California voters have 12 propositions on the November ballot to untangle. Here’s a primer on what you need to know before casting your votes.
Proposition 14: Stem cell research
What would it do: Have California continue funding stem cell research, by borrowing up to $5.5 billion, which taxpayers would pay back with interest over the next 30 years.
Supporters say: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s stem cell research has led to clinical trials, biotech jobs, and research toward treatments or cures for ailments affecting half of California families. The measure would dedicate $1.5 billion for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy, and other brain and central nervous system diseases.
Opponents say: We gave it a try, but funding stem cell research didn’t lead to the kind of life-saving cures voters hoped for in 2004. The federal government no longer bans federal dollars from supporting embryonic stem cell research.
Who’s for it: University of California Board of Regents; The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; The Latino Cancer Institute; Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California; Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Who’s against it: Jeff Sheehy, board member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Where’s the money: For: $12,810,328; Against: $250
Proposition 15: Business property taxes
What would it do: Hike property taxes on big businesses, raising billions for schools and local governments. Now, under California’s landmark Proposition 13, owners pay property taxes based on the price they originally paid for their real estate. Prop 15 would tie property taxes for many large businesses to the property’s current, likely higher, market value, netting $6.5 to $11.5 billion — 60% for cities, counties and special districts, and 40% for schools and community colleges. It would not affect homeowners.
Supporters say: Proposition 13 has provided a massive break to some of the state’s larger businesses. If this passes, a small fraction of those would pay the vast majority of the higher taxes.
Opponents say: It would be senseless to pass one of the biggest tax increases in California history in the middle of a cataclysmically bad recession.
Who’s for it: Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom; California Teachers Association; California Democratic Party; Mark Zuckerberg
Who’s against it: California Chamber of Commerce; California Retailers Association; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association; California NAACP
Where’s the money: For: $67,745,755; Against: $55,150,938
Proposition 16: Restoring affirmative action
What would it do: Restore affirmative action in California — illegal here since 1996 — meaning universities and government offices could factor in someone’s race, gender or ethnicity in making hiring, spending and admissions decisions.
Supporters say: California is far more diverse than it was in the mid-1990s, when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson backed propositions to banish affirmative action and deny undocumented immigrants access to public services. Structural racism exists and to preach a color-blind philosophy is to be blind to the impacts of racism.
Opponents say: Allowing schools and government offices to make decisions based on race, ethnicity or sex is its own kind of prejudice. Some Asian-Americans fear their children would be denied spots at coveted UC schools.
Who’s for it: California Community Colleges; University of California; California State University; Gov. Gavin Newsom
Who’s against it: Californians for Equal Rights; Chinese American Civic Action Alliance; Students for Fair Admissions; California Republican Party
Where’s the money: For: $19,978,917; Against: $1,172,604
Proposition 17: Letting parolees vote
What would it do: Allow people on parole in California to vote. The proposition also would allow parolees to run for office if they’re registered to vote and haven’t been convicted of perjury or bribery.
Supporters say: Civic engagement will lead to fewer parolees committing other crimes; it allows them to help remove the stigma of their past.
Opponents say: Voting is a right that offenders should receive once they demonstrate they have been rehabilitated; not before.
Who’s for it: League of Women Voters in California; Gov. Gavin Newsom; Californians for Safety and Justice; Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento
Who’s against it: Crime Victims United of California; Election Integrity Project California
Where’s the money: For: $1,363,887; Against: $0
Proposition 18: Voting at age 17
What would it do: Allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will be 18 and eligible by the next general election.
Supporters say: Allowing teens who would be first-time voters in an election cycle to participate from the beginning could increase interest and voter participation among youth.
Opponents say: Seventeen-year-olds are still kids. They can’t enter into legal contracts, and they still need parent permission for certain activities.
Who’s for it: California Association of Student Councils; Gov. Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla; California League of Conservation Voters; California School Boards Association
Who’s against it: Election Integrity Project California; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Where’s the money: For: $835,064; Against: $0
Proposition 19: Portable property tax break
What would it do: Give Californians 55 or older a big property tax break when buying a new home. Baby Boomers who bought that bungalow down the street right after Woodstock are paying way less in property taxes than the tech yuppies who bought an identical bungalow last year. This proposition would allow the Boomer couple to buy a new house anywhere in the state and retain relatively low property taxes. But if they leave the home to their children or grandchildren, their adult heirs would need to live in the inherited digs to keep the low tax bill.
Supporters say: Proposition 19 will incentivize seniors stuck in oversized homes to downsize, freeing up inventory in the state’s ridiculously expensive housing market.
Opponents say: This is a giveaway to Realtors, who are twisting public policy to boost their commissions.
Who’s for it: California Association of Realtors; California Professional Firefighters; Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Democratic Party; California Nurses Association
Who’s against it: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association; Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Hills)
Where’s the money: For: $42,420,889; Against: $45,050
Proposition 20: Crackdown on crime
What would it do: Increase penalties for certain property crimes and repeated parole violations — and make it more difficult for some convicted felons to qualify for early parole and release from prison.
Supporters say: Californians made a mistake in recent years when they rolled an array of property crimes from felonies down to misdemeanors. It’s triggered a predictable increase in car thefts and shoplifting. Proposition 20 would correct that mistake. Likewise, California law only specifies 23 offenses as “violent felonies” — and child abuse, domestic violence, hate crimes and aggravated assault are not on that list. They should be.
