Proposition 32 -- Veterans' Bond Act
If passed, Prop 32 would direct the state to sell
$500 million in bonds to provide housing for at least 2,500 veterans. Since 1921
voters have approved a total of $7.9 billion in bonds to finance the veterans' farm
and home purchase program, known as the Cal-Vet program. Most recently, the 2000
Primary ballot included Prop 16, a $50 million bond passed by voters to finance homes
Prop 32 was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers who voted unanimously in favor
of this proposal. Proponents, led by the two legislators who chair the State Senate
and Assembly's Veterans Affairs committees, say that voters should approve this measure
because our veterans deserve help for making sacrifices for our country. Supporters
say the Cal-Vet program has already helped 400,000 veterans, that it is self-supporting
and has no direct cost to taxpayers. Opponents say that bonds are an expensive way
to finance the Cal-Vet program, that the program is not limited to veterans who served
in combat, and that the Cal-Vet program is poorly managed.
As of October 21, no money had been raised to support or oppose this measure.
Proposition 33 -- Legislators' Retirement Benefits
If passed, Prop 33 would allow California lawmakers
to participate in the same retirement programs that are available to other state
government employees through the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS). Lawmakers'
retirement benefits were eliminated in 1990, when California voters passed Prop 140,
an initiative better known for its term limit provisions. Prop 33 is a constitutional
amendment that was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers. The bill to place this
measure on the ballot passed in the Assembly with 57 votes in favor, 12 votes opposed
and 11 abstentions. In the Senate, 27 lawmakers voted in favor, none were opposed,
and 13 abstained from voting.
Supporters -- primarily the leaders of interest groups that do business in the Capitol
-- say that lawmakers need retirement benefits in order to attract working people
to run for office, and that it's not fair that people who commit to public service
are denied the opportunity to save for their future. Opponents include taxpayer groups
and term limit advocates who argue that Prop 33 isn't fair because it allows lawmakers
to become eligible for full retiree health benefits after just ten years, while state
employees become eligible after twenty years. Opponents also believe that giving
lawmakers retirement benefits leads to career politicians and runs counter to the
spirit and intent of Prop 140.
Supporters of Prop 33 have raised $92,000 through October 21, with support coming
from lawmakers as well as professional and labor groups that do business in the Capitol,
while opponents did not report raising any money.
Proposition 34 -- Campaign Financing
If passed, Prop 34 would set limits on campaign contributions
to candidates for state offices and impose other new campaign finance laws. Currently,
there are no limits on contributions to California's legislative and statewide candidates.
State law also does not prohibit direct contributions from corporations and unions,
as is the case with federal campaigns. California voters have passed several campaign
finance initiatives over the years, most recently Prop 208, an initiative that set
strict new campaign finance laws. Prop 208 took effect for a short time but has been
temporarily suspended and is currently tied up in court due to a lawsuit challenging
its contribution limits on the grounds that they are unreasonably low compared to
the cost of running for office in California. The challenge to 208's contribution
limits won't get sorted out until after the November 2000 election.
Prop 34 was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers, and passed in the Assembly with
42 votes in favor and 23 opposed, with mostly Democrats voting in favor and Republicans
voting in opposition. In the Senate, the vote was more bipartisan, with 32 votes
in favor and two votes opposed. Lawmakers were criticized for rushing Prop 34 through
the legislative process in less than two weeks, leaving little opportunity for public
debate or scrutiny.
Prop 34 would limit campaign contributions from individuals and corporations to no
more than $6,000 to a legislative candidate per election cycle (Primary and General
elections combined), starting with the 2002 elections. Limits on contributions to
the Governor would be set at $40,000 per election cycle, while limits for candidates
in other statewide races (such as Treasurer or Attorney General) would be set at
$10,000 per election cycle. Unlike legislative contribution limits, the limits for
statewide races would not take effect until after the 2002 statewide elections.
Prop 34's supporters include lawmakers from both parties and labor unions who say
the measure would set enforceable contribution limits that are tough enough to rein
in special interests and reasonable enough to be upheld in court. Proponents point
out that previous court decisions on contribution limits were taken into account
when Prop 34 was drafted, and that the measure will allow candidates to spend enough
money to campaign effectively without allowing special interests to buy elections.
