Voters Guide to California’s November Ballot Initiatives

by Lucy Ma,

Here’s a quick guide to the different measures voters in California can expect to see on their ballots this November. Voters will have eleven issues to examine as they cast their vote on the various 2012 ballot initiatives.

Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012

This California Water Bond was referred by the state Legislature and originally scheduled to appear on the 2010 November Ballot as Proposition 18. However, the Legislature voted to postpone a public vote on the measure until this year’s November ballot. Negotiations for the measure took months and became extremely controversial due to the amount of earmarks included in the language- a move made necessary in order to get the votes needed for passage out of the Legislature. If approved, the water bond will allow the California state government to borrow $11.1 billion through bond sales in order to overhaul the state’s water supply system.

Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg have indicated that Legislators may vote again to remove the water bond from this year’s ballot in favor of another postponement.

Some supporters of the initiative include: Meg Whitman, candidate for Governor of California in 2010, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, California Chamber of Commerce, and the California State Council of Laborers. ‘Change to Win’ donated $1 million to the campaign for the act.

Those who oppose the ballot initiative include: Sierra Club California, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, Planning and Conservation League, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, California Water Impact Network, Salmon Water Now, Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen’s Association, Restore the Delta, United Farmworkers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R), Sen. Lois Wolk (D), Assemblyman Charles DeVore (R), Assemblyman Noreen Evans (D), Environmentalist Jonas Minton, Democratic member of the California General Assembly, Wesley Chesbro, and former member of California State Senate Patricia Wiggins (D).

Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction; Prohibitions on Contributions to Candidates Initiative Statute:

If approved, the California ‘Paycheck Protection’ Initiative, as it is more commonly known, will dramatically weaken the clout of labor unions in California state government. It will prohibit the government from deducting union dues out of government employee paychecks, ban contributions to candidate-controlled committees by corporations and labor unions, as well as ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the awarding officeholder. Two similar propositions have been voted on previously in California and failed to pass. Defeating this measure is expected to be a number one priority for labor organizations throughout the state.

Supporters of the initiative include: George Shultz, former US Secretary of State, Michael Capaldi, Mark Bucher, Charles Munger, Jr., Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles. Donors include: Tim Draper, Charles Munger, Jerry Perenchio, and the ‘Yes’ campaign, which has raised approximately $3 million.

Gale Kaufman, as chief political consultant, is running the opposition campaign. Opponents to the initiative include: the California Labor Federation and Dave Lowe, executive director of the California School Employees Association. California’s public sector unions are expected to provide up to $28 million, the ‘No’ campaign has contributed $6.3 million, $500,000 of which came from the California Labor Federation.

Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage Initiative Statute:

The Automobile Insurance Prices Based on History of Insurance Coverage Act will allow insurers to provide new customers with discounts if they can prove continuous coverage by other licensed insurers over the course of the past 5 years. This also allows for proportional discounts to those who have not maintained continuous coverage, and treats those with lapses due to military service or loss of employment as equal to those who have maintained continuous coverage. Under current law auto insurers may only offer ‘persistency or loyalty discounts’ as they are known to existing customers.

Supporters include: the California Republican Party, former CA State Senator Don Perata, and Juan Vargas (D) former Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee. George Joseph, chair of Mercury General, is one of the act’s major donors. He has donated $8.1 million to the campaign.

Opposition to the act includes: Brian Stege, Consumer Watchdog and Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Redistricting State Senate Districts Referendum:

This referendum is an effort to prevent the newest 2012 California State Senate district lines, as drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, from taking effect. According to the Secretary of State’s official summary: ‘referendum petition, if signed by the required number of registered voters and filed with the Secretary of State, will: (1) Place the revised State Senate boundaries on the ballot and prevent them from taking effect unless approved by the voters at the next statewide election; and (2) Require court-appointed officials to set interim boundaries for use in the next statewide election.’ Early poll results from Field Poll have shown that voters are not likely to vote in favor of overturning the newly drawn State Senate maps.

