2020 is a big election year. With all eyes on the presidential race, Californians can’t afford to lose sight of our state and local elections. These decisions need the same amount of consideration being given to the big race. They are the ones with the most — and the most immediate — effects on you and your family’s safety, quality of life and finances.
This year, California as a whole is reckoning with some big changes. The 12 qualified propositions on the ballot cover many issues, including tax codes, voting rights, workers’ rights and affirmative action. The results of these ballot measures will affect every life in California in some shape or form, and it’s important that voters understand them and make informed decisions on how to vote.
Prop 14 – Authorizes Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research. Initiative Statute.
Prop 14 considers bonds for stem-cell and other medical research.
If passed, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine will issue $5.5 billion in state bonds to fund stem cell and other medical research, with $1.5 billion going to research and therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy and other brain and central nervous system diseases. Money would come from the state General Fund.
Proponents of Prop 14 argue that the funding will help accelerate development of treatment and cures for many diseases, including cancer and infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Opponents of the measure say that the state can’t afford the debt from borrowing the $5.5 billion, which would reach $8 billion with interest added. They also point out that the majority of the money from the first stem-cell research measure, Proposition 71 from 2004, went to infrastructure, education, and training, producing few medical breakthroughs.
Prop 15 – Increases Funding for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
Prop 15 ask voters to weigh in on the biggest change to the state’s property tax code in four decades, since 1978’s Proposition 13. Prop 13 placed a 1 % cap on the amount of tax that can be charged on commercial properties in the state.
If passed, commercial and industrial property will be taxed based on current market value instead of the purchase price. It would replace the current rule, where property taxes can’t rise more than two percent unless there’s new construction or ownership, with tax reassessments of commercial and industrial properties at least every three years.
The new tax revenue this generates, an estimated $6.5 to 11.5 billion, will fund K-12 public schools, community colleges and local governments. The measure would exempt residential properties and owners of commercial properties with a combined value of $3 million or less, and exempt small businesses from personal property tax.
Proponents of Prop 15 argue that the initiative would close corporate tax loopholes and force wealthy corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. They also argue that money is needed for schools and local communities struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opponents of Prop 15 argue that wealthy corporations and landlords will probably pass the buck to tenants and small businesses, and that any tax raise would ultimately raise the cost of living in the state.
Prop 16 – Allows Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Prop 16, if passed, would remove California’s ban on affirmative action, which was put in place with Prop 209 in 1996. Repealing the ban on affirmative action would allow state agencies and institutions, including colleges and universities, to consider race, ethnicity and gender for employment, admissions and contracting decisions.
Proponents of Prop 16 argue that it would create targeted opportunities for Black and Latino communities and help to correct centuries of economic exclusion and institutional racism. They also argue that the measure is a way to address the racial wealth gap in California, a state where White Californians make up 60% of high earners though they’re only 37% of the state population.
Opponents of Prop 16 argue that the change would make race more important than merit in college admissions and employment processes, a form of reverse discrimination.
Prop 17 – Restores Right to Vote After Completion of Prison Term. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Prop 17 concerns voting rights for parolees. If passed, previously incarcerated people will be able to vote while on parole, instead of having to wait until the parole term is over. This would enfranchise over 50,000 parolees, who are disproportionately African American and Latino. California is currently one of three states that require incarcerated persons to finish their prison and parole terms before they can vote. Nineteen states allow parolees to vote.
Those in favor of Prop 17 argue that parolees have paid their debt to society and contribute to their communities through work and community service, so they should have a say in government. Also, they argue that banning parolees from voting disenfranchises a large portion of the Black and Latino vote.
Opponents of the measure, primarily voter watchdog groups, argue that parole is a transition period and previously incarcerated persons have not paid their debt to society until after their parole is over.
Prop 18 – Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and Be Otherwise Eligible to Vote. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Prop 18 concerns the minimum voting age. If passed, young people who are 17-years-olds at the time of a primary or special election will be able to vote if they will turn 18 by the following general election and are otherwise eligible. This would allow these young adults to exercise their vote across a full election cycle.
Proponents of Prop 18 argue that 17-year-olds can make informed decisions about voting and should be allowed to participate in the full election cycle. They also argue that young people should have a say in issues that directly affect them, and that the change will inspire young people to get more engaged in politics.
Opponents of the measure say that 17-year-olds are still legal minors and can be unduly influenced by parents and teachers.
Prop 19 – Changes Certain Property Tax Rules. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Prop 19 proposes property tax code changes for older Californians and natural disaster victims. If passed, the proposition would give homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or victims of wildfires and other natural disasters a tax break, allowing them to transfer their primary home’s low property tax base to their new home when they move, up to three times.
It would also change the inheritance tax break to require heirs to use the inherited home as their primary residence within a year, or else the property tax will be reassessed to market value. If passed, local governments and schools could gain tens of millions of dollars in new property tax revenue per year, and the initiative would also establish a fund for fire protection.
Proponents argue that Prop 19 will provide tax relief for seniors who are stuck in houses that they can’t maintain or are too far from family or medical care. They also argue that narrowing the inheritance tax break would generate more revenue for local governments and schools, since people who use inherited property as rental units or second homes would be forced to pay more taxes.
