Propositions on the June 8 ballot

by Linda Williams, The Willits News

The following five propositions are on the June 8 ballot:

Proposition 13

A California constitutional amendment, which excludes seismic retrofits to an existing structure from triggering a property tax value reassessment. The current law excludes these retrofits for 15 years only, after which time the property can be reassessed, likely resulting in a substantially higher property tax bill. The legislature submitted this initiative because it believed the current language provides a "disincentive" for property owners to make seismic upgrades.

Proposition 14 for open primaries

Changes the California constitution to allow all voters during primaries to vote using the same ballot for most offices, regardless of party. The two highest vote recipients regardless of party, will then face off in the general election, unless one of the candidates wins with more than 50 percent of the vote. This proposition excludes presidential and political party leadership elections. The change would become effective January 2011. Candidates will be permitted to list political party affiliation but will not be required to do so. The legislature submitted the initiative.

The current system restricts voters to declaring a party affiliation and only allows them to vote for their declared party candidates. The top vote recipients in each party then face off against one another in the general election.

Supporters believe the initiative will result in more moderate candidates being elected by allowing everyone to participate in the primary elections. Proponents include the California Chambers of Commerce, the AARP, the California Peace Officers Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Manufacturers & Technology Association and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Senate supported the measure to place the initiative on the ballot with 27 to 12. In the Assembly, the vote was 54 to 20 in favor.

Those against the measure believe the open primary process will shutout minor party and independent candidates, discouraging them to run for office and that it will lead to higher cost campaigns. With many districts heavily tilted toward one party, the general election will likely pit same party candidates against one another.

The proposition is opposed by all political parties from the Green Party to the Republican Party, California School Employees Association and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Proposition 15 the California Fair Elections Act

The act repeals the ban on public funding of political campaigns and creates a voluntary system for candidates running for secretary of state position to qualify for a public campaign grant. This experiment in public campaign financing will last only for the 2014 and the 2018 elections. The act sets up a number of qualifying standards to provide state generated grants to match funds raised by the candidate from the electorate. To finance the experiment, lobbyist fees would be raised.

The Senate narrowly supported the measure to place the initiative on the ballot by a 21 to 18 vote. In the Assembly, the vote was 45 to 32 in favor.

Supporters believe Proposition 15 will create a voluntary pilot program, which could lead to overall statewide election financing reforms. Supporters include AARP, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, California Retired Teachers Association, the Sierra Club of California, the California Democratic, Green and Peace and Freedom parties.

Opponents call the concept "welfare for politicians," and believe it would divert tax dollars from essential public programs to pay the campaign expenses of politicians. Opponents include the California Chamber of Commerce, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Farm Bureau and the California State Employees Association.

Proposition 16

This act would require a two-thirds public vote before local governments can begin providing electricity service or expand existing service to consumers. Currently local government agencies are only required to obtain a majority vote by a city council, board of supervisors or the people.

Supporters believe that cities and counties who gained the authority to form public electric utilities in 2002 should be required to put the issue on a ballot and garner a two-thirds vote in support before being allowed to act. Funding for the proposition has been led by PG&E. The proposition is also supported by the California Republican Party, the California Taxpayers Association and a number of city chambers of commerce.

Opponents say Proposition 16 is the worst special kind of special interest ballot initiative, paid for by a single corporation to benefit a single corporation and would lock PG&E’s high rates into the California Constitution by locking out community choice and public power. Opponents include the California Democratic Party, about 40 cities, AARP, California Farm Bureau, California Association of Realtors, California Labor Federation, California Sierra Club, Greenpeace, League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties.

Proposition 17

This measure amends 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.

Supporters believe that this proposition closes a loophole in the current law, which prevents drivers from being eligible for a continuous coverage discount with them if they switch insurers. Under current law, only drivers who have maintained auto insurance with the same insurance company are eligible for a continuous coverage discount. Mercury Insurance Company has paid nearly all of the funding for the proposition, contributing $13.5 million through the end of May. Supporters include the California Chamber of Commerce, Insurance Agents and Brokers Association of California, Bay Area Council and the California Senior Advocates League.

Opponents believe Proposition 17 will allow insurance companies to raise premiums on drivers who, for virtually any reason, did not have insurance coverage at some point in the past five years and will make insurance more expensive overall. Opponents include Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine,, California Nurses Association, California Federation of Teachers, Consumer Watchdog, Consumer Federation of California, and the California Alliance of Retired Americans.