Prop 34 is opposed by campaign finance reform groups like California Common Cause
and the League of Women Voters. However, their opposition is not featured in the
official Voter Information Guide, because the rules that determine whose ballot measure
arguments get published say that on legislative proposals, arguments submitted by
lawmakers, as opposed to interest groups, get first priority. The reform groups call
Prop 34 "phony reform" because it would repeal Prop 208's stricter contribution
limits and replace them with much higher limits. Opponents claim the measure was
put on the ballot because recent court decisions upholding lower contribution limits
in other states increase the likelihood that Prop 208's limits will also be upheld.
Opponents also criticize Prop 34 for failing to include any restrictions on contributions
to political parties, thereby opening up a "soft money" loophole that they
say renders the contribution limits meaningless.
Should Prop 34 pass it will nullify several key provisions of Prop 208, which is
why it's important for voters to compare the provisions of both measures. Prop 208
set much lower contribution limits than Prop 34 proposes -- $2,000 per election cycle
for statewide candidates and $1,000 per election cycle for legislative candidates
who agree to limit their overall campaign spending.
Besides the differences in contribution limits, there are other important distinctions.
Prop 208's contribution limits apply to local races; Prop 34's do not. Prop 34 would
speed up Internet disclosure of large donations made close to the election, requiring
campaigns to report contributions of $1,000 or more online within 24 hours during
the three months prior to an election. Prop 208 didn't change the disclosure deadlines,
but it does require top donors to be disclosed in ballot measure advertising. Prop
208 says that candidates who agree to a voluntary campaign spending limit would be
eligible to get free space for a candidate statement in the ballot pamphlet. Prop
34 says that a candidate who agrees to a voluntary spending limit would be eligible
to pay for space in a ballot pamphlet, while those who don't would be ineligible
to place a statement in the ballot pamphlet, paid or free. This provision in particular
may be susceptible to a court challenge on the grounds that a candidate's speech
is being limited for refusing to accept a "voluntary" spending limit.
While Prop 34's proponents say it won't be thrown out by the courts, there is no
guarantee that Prop 34, like Prop 208 and every campaign finance reform proposition
before it, won't be challenged in court if passed. There is also no guarantee that
should Prop 34 be defeated and Prop 208's contribution limits are upheld that someone
won't challenge some other provision of Prop 208.
Proponents raised $437,000 through October 21, with support coming from legislators
as well as employee and labor groups that do business in the Capitol. Opponents have
raised $688,000 through October 21, and have received a $501,000 donation from Max
Palevsky, a Los Angeles investor, with additional donations coming from individuals
and organizations that traditionally back campaign finance reform measures.
Proposition 35 -- Public Works Projects
If passed, Prop 35 would amend the state constitution
to permit state and local agencies to contract with private firms on public works
projects, such as building or repairing California's highways. Most local agencies
can already contract with private firms under current law, but state agencies are
allowed to contract with private firms only under certain circumstances, such as
if the work is temporary, highly specialized or technical in nature.
This initiative was placed on the ballot by an organization representing private
engineers and land surveyors, who, if Prop 35 passes, will be eligible to contract
with state agencies on a greater number of public works projects than the law currently
allows. Prop 35 is opposed by the organization representing the state's 11,000 civil
service engineers whose jobs could be threatened if state agencies can more easily
contract with private firms on public works projects.
Basically this measure boils down to a "turf" war between public engineers
and private engineers. Proponents say Prop 35 would speed up the completion of public
works projects, could save the state up to $2.5 billion annually and would give government
more flexibility when choosing a firm to contract with on public works projects.
Opponents say the circumstances under which agencies can contract with private firms
are already broad enough. They predict Prop 35 will cost millions of dollars because
it is written in a way that permits but does not require competitive bidding rules
on public works projects, and warn that opening up public works projects to private
firms will lead to corruption by politicians seeking to return favors to campaign
contributors. The impartial analysis by the Legislative Analyst says the fiscal impact
of this measure is unknown, pointing out that contracting out could be more expensive
or less expensive depending on the project.
Both supporters and opponents are waging well-financed campaigns; supporters raised
$13.5 million through October 21, with a $2.5 million US Bank loan that's guaranteed
by the organization sponsoring Prop 35 ranking as the largest donation, with additional
support coming from engineering firms. Opponents raised $7.7 million through October
21, with most of their money provided by public engineers' political action committees.
