Upfront: California choices

Your clip-and-save guide to the Pacific Sun's 2016 state props endorsements

On November 8, you’ll see a variety of state issues on the ballot—everything from a ban on single-use plastic bags to marijuana legalization to a repeal of the death penalty. Here are our recommendations for each.

Proposition 51

Funding for K-12 school bonds and community college facilities

If passed, this law would create a $9 billion bond to improve and build public schools. Schools are still recovering from the budget crisis of 2008, and this measure will go a long way to addressing overdue facility needs. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 52

Voter approval of hospital-fee program

This reasonable proposition continues a fee program at hospitals to help ensure we get federal matching dollars for Medicaid funds. It would reform current practices by requiring voter approval of any use of these funds for other purposes. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 53

Voter approval of state projects that cost more than $2 billion

Government waste and boondoggles are far too common, but hindering major infrastructure improvements through general-election approval is a recipe for delay and potentially greater costs for needed projects. A better idea is to elect politicians who will spend our money wisely. Recommendation: No

Proposition 54

Conditions under which legislative bills can be passed

A yes vote on Proposition 54 is a yes for open government and transparency. The proposal would prohibit passage of any bill that hasn’t been in print or posted online for at least 72 hours. All legislative proceedings would also have to be recorded, posted online and available for free. Democracy thrives in the daylight and dies in the dark. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 55

Extension of personal income tax for those making over $250,000 to fund education and healthcare

Proposition 30 of 2012 levied a sales and income tax to help California schools dig out from the effects of the great recession. The tax is scheduled to end, but Proposition 55 would extend it for those making more than $250,000 (1.5 percent of the population) to continue to pay for schools and public health projects. That is reneging on the terms of Proposition 30, but California’s school and health system are still in need. California’s tax system is in need of an overhaul, but in the meantime, asking the 1.5 percent to help pay for these worthy causes is reasonable. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 56

Increase cigarette tax by $2 a pack

Smoking exacts a huge cost on public health—$3.5 billion a year for Medi-Cal patients in California. This proposed tax on tobacco products and e-cigarettes would fund anti-tobacco education and healthcare. If you don’t like the tax, don’t smoke. Recommendation: Yes.

Proposition 57

Reform criminal sentencing, parole and juvenile proceedings

Is prison meant to be simply punitive or should it also offer chances for rehabilitation and parole? We believe in the latter. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing Proposition 57 as a way to alleviate prison overcrowding by incentivizing good behavior. The other part of the law makes juvenile offenders subject to state courts, not prosecutors. We believe judges, not overzealous prosecutors, should decide when a youth should be tried as an adult. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 58

Bilingual education in public schools

Proposition 58 would repeal 1998’s Proposition 227, a one-size-does-not-fit-all ban on bilingual education. Proposition 58 returns the decision on how to teach English-language learners to school districts, where it belongs. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 59

State Legislature opposition to Citizens United

True, this proposition doesn’t have any real teeth. It’s merely an advisory measure that urges state legislators to use their power to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the rotten Citizens United case of 2010 that allows unfettered corporate money in our elections. So it’s a symbolic gesture that costs nothing, but it sends a strong message. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 60

Require use of condoms in pornographic films

This sounds like a great idea, right? But why do both the California Republican and Democratic parties, the San Francisco Green Party, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Dan Savage oppose it? Because it’s poorly written and it’s not about public health, but costly, free-for-all litigation. As written, the law would allow anyone in the state to sue anyone connected with porno films. No other workers can be sued this way. And why should the public be involved in porn regulation anyway? Recommendation: No

Proposition 61

Prescription-drug price regulation

The proposal seeks to rein in drug costs by prohibiting state agencies from buying prescription drugs at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Supporters have spent $14 million to the $108 million opponents have spent. It’s on track to be the most expensive ballot proposition in U.S. history. Most of the opposing campaign contributions were made by pharmaceutical companies. If Big Pharma is against it, it means they’re out to protect their profits. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 62

Repeal the death penalty

The death penalty is a failure. It’s more costly than life in prison. It’s inhumane. It’s unjust. And it’s not a deterrent to crime. It’s time to kill it. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 63

Background checks for ammunition purchases

If you’re going to do a background check for a gun purchase, it makes sense to do the same for buying bullets. And no one should be able to buy a gun if they’ve been convicted of stealing a gun. That’s also part of Proposition 63. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 64

Legalization of marijuana

A good idea, but there are too many details to work out and the timing is not right. (See our feature story for more details). Recommendation: No

Proposition 65

Tax on plastic bags for environmental projects

This ridiculous proposed law from the plastic-bag industry is like putting a tax on bullets to help pay for injuries caused by bullet wounds. A better idea would be to ban the environmental scourge altogether, as Proposition 67 seeks to do. Don’t be fooled. Recommendation: No

Proposition 66

Reform death penalty procedures

Speeding up the appeals process is a costly band-aid for a broken system. Vote yes on Proposition 62 instead. Recommendation: No

Proposition 67

Ban plastic bags

Petroleum-based plastic bags contribute to climate change, clog landfills for eternity and choke our oceans and waterways, where marine creatures mistake them for food and die slow deaths. It’s time for them to go. Recommendation: Yes

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