By Claudia Elliott, THE PORTERVILLE RECORDER (California)
Five propositions appear on the statewide ballot for the June 8 election — with voting by mail already taking place. Of these, three were put on the ballot by the state legislature and two by the petition process, meaning that sufficient signatures were collected to put the question to the voters.
Proposition 13 may sound familiar because of the famous first Proposition 13, passed in 1978, which limited property taxation in California. This latest Proposition 13, actually is also related to property tax because it seeks to allow owners of older brick buildings to make seismic upgrades without triggering a reassessment that results in higher property taxes. The benefit is similar to one extended to owners of newer buildings. State Senator Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, was the primary sponsor of this proposed constitutional amendment; it passed through the state legislature and senate without any “no” votes and there is no formal ballot argument against it. However, the California Nurses Association is among publicly-announced opposition which also includes the Green Party of Alameda County. The Green Party’s opposition reportedly stems from a suspicion of Ashburn related to him voting against gay rights measures and then admitting to being gay after being arrested for a DUI. According to the Secretary of State’s office, Proposition 13 would result in a minor reduction in local property tax revenues.
Proposition 14, which has been called the “Top Two Primaries Act,” is also a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. I wrote about Proposition 14 in April following a visit by then Senator Abel Maldonado who was actively campaigning for the ballot measure. A few days after his visit he was confirmed as California’s new Attorney General (and he is also on the Republican primary ballot for that seat). Although the Legislature agreed to put Proposition 14 to the voters — as part of a deal made with Maldonado last year to get his Republican vote to end the state budget battle — the measure is opposed by the state’s Democratic and Republican Central Committees and a number of smaller political parties including Libertarians and the Green Party. In spite of — or perhaps because of — this opposition, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows likely voters support the “open primary” proposal by a two-to-one margin.
Proposition 15, also put on the ballot by the Legislature, would repeal a ban on public funding of political campaigns. If passed, it would create a voluntary system for candidates for Secretary of State (only) in 2014 and 2018 to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to limitations on spending and private contributions. Each candidate demonstrating enough public support would receive the same amount. Participating candidates would be prohibited from raising or spending money beyond the grant which would be funded by voluntary contributions and a biennial fee on lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyist employers. The California Chamber of Commerce opposes Proposition 15 and the League of Women Voters supports it. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposes Proposition 15, noting that interest groups would still be able to support favored candidates by contributing to their ballot-measure committees and with other campaign activity conducted independently.
Proposition 16 is one of those types of initiative measures which I hate because so much about them is misleading. In this case, the proposed law is called the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act,” which really doesn’t tell you much. I found the state Legislative Analyst’s website to be most helpful in trying to understand this proposition. Basically, you need a little background first. According to the LAO, Californians generally receive their electricity service from one of three types of providers: investor-owned utilities (IOUs), local publicly owned electric utilities, or electric service providers (ESPs). These provide 68 percent, 24 percent, and 8 percent, respectively, of retail electricity service in the state. Locally, most of us get power from Southern California Edison which is an investor-owned utility. The California Public Utilities Commission regulates the rates charged by investor-owned companies and how they provide electricity service to their customers and the territory is divided up so one gets service from whichever company serves a given area.
State law now allows a city or a county, or a combination of the two, to arrange to provide electricity within their jurisdiction through a contract with an electricity provider other than the investor-owned utility that would otherwise serve that local area. This is referred to as “community choice aggregation” or CCA. Although only one CCA currently exists to provide electricity in California, several communities are exploring this option, according to the LAO.
As it stands now, a given jurisdiction (for instance, a city) might decide to go the CCA route and move that direction by a majority vote of its governing body (City Council).
If Proposition 16 is passed, the CCA would only be an option if approved by a two-thirds majority of the voters in the jurisdiction (for instance, a city).
I don’t know whether a CCA is a good idea, or not. I do know that PG&E is reportedly spending $46 million to help pass it. Edison is reportedly not taking a position. My suggestion if you don’t know how to vote — skip the TV commercials and seek out out a source of information such as that of the LAO (online at www.lao.ca.gov).
This one needs a little background, too, also available from the LAO: In 1988, California voters passed Proposition 103, which requires the Insurance Commissioner to review and approve rate changes for certain types of insurance, including automobile insurance, before changes to the rates can take effect. Proposition 103 also requires that rates and premiums for automobile insurance policies be set by applying the following rating factors in decreasing order of importance: (1) the insured’s driving safety record, (2) the number of miles they drive each year, and (3) the number of years they have been driving. Proposition 103 also contained a provision related to individuals who were previously uninsured. Specifically, Proposition 103 prohibits insurance companies from using the information that an individual did not previously have automobile insurance to: (1) determine whether the individual is eligible for coverage or (2) decide the premiums charged for coverage.
Proposition 17 would amend Proposition 103 to allow an insurance company to offer a “continuous coverage” discount on automobile insurance policies to new customers who switch their coverage from another insurer. If an insurance company chooses to provide such a discount, it must be based on the length of time the customer continuously had bodily injury liability coverage. Customers would generally be eligible for this discount so long as their coverage had not lapsed for more than 90 days in the past five years, except if any lapse was the result of a failure to pay the premium. Also, customers would still be eligible for this kind of discount under the measure if a lapse in coverage was due to military service in another country. Children residing with a parent could qualify for the discount based on their parent’s eligibility.
Who’s for it — and who’s against it?
Reportedly Mercury Insurance is Proposition 17’s primary sponsor and has provided about 98 percent of the funding for the “Yes on 17″ campaign, having contributed $14.6 million.
According to opponents — the list includes a number of unions — Proposition 17 is deceptive and would allow insurance companies to surcharge people who have not been previously insured –even if they are perfect drivers but weren’t insured because they weren’t driving or didn’t own a car. The slogan for the opposition: “When was the last time an insurance company spent millions to save you money?”
Personally, I almost always vote against initiative propositions on principal — I think we Californians have made a lot of bad law and spent a lot of money cleaning up after ourselves through the initiative process. Fewer and fewer of these seem to be passing, so I think I’m not alone in this regard. Happy voting!
Claudia Elliott is Editor of The Porterville Recorder. Send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org