California Online Voter Guide 2000 - A Project of the California Voter Foundation
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California Voter Foundation.
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Introduction to California's Ballot Measures

A nonpartisan analysis of the eight propositions on California's November 2000 ballot, prepared by the California Voter Foundation,

This analysis is provided by the California Voter Foundation to give voters a concise, fair, and trustworthy overview of the eight propositions on California's November 2000 ballot. CVF's goal with this analysis is to help voters understand their choices and feel prepared to make informed, confident decisions.

For each measure we have provided a basic overview that explains its purpose, who put the measure on the ballot, background on similar or related measures in recent elections, who's for the measure, who's against it, and why, who's funding the campaigns in support and opposition, and what interest, if any, these funders may have in the outcome of the vote.

This analysis is a companion to CVF's California Online Voter Guide 2000, which includes a full page on each measure that features contact information and links to the official campaign web sites for each side, an up-to-date list of the Top Ten Donors for and against each measure, a summary of who signed the official ballot arguments, and a collection of recent news stories. Voters are encouraged to visit the proponents' and opponents' campaign web sites, where complete lists of endorsers can be found. Each ballot measure page also provides direct links to additional resources that were the primary source material for this analysis, including the official text of each measure, official pro/con arguments, the independent Legislative Analyst's analysis, the California Journal's analysis, and other recommended nonpartisan voter information resources.

The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1994 to advance new technologies to improve democracy. CVF does not take any positions on candidates or measures. CVF thanks the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation for its financial support of this analysis, as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The James Irvine Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Markle Foundation for supporting CVF's Election 2000 projects.

This analysis was authored by Kim Alexander, CVF's president and founder, and was reviewed by several election experts as well as the Legislative Analyst's staff. In addition, CVF asked each of the ballot measure campaigns to preview this analysis prior to publication to ensure fairness and accuracy.

Your feedback and support is important to us! Please take a moment to learn more about the California Voter Foundation's work and how you can help.

Prop 32

Veterans' Bond

Prop 33

Legislature, Retirement

Prop 34

Campaign Finance

Prop 35

Public Works Projects

Prop 36

Drug Treatment

Prop 37

Fees, Taxes

Prop 38

School Vouchers

Prop 39

School Facilities Bonds
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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 for veterans.

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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 for prisons.

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.

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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 voter approval.

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.

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  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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 one").

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 39.

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.

Click here for more information about this proposition
  Click here for a list of the Top Ten Donors for and against this proposition

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star image This page first published November 1, 2000 -- last updated November 2, 2000 star image