Proposition 36 -- Drug Treatment Programs
If passed, Prop 36 would amend state law to say that
first and second time non-violent drug offenders would receive probation and drug
treatment instead of jail time and requires the state to provide funding to counties
for drug treatment programs.
Prop 36 was placed on the ballot by wealthy drug policy reform advocates who also
backed Prop 215, California's medical marijuana initiative which voters enacted in
1996. Supporters argue that drug addiction is a health problem that requires treatment,
not incarceration, and say that Prop 36 is a safe way to treat drug addicts while
at the same time reduce the amount of money spent on prisons in California, noting
that some of the measure's opponents have a vested interest in protecting funding
Prop 36's opponents include nearly every law enforcement organization in the state,
and their most visible spokesman is actor Martin Sheen. Opponents argue that Prop
36 is really an attempt to decriminalize drugs rather than address substance abuse.
They say that drug offenders who use hard drugs like crack or heroin are dangerous
to society, and that it should be left up to judges to decide whether a drug offender
needs treatment or incarceration. Opponents have also criticized the initiative for
not requiring ongoing drug testing to ensure offenders remain drug-free.
Supporters are raising considerably more money than opponents, with a total of $4.2
million raised through October 21. Most of that money has come from three individuals
who have supported drug policy measures in several other states as well -- George
Soros of New York, an international investor and philanthropist; Peter B. Lewis of
Ohio, CEO of the Progressive Corporation (an insurance company); and John Sperling
of Arizona, founder of the University of Phoenix and The Apollo Group, a for-profit
higher education company. Opponents raised $439,000 through October 21; top donors
include San Diego Chargers owner A.G. Spanos and unions and associations representing
police officers, prison guards and district attorneys.
Proposition 37 -- Defining Fees as Taxes
If passed, Prop 37 would redefine certain regulatory
fees as taxes. In California, this is more than a matter of semantics. A regulatory
fee can be imposed by the State Legislature by a simple majority vote, while a tax
requires a two-thirds vote to enact. On the local level, enacting a new tax usually
requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate, while a fee generally does not require
Prop 37 is a constitutional amendment that was placed on the ballot by several alcohol,
tobacco and oil companies that want to make it more difficult for state and local
governments to impose "mitigation fees" by redefining such fees as taxes.
These mitigation fees are imposed as a way to compensate for negative health and
environmental impacts that result from certain products or industries, such as requiring
tire manufacturers to pay a tire disposal fee to help finance the safe disposal of
old tires, or requiring strip clubs and liquor stores to pay a local fee to help
finance extra law enforcement in their area.
Prop 37's supporters say these fees are really hidden taxes and therefore should
require a two-thirds vote to enact just like other taxes. Supporters include taxpayers'
rights groups and chambers of commerce who say that it is too easy for governing
bodies to slap a regulatory fee on businesses, which consumers ultimately pay for
in higher prices for goods and services. Opponents include environmental and tax
reform groups who call Prop 37 the "Polluter Protection Act". They say
the measure is an attempt by big companies to avoid responsibility for the detrimental
impact of their products and that without mitigation fees it will be left up to the
taxpayers to clean up the damage caused by their products.
Proponents are raising much more money than opponents, with a total of $2.7 million
raised through October 21, with the largest donations coming from the Wine Institute,
Philip Morris and Anheuser-Busch. Opponents, who have raised $119,000 through October
21, are receiving financial support from environmental groups, Action for Better
Cities (a political action committee run by the League of California Cities) and
the Kirsch Foundation of San Jose.
Proposition 38 -- School Vouchers
If passed, Prop 38 would amend the state constitution
to create a statewide school voucher program that would provide $4,000 or more per
student per year to help pay for private school tuition costs. The amount of funding
provided for private tuition would increase if the amount of money California spends
per pupil in public schools increases, which the Legislative Analyst says is likely
to happen in the future. Prop 38 also sets stricter vote requirements for any new
laws imposed by state or local government to regulate private schools, and requires
private schools that receive vouchers to be subjected to the same standardized tests
used in public schools to measure academic achievement.
Prop 38's fiscal impact is difficult to predict because the net impact would depend
on legal interpretations as well as how many children shift from public to private
schools under the program. According the Legislative Analyst's estimate of Prop 38's
long-term fiscal impact, if only five percent of California's students shift from
public to private schools, the measure would end up costing the state $2 billion
annually; on the other hand, if 25 percent of California's students shift from public
to private schools, Prop 38 could save the state $3.4 billion annually.
The last time California voters considered a voucher initiative was back in a 1993
special statewide election. The measure's opponents -- primarily the California Teachers
Association (CTA) -- spent $24 million to defeat Prop 174, far outspending the measure's
proponents, who spent $3.7 million.
The playing field is much more level this time around. Prop 38 is sponsored by Tim
Draper, a former member of the State Board of Education and wealthy Silicon Valley
venture capitalist whose own pockets run even deeper than the CTA's. Draper is championing
the voucher initiative because he believes that competition is what's needed to improve
California's public schools' performance. Prop 38's supporters point out that California
ranks at the bottom of the nation in reading and math and that parents should have
the right to remove their children from failing schools. Supporters also say the
measure helps California's public schools because it includes a provision that guarantees
public schools will be funded at no less than the average spent per pupil nationwide.
Opponents include the California PTA and the California Teachers Association, a labor
union that represents 300,000 California teachers and school employees, who say that
Prop 38 will result in a huge cost to the state with no benefit to public schools,
resulting in either higher taxes or reduced funding for other government programs.
Opponents also point out that schools that get vouchers are not accountable to taxpayers,
and that the measure does not guarantee that every child will benefit from vouchers
because private schools will be able to reject students based on gender, ability
to pay, academic or physical abilities.
Millions of dollars have already been raised and spent on this measure, and Prop
38 ranks as the most expensive education-related initiative in California history.
Proponents have raised $30.5 million through October 21, with $23.4 million donated
by sponsor Tim Draper, whose father, Bill Draper of Maryland, also donated an additional
$2 million. Opponents raised $29 million through October 21, with $24.5 million of
that coming from the California Teachers Association.
Prop. 39 - Local School Bonds
If passed, Prop 39 would amend the state constitution
to make it easier to pass local school construction bonds. Under current law, voters
must approve a local school bond by a two-thirds vote in order for the bond to pass.
Prop 39 would reduce that vote requirement to 55 percent. This measure is similar
to Prop 26, an initiative voters defeated in the 2000 Primary that would have reduced
the school bond vote requirement to a simple majority (i.e. "fifty percent plus
Prop 39 is backed by a coalition of Silicon Valley high-tech businessmen and education
groups who are hoping that Prop 39's 55 percent vote requirement and accountability
provisions will be more acceptable to voters than the simple majority vote requirement
proposed in Prop 26. Proponents say that at the rate California is growing, an additional
20,000 classrooms will be needed in the future, and that if we want to reduce class
size we will need to build more classrooms. Proponents are highlighting new accountability
measures included in Prop 39 to ensure that school bond funds are used for their
intended purpose, as well as a strict cap in accompanying legislation that puts a
limit on property tax increases to pay off school bonds. The measure's most visible
supporters are Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and former Republican governor Pete Wilson
who are appearing together in commercials in a bi-partisan show of support for Prop
Prop 39 is opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California
Republican Party, who say that the language included in Prop 39 does not represent
the full proposal because, after Prop 39 qualified for the ballot, the Legislature
passed implementing legislation that will only take effect if Prop 39 passes. Opponents
say that voters have no control over these legislative provisions and are making
a "slippery slope" argument, saying that reducing the 121-year old two-thirds
vote requirement on school bonds would threaten other super-majority vote requirements
that are needed to keep a lid on California's property taxes.
Proponents are raising much more money than opponents, with $27.4 million raised
through October 21 and the largest donations coming from Silicon Valley venture capitalist
John Doerr and his wife Ann, who have donated $6 million. Doerr's firm, Kleiner Perkins
Caufield & Byers, also donated $1 million as did one of his firm's general partners,
Vinod Khosla of Menlo Park. Opponents have raised $3.7 million through October 21,
with the largest donation coming from Berg & Berg Enterprises, Inc., a Cupertino-based
development company, and Al Shugart, former chairman of Seagate Technologies, who
each gave $250,000.