

Of the estimated $52 million Measure P would produce annually, 20 percent would be for local cities and unincorporated county areas, 30 percent for county projects and open space, 15 percent for county parks, 15 percent for maintenance and the rest divided among a variety of local sources. 

Almost all local organizations and officials support Measure P. The most significant opposition has come from the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which opposes the measure because the Board of Supervisors wrote it behind closed doors, only informing the public a few days prior to placing it on the ballot. 


Rental Unit Registration Fee Amendment 

If passed, this amendment would gradually raise the annual controlled rental unit registration fee from $174.96 to $288 for owners. 

It also forbids landlords from passing along more than 50 percent of this fee to their renters, limiting the tenants’ share to $12 per month.

Opponents to the measure argue that the Rent Board already has an excessive budget, and that this increase will allow board members to further raise their high salaries.  

Voter Approval of Airport Development Initiative 

This initiative amends Santa Monica’s city charter to require voter approval prior to any changes made to land use at the Santa Monica Airport.

Recent proposals by the airport’s board of commissioners and the Santa Monica City Council to close or partially close the airport spurred the initiative. 

The chief proponent of the measure is a group called the Community Against Airport Traffic, which is largely funded by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

They argue that the airport adds $275 million per year to the local economy and could be an essential resource in the event of a local disaster.  

Opponents counter that downsizing or closing the airport would diminish pollution, noise and traffic, and would increase property values in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Groups such as Community Against Airport Traffic and Airport 2 Park claim that the initiative is written in such a manner that it could keep the airport from adjusting its prices in the future.

Complaints of noise pollution have become increasingly common in recent years, and there is growing support among local residents for a plan to turn part or all of Santa Monica Airport into a public park.

California Jewish Voters Guide: Views on state and local issues split on party lines

The presidential race is garnering most of the headlines, but there’s plenty of emotional energy — and money — left to lavish on the 12 statewide propositions on the California ballot, plus various city and county initiatives.

As in the top of the ballot contest between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, the Jewish community is sharply split between the Democratic/liberal majority and the Republican/conservative minority.

For views on the left side, The Journal checked out the recommendations of the statewide Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), with comments by its president, Douglas Mirell.

On the right side, the Republican Jewish Coalition of California is not taking an official stand on the propositions, with a single, notable exception, but the organization’s founder, Bruce Bialosky, filled in the gap. Bialosky made clear that he was speaking for himself but indicated that most Jewish Republicans of his acquaintance share his preferences.

Five of the propositions would obligate the state to issue new bonds or borrow money, largely for health, transportation and environmental projects, and here the philosophical differences between the two sides emerge clearly. PJA supports three of the five measures, while Bialosky opposes them all.

“There may be many worthy projects, but I’m voting against every measure that requires new bonds or raises taxes,” Bialosky said. “Like any family, the state has to live within its means. If any problem is really so pressing, it should be funded through the regular budget.”

Six of the seven remaining propositions are linked to social attitudes toward family values, the environment and the criminal justice system, and again they show distinct ideological differences.

Even when both sides agree in their vote on the same measure, they come to their conclusions from different perspectives.

California Statewide

Proposition 1A — Authorizes $9.95 billion in state bonds to help fund a bullet train between Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Progressive Jewish Alliance: Yes.
The high-speed rail system will assure that our state can meet the challenges of future growth. Mirell expressed concern about increasing state indebtedness, but in this case, as for Propositions 3 and 12, the benefits trumped his reservations.
Bruce Bialosky: No.
California cannot afford any new bonds. Other opponents say that the money would be better spent upgrading existing rail and highway systems or to fund more urgent needs.

Proposition 2 — Bars tight confinement of egg-laying hens and other farm animals as of 2015.
PJA: Yes.
Healthier for human consumers and shows respect for all forms of life.
BB: No.
Generally opposes unnecessary state interference. Other critics say that passage would give out-of-state egg exporters an advantage over California farmers.

Proposition 3 — Authorizes $980 million in bonds to upgrade and expand 13 University of California and nonprofit children’s hospitals.
PJA: Yes.
Critical for ensuring adequate future care for children, regardless of family’s ability to pay.
BB: No.
State cannot afford new bonds and, in any case, should not finance large projects through the initiative process.

Proposition 4 — Requires waiting period and doctor’s notification to parents before terminating a minor’s pregnancy through abortion.
PJA: No.
Would endanger teenagers’ health by limiting access to safe, legal health care.
BB: Yes.
While many of us are pro-choice, we believe that parents have a right to know if their minor daughters are seeking abortions, Bialosky said.
(For a more extensive discussion, see “Abortion Notification Measure Draws Opposition” in The Journal’s Oct. 24 issue.)

Proposition 5 — Allocates $460 million a year in state funds for the treatment of those convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes as an alternative to incarceration.
PJA: Yes.
“We support policies that focus on treatment and education, rather than punishment, as part of our commitment to teshuvah (repentance).”
BB: No.
Critics argue that Proposition 5 would decriminalize drugs and cost taxpayers too much.

