Once again, it is time for the Valley Dude’s election recommendations and endorsements! Statewide ballot recommendations are below:
California Statewide Initiative Recommendations
Proposition 1 - YES. Proposition 1 is a $4 billion bond measure to fund affordable housing solutions. As I read the initiative, it breaks down the funding into a number of components:
$1.8 billion to build or renovate rental housing projects such as apartment buildings. This would come in the form of providing local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private developers with low-interest loans to fund part of the construction cost. In exchange, projects must reserve units for low-income households for a period of 55 years.
$450 million to build housing near urban transit centers.
$450 million to encourage home ownership for low income buyers, priomarily by down payment assistance through low interest loans and grants.
$300 million for housing for farmworkers.
$1 billion for home loan assistance for veterans.
I must admit, I do have some reservations about this measure - in particular, how will the state administer who receives the funding as well as it is unclear to me what percentage of housing built actually would be reserved for low income residents. That being said, given the acute affordable housing problem in CA, as well as the benefits for veterans, bring me to a yes vote on Prop 1.
Proposition 2 - YES. Currently, about $1.5 to $2.5 billion per year is raised for mental health services and treatment through a 2004 initiative called Prop 63, which imposes a tax on incomes of $1 miillion and above. Proposition 2 would enable $140 million per year of this money to be used to pay for a separate issuance of $2 billion in bonds designed to build housing for those with mental illness and are homeless. There is currently litigation occurring that asserts that Prop 63 funds cannot be used to facilitate housing, only mental services and treatment. This proposition would resolve that dispute and permit Prop 63 funds to be used to pay for the $2 billion housing bond. This seems like a good idea, and another small step in addressing our homeless crisis.
Proposition 3 - NO. Proposition 3 authorizes almost $9 billion in bonds for water projects. Candidly I’m having a lot of trouble digesting a bond measure of this size when two water bond measures were recently approved, Prop 68 this June, a $4 billion parks & water bond (of which 1/3, or about $1.3 billion, was allocated to water), as well as Prop 1 in 2014, a $7.5 billion water bond. Since 2000, voters have approved about $31 billion in water bonds (including the above two bonds) of which about $10 billion is still available to spend. Finally, this Mercury News article gives a good overview of how one person primarily put the bond on the ballot, vs. other water bonds having more public debate. This one smells like a no.
Proposition 4 - YES. Authorizes $1.5 billion in bonds to improve California’s designated children’s hospitals. I can probably spend days writing about how screwed up our health care system is. It’s sad that our state of affairs is such that we are being asked to vote on whether to borrow money to finance health care facilities for children. That being said, we are where we are and existing improvement funds are apparently almost used up. So I’m voting yes.
Proposition 5 - NO! Proposition 5 is a terrible idea. Prop 13 currently lets homeowners over 55 (or who are disabled) keep their artificially low tax assessment when that owner sells and downsizes to a less expensive home. And that exemption can only happen once, the idea being that older folks who want to downsize for income, space, or other reasons are not subject to a Prop 13 tax reset. Prop 5 would permit such homeowners who buy a more expensive home to also keep an artificially low Prop 13 tax assessment. And this can happen an unlimited amount of times. Prop 13 itself has created a lot of fiscal problems for the state, burdening income and sales tax rates, while depriving schools and other essential services of revenue. This just exacerbates the problem in a patently unfair and unjust way. This is an emphatic NO.
Proposition 6 - NO. This proposition repeals the gas tax passed in 2017 to fund much needed transportation infrastructure across the state. Don’t vote for this. We need this funding for our roads, bridges, and tunnels. Remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse 10 years ago? How about the bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy just this year? I used to cross the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan every day, I literally saw the concrete crumbling increase on a daily basis. Vote no.
Proposition 7 - NO. This would put California on permanent daylight savings time. Uh, no.
Proposition 8 - NO. At first glance, this seems like a proposition to vote yes for - after all, who would not support limiting the cost of kidney dialysis? The proposal limits dialysis center revenues to 115% of “allowable costs”. Anything above that gets rebated to the payer of the procedure. Seems like a good idea right? So it’s really tough to offer up a no recommendation here. But here’s why - at least as I read it, a) there’s a huge amount of uncertainty as to how this thing would work, and b) when the payer is Medicare, Medical or a government entity, it appears these entities do not get a rebate.
On the uncertainty side, the measure says it caps revenues at 115% of allowable costs. But these costs have not been specifically defined beyond some examples given such as staff wages are permitted under the calculation of costs but not administrative overhead. It seems the California regulator and the courts would have to promulgate and interpret what these costs would be. Additionally, there’s some arbitrage that could occur - dialysis companies could increase allowable costs thus increasing permitted revenues. Or they could cut non allowable costs, but if overhead admin is not allowable that seems like it might be a problem (e.g., you have to pay your lease, power bill and your office manager). There’s also the bit where the proposition questions its own constitutionality as a potential government taking without just compensation and provides for an adjustment mechanism to get itself into compliance.
On the rebate side, and maybe I’m mis-reading the CA state legislative analysis, but the text of is below, and it really does look like Medicare and government entities do not receive rebates. In fact, if the dialysis companies increase allowable costs to increase revenues, then payers including Medicare are on the hook for higher costs as well which might lead to higher premiums. So all downside for Medicare et. al., while insurance companies get the upside. The whole thing seems really off.
In 2019, the measure requires CDCs each year to calculate the amount by which their revenues exceed a specified cap. The measure then requires CDCs to pay rebates (that is, give money back) to payers, excluding Medicare and other government payers, in the amount that revenues exceed the cap.
Finally, legislating costs via the ballot for one medical procedure seems really odd - something isn’t quite right about this. It’s true we need serious reform of our health care system. This ballot measure is evidence of precisely why we need a true single payer system both statewide and nationally. This type of measure on the ballot is truly symptomatic of how screwed up our system is.
Proposition 10 - YES. Currently the state prohibits local municipalities from regulating rent control for buildings built after Feb. 1, 1995, as well as all single family homes. State regs do require that existing rent control regs also permit a fair rate of return to a landlord. Proposition 10 would repeal the state prohibition on rent control and permit localities to impose rent control for their communities, but still require a fair rate of return for landlords. Vote YES for returning rental housing policy to cities and counties.
Proposition 11 - NO. Proposition 11 would relieve ambulance companies of the obligation to provide uninterrupted work breaks and meal breaks as required by law. Until a 2016 CA Supreme Court decision overturned the practice as a violation of labor law (Agustus v. ABM Security Services), ambulance companies would require employees to be on call during work breaks and meal breaks. Proposition 11 would permit ambulance companies too get around labor law and re-instate the practice. Ambulance crews typically work 12 hour shifts. The companies maintain this practice to reduce labor costs. The price of course is crews that don't truly get rest breaks. Vote NO on this end-run around labor law.
Proposition 12 - YES. Proposition 12 would expand space requirements for confinement of farm animals. As a point of order, I really hate legislating this kind of stuff at the ballot box. But if you're asking me to vote on whether to require more humane animal farm practices, then I'm going to say yes.