Opponents say: California already tried the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” strategy. It didn’t cut crime, it exploded the state’s prisons budget and it tore apart countless families. This year, with more focus than ever before on how the penal system disproportionately harms Black and Latino Americans, is no time to revert back to a tired, failed approach.
Who’s for it: Democratic Assemblymember Jim Cooper; Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong; California Retailers Association; Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert
Who’s against it: Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Democratic Party; ACLU of California; California Teachers Association; Chief Probation Officers of California
Where’s the money? For: $4,831,150; Against: $22,149,486
Proposition 21: Rent control
What would it do: Allow cities to pass rent control measures on almost all rental housing, as long as it’s more than 15 years old. Cities still wouldn’t be able to cap rent increases by “mom-and-pop landlords,” who own no more than two small properties such as single-family homes or condos. Voters rejected a similar measure in 2018.
Supporters say: This would let cities pass limits on rent increases to protect California families who are one rent hike away from being driven out of their neighborhoods by corporate landlords.
Opponents say: It would make it less profitable for builders to construct more housing, affordable or not, at a time when California has a massive housing shortage. It would also decrease revenue for city and state governments, already cash-strapped by the pandemic.
Who’s for it: Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation; California Democratic Party; Eviction Defense Network; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Who’s against it: California Apartment Association; Gov. Gavin Newsom; Essex Property Trust and Prometheus Real Estate Group; California Seniors Advocates League
Where’s the money: For: $40,184,953; Against: $60,080,863
Proposition 22: Gig worker benefits
What would it do: Exempt gig companies like Uber and Lyft from a new state law requiring them to treat workers as employees.
Since January, state law has required former contract workers in many industries to be classified as employees and offered benefits such as overtime pay, health care, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. If this measure passes, companies that employ drivers through apps — among them, Lyft, Uber, DoorDash and Instacart — would instead keep workers classified as contractors and be able to offer narrower benefits, including pay at least 120% of minimum wage, health care subsidies and accident insurance.
Supporters say: This is a business necessity for gig companies to continue offering drivers work on flexible schedules — and consumers on-demand rides at low prices.
Opponents say: Gig companies undermine job stability and exploit drivers, so their warnings about job cuts are overstated and designed to get regulators to back off. The pandemic is a prime example of why gig workers need the stricter state law.
Who’s for it: Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Doordash; California Chamber of Commerce; California Police Chiefs Association; California NAACP
Who’s against it: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; Service Employees International Union; California Teachers Association; Gig Workers Rising, a driver advocacy organization
Where’s the money: For: $188,937,777; Against: $15,998,269
Proposition 23: Kidney dialysis clinic rules
What would it do: Require kidney dialysis clinics to have at least one physician present during operating hours, and to report infection data to the state. Two years ago, voters rejected a powerful labor union’s ballot initiative to limit the clinics’ profits. This is round two.
Supporters say: Kidney patients deserve better treatment than what they receive from many dialysis clinics, and these high-profit companies haven’t invested enough in patient safety.
Opponents say: The proposition is unnecessary, as clinics already report infection data to the federal government and have the necessary medical staff to keep patients safe.
Who’s for it: Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers; California Labor Federation; California Democratic Party
Who’s against it: DaVita; Fresenius Medical Care; California Medical Association; California State Conference NAACP
Where’s the money: For: $9,587,346; Against: $104,405,156
Proposition 24: More data privacy
What would it do: Expand California’s data privacy law by allowing consumers to see more of the information Big Data collects and create a new state agency for enforcement.
Supporters say: San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart is leading the campaign to expand the law he championed. Proposition 24 would create a system to enforce the privacy law and triple fines on companies that violate kids’ privacy. It would give consumers more control over their most personal data, allow you to shield your precise location from tracking, and give you more ability to sue companies if your data are stolen.
Opponents say: California’s data privacy law is new — it just went into effect this year — so we should see how it plays out. Some of the updates would hurt consumers — delaying a rule that allows workers to find out what information employers collect about them, and making it easier for businesses to charge you more if you don’t let them sell your data.
Who’s for it: Alastair Mactaggart and his wife, Celine (creators of a group called Californians for Consumer Privacy); Common Sense Media (group that promotes safe use of media and technology for children); Consumer Watchdog; Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont
Who’s against it: American Civil Liberties Union; Public Citizen; Consumer Federation of California; Dolores Huerta, labor organizer. (Tech companies are surprisingly quiet about this measure.)
Where’s the money: For: $6,013,651; Against: $48,368
Proposition 25: Abolishing cash bail
What would it do: Transform how people get out of jail while awaiting trial — making California the first state to replace cash bail with an algorithm.
Supporters say: The cash bail system is inherently classist, racist and unfair. People with generational wealth can pay their way out of jail while awaiting trial. Poorer people in the exact same legal circumstances, with the same statistical likelihood to appear — or not appear — for trial cannot afford to pay their way out.
Opponents say: The bail Industry argues we shouldn’t switch something that’s working for an alternative that is no better, and potentially more costly. Civil rights advocates say cash bail is fundamentally flawed, but the factors considered for release will still lead to people of color being held for trial at disproportionate rates.
Who’s for it: Service Employees International Union; California Democratic Party; California Medical Association; Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon
Who’s against it: California State Conference of the NAACP; California Peace Officers’ Association; California Bail Agents Association; Human Rights Watch
Where’s the money: For: $13,446,870; Against: $10,181,122
— to www.mercurynews.com