Proposition 6 — Increases state funding for criminal justice programs by $365 million to $965 million, boosts penalties for gang activities and extends satellite tracking of sex offenders.
PJA: No.
Money would go mainly to law enforcement agencies and too little for treatment, education and rehabilitation programs.
BB: No.
Requires more state spending with little accountability.

Proposition 7 — Requires public and private utilities to increase the proportion of their electricity derived from renewable sources by certain dates.
PJA: No.
Sounds good but would actually retard the growth of solar and other forms of renewable energies.
BB: No.
Would be unworkable.

Proposition 8 — Amends the state Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman and thus bar same-sex marriages.
This hot-button issue has drawn national attention and donations, with the two sides raising a total of more than $60 million, a record for any ballot measure in the United States this year.
PJA: No.
Defeat of this initiative is PJA’s top priority, because “it would further institutionalize discrimination…. As a people of faith, we are obligated to oppose bigotry and hatred.”
BB: Yes.
This is a particularly hard call, with Jewish Republicans lining up on both sides of the issue, Bialosky said. “It’s horribly unfair to label supporters as bigoted and anti-gay.”

Proposition 9 — Enhances the rights of crime victims and restricts early release of prison inmates.
PJA: No.
Violates the rights of criminal defendants, “including the centrality of the assumption of innocence. Victims’ rights are already protected by California law.”
BB: Yes.

Proposition 10 — Borrows $5 billion, mainly to give rebates to buyers of vehicles fueled by natural gas, hydrogen and other alternative fuels.
PJA: No.
Unnecessary expenditure, which would duplicate government and private efforts already underway.
BB: No.
Digs an even deeper deficit hole.

Proposition 11 — Strips Legislature of decennial task of redrawing districts for elective state offices and gives the job to a bipartisan 14-member commission. Most analysts believe that passage of Proposition 11 would raise the number of Republicans elected to the state Senate and Assembly and lower the number of Democrats.
PJA: Neutral.
Committee members split on this issue and made no official recommendation. However, Mirell, speaking for himself, urged a no vote. He argued that the measure would not prevent the regular legislative gridlock in Sacramento. “The root of the problem lies in term limits for legislators and the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass the budget,” he said.
Republican Jewish Coalition: Yes.
In a rare exception to its policy of no endorsement, the coalition is backing Proposition 11.
For Bialosky, this measure is the most important one on the ballot and would unclog the logjam in Sacramento. “I’m not saying this for partisan advantage,” he declared. “I believe every state in the union should adopt the same system, regardless of which party is in power.”

Proposition 12 — Issue $900 million in bonds for low-cost loans to California veterans to buy homes or farms.
PJA: Yes.
Veterans would benefit and mortgage payments would cover bond costs.
BB: No.
Reaffirms his opposition to all bond measures or tax increases.
In addition to the statewide propositions, what follows are positions on selected county, municipal and school issues.
PJA did not take a stand on these local measures, but Mirell said he supports all — with two exceptions — on the grounds that they are needed to upgrade our quality of life, education and transportation.
Without exception, Bialosky opposes all but one, reasoning that they cost too much money, are not needed or represent unwarranted government intrusion.

No on Prop. 8 Video: Following the landmark California Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex couples to legally marry, members of Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world’s original lesbian & gay synagogue, took them up on it… in droves. Rabbi Lisa Edwards of BCC officiated at most of these ceremonies, an approximate total of 42 couples between June 17 and Election Day. The song is Since Youve Asked, written by Judy Collins, sung by Dan Fogelberg.

City of Los Angeles

Proposition A — Adds $36 in taxes annually for each property for after-school and anti-gang programs.

Proposition B — Permits city to use money from previously passed propositions to authorize the construction of 52,500 new affordable housing units, many of them for the elderly.

Los Angeles County

Measure R — Increases the sales tax by 0.5 percent to 8.75 percent to raise $30 billion to $40 billion for road improvements and mass transit.

Los Angeles Community College District

J — Authorizes $35 billion in bonds to upgrade facilities and expand educational programs.

Los Angeles Unified School District

Q — Authorizes $7 billion in bonds to upgrade facilities, including earthquake safety, and improve job and college preparation.
PJA’s Mirell, who endorses all the preceding measures, said he was undecided on Q because the school district had not made a complete case on how the money would be used.

Beverly Hills

Measure H — Allows the Beverly Hilton Hotel and its owner, Beny Alagem, to build a 12-story Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and two luxury condo towers at its Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards site.
The measure has agitated residents for months, with Alagem wining and dining the citizenry amid charges of voter-buying.
Proponents say the ambitious construction projects would revitalize Beverly Hills and bring more money into the city’s coffers. Opponents, among them bona fide celebrities, foresee traffic jams on an apocalyptic scale.
Although neither are Beverly Hills residents, Bialosky and Mirell have followed the struggle with some interest.
Bialosky supports H on the grounds that a man has a right to build what he wants on his own property.
Mirell said he doesn’t have enough facts for a fair call, but he sees some virtue in high-density development along the city’s main travel routes to encourage construction of a rational transportation system.

Santa Monica
Measure T — Would cap commercial development in the city at about half the current level. Mirell is for the measure and Bialosky against it.