Support includes: Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC), Charles H. Bell, Jr., and Julie Vandermost.

Death Penalty Repeal Initiative Statute:

California End the Death Penalty Act, if approved by voters, will change the maximum punishment from death to life imprisonment. This will also apply to those who have already received the death penalty and commute their sentences to life.

Supporters include: Jeanne Woodford, former San Quentin State Prison warden, H.Lee Saroken, retired federal judge, Gerald Barnes, Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernadino, California Catholic Conference of Bishops, Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles D.A., American Civil Liberties Union, Ron Briggs, Donald J. Heller, and the Los Angeles Times.

Opponents to the act include: McGregor Scott, former US Attorney, Californians for Justice and Public Safety, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, and Michael Ramos, San Bernadino County D.A.

Three Strikes Law; Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders Initiative Statute:

This will revise California’s current Three Strikes Law so that a life sentence is given only when the latest felony conviction is deemed serious or violent. It will also authorize resentencing for those currently serving life sentences due to a conviction on the third strike for a crime deemed not serious or violent- as determined by a judge. If prior offenses include rape, murder, or child molestation, the felon will remain on a life sentence despite the lesser nature of the third strike.

Supporters include: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Dan Newman, Mike Roman, Stanford University law professor and founder of the Three Strikes Project, David Mills, former investment banker, and Geri Silva, representative for Families Against California’s Three Strikes. Donors who support the act include: David Mills ($603,000), Peter Ackerman ($100,000) and George Soros ($500,000).

Mike Reynolds opposes the act. Reynolds wrote the language for California’s ‘Three Strikes’ Law.

Human Trafficking; Penalties; Sex Offender Registration Initiative Statute:

The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act aims to expand the definition of human trafficking as well as increase the level of penalties to include sentences of 15 years to life in prison and fines of up to $1,500,000. It would also require those convicted of trafficking to register as sex offenders and provide information regarding their internet usage and online activities. If passed, this measure would also require law enforcement officers to undergo additional human trafficking training.

Chris Kelly, a former candidate for Attorney General of California, and former Chief of Privacy at Facebook helped to draft and qualify the initiative. Chris Kelly, a 2010 candidate for Attorney General of California, avidly supports this act.

Genetically Engineered Foods Mandatory Labeling Initiative Statute:

The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act would require labeling on raw and processed foods meant for consumer consumption if the food or ingredients have been altered in specified ways. It would also prohibit the use of ‘natural’ on the labeling and advertising of such foods.

Supporters include: Organic Consumers’ Association, Nature’s Path, and the Institute for Responsible Technology. Joseph Mercola has donated approximately $500,000 in support of the initiative.

Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses; Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding Initiative Statute:

If approved at the ballot this November, the initiative will repeal an existing law that gives multistate businesses the ability to choose a more favorable tax formula when they have business property and payroll outside of California. This would then require multistate business entities to calculate their California income tax liability based on a percentage formula from their sales within the state. The anticipated increase in state revenue from this measure would be diverted to fund projects and programs that ‘create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs’ in California, a dedication of $550 million annually for five years.

Thomas Steyer, who is a major hedge fund manager and Democratic activist, is the primary proponent of this initiative.

Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs Initiative Statute:

This measure aims to increase personal income tax rates using a sliding scale for those with annual earnings over $7,316- ranging from 0.4% from the lowest earners to 2.2% for individuals making over $2.5 million.

Democratic activist Molly Munger is the primary advocate behind this measure, which is one of two different tax increase proposals slated for the November ballot. The other is Governor Jerry Brown’s tax proposal.

Temporary Taxes to Fund Education; Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding Initiative Constitutional Amendment:

Otherwise known as the ‘Millionaires Tax’ or Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, this measure aims to increase personal income taxes on all those earning over $250,000 annually for the next seven years if passed. It would also increase state sales and use tax by a quarter cent for the next four years. 89 percent of revenues generated through the temporary tax increase will go toward K-12 education and the other 11% toward community colleges.

The California Teachers Association is a major backer of this proposition.