Opponents argue that the initiative would increase inequality. They say it would put people who are struggling to buy a home at a disadvantage, giving more purchasing power to existing homeowners. Current law allows Californians move to transfer their low property tax rate to a new home only one time.
Prop 20 – Restricts Parole for Certain Offenses Currently Considered to Be Non-Violent. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors. Initiative Statute.
Prop 20, if passed, would change procedures and standards for the state Board of Parole hearings and community probation programs, and expand the list of offenses that disqualify an inmate from parole. It would change several theft-related crimes from misdemeanors to felonies and create two new crimes, serial theft and organized retail theft. It would also expand DNA testing to require samples from some people convicted of theft and domestic violence.
Those who support Prop 20 argue that previous prison reforms, specifically propositions 47 in 2014 and 57 in 2016, led to an increase in crime by repeat offenders, and tougher parole standards are needed.
Opponents of Prop 20 argue that the measure is a prison spending scheme that will increase spending for prisons, money that should go to programs like schools, rehabilitation, mental health and homelessness.
Prop 21 – Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute.
Prop 21 is the latest rent control proposition. If passed, it would amend state law to allow local governments to establish rent control for residential properties over 15 years old. Local rent-control limits can differ from the statewide limit, but local governments would be required to allow landlords to increase rents by 15 % after three years. Also, people who own no more than two housing units with separate titles, such as single-family homes and duplexes, are exempt from rent control. Currently, 64% of African Americans in California are renters.
Those in favor of Prop 21 argue that putting a cap on California’s sky-high rents is a strategic move that will assist renters to stay in their homes and help prevent homelessness. Half of renter households in the state are overburdened and spend more than 30 % of their incomes on rent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Opponents, primarily developers, landlords and business owners, argue that rent control would discourage construction and take affordable units off the market.
Prop 22 – Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies From Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers. Initiative Statute
Prop 22 is about employment classification for rideshare and delivery drivers, affecting the companies Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, among others. If it passes, these companies will be allowed to continue to classify their drivers as independent contractors with benefits from those app-based companies, including a base wage and healthcare subsidies. Currently, these drivers are legally classified as employees under AB-5.
Proponents of the ballot measure argue it would allow gig drivers, who are majority African American and Latino, to keep their flexibility and continue earning income in a turbulent economy.
Those against Prop 22 argue that it would allow the companies to underpay their drivers, and exempt gig companies from providing standard benefits that drivers need, like unemployment insurance, paid time off, and workers compensation.
Prop 23 – Authorizes State Regulation of Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Establishes Minimum Staffing and Other Requirements. Initiative Statute.
Prop 23 regards state regulation of dialysis clinics. If Prop 23 passes, all dialysis clinics would require at least one licensed physician on site during treatment. It would also require clinics to report infection data to state health officials and require state approval for clinics to close or reduce services. State and local health care costs would increase due to increased dialysis treatment costs.
Supporters of Prop 23 argue that the regulations are necessary to keep large dialysis corporations in line.
Opponents of Prop 23 argue that many dialysis clinics would have to restrict hours or shut down if they had to pay a licensed physician, and that dialysis patients would have trouble affording increased treatment costs. They also note that the proposition does not require that the physicians have any specialized knowledge in dialysis or kidney function.
Prop 24. Amends Privacy Laws. Initiative Statute.
Prop 24 concerns consumer data privacy laws, which prevent businesses from sharing personal information gathered digitally, including from websites. If passed, it would strengthen the California Consumer Privacy Act by letting consumers tell businesses to limit the use of their sensitive data, such as an individual’s exact location and race, and prohibiting businesses from keeping consumer data for longer than necessary. It would also establish a new state agency dedicated to enforcing privacy laws and increase financial penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16.
Those in favor of Prop 24 argue that the current consumer privacy law isn’t strong enough, and that the measure would give people more control over their personal data, and make it easier for consumers to sue companies if their email accounts and passwords are stolen or hacked.
Opponents say the measure was written behind closed doors and included the participation of companies that are the targets of regulation.
Prop 25 – Referendum on Law That Replaced Money Bail with System Based on Public Safety and Flight Risk
Proposition 25 is a veto referendum on SB 10, a 2018 law that would replace cash bail with risk assessments for suspects awaiting trial. If Prop 25 passes, it would replace the current system, where suspects pay a cash bond to be released from jail with a promise to return for trail, with risk assessment to determine whether a detained suspect is a flight risk or a danger to the public. The state superior courts would establish divisions responsible for conducting risk assessments and making recommendations, and the state Judicial Court would determine which factors are considered for the assessments.
Prop 25 supporters argue that the risk assessment system would be fairer than the current system, which depends on a suspect’s ability to afford bail.
Opponents of Prop 25 argue that the risk assessments will likely discriminate against Black and Brown people and increase racial profiling. They also point out that it will give judges unchecked power with no accountability, and that setting up the new system would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
For more information on the propositions visit the California Secretary of State Website: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures