With less than a month until election night, California voters are turning in ballots that will define leadership in local, state and federal government for the next two to four years.
However, many voters struggle to understand propositions, which are placed on the ballot either by the state legislature or by a signature petition from the public. Propositions can override the existing state laws and even the state constitution if they bring in enough votes. It can only be reversed by another proposition, not the state government.
Below is a basic overview of some of the most debated state initiatives in California, and what a yes or no vote means.
Proposition 15: Property Tax Increases
One of the more controversial propositions on the ballot, Proposition 15 could see a large increase in property taxes for commercial properties to help fund schools and local government agencies.
Placed on the ballot by a petition, the tax would only increase on commercial properties valued at over $3 million. It is supported by local teachers’ unions, nurses and small business organizations.
Opponents of the measure say it is designed to get around Proposition 13, one of the most controversial ballot initiatives in California history that froze property taxes based on when a home was purchased to keep costs down for long-term residents.
The new tax assessments would be based on how much the property might be sold for instead of what the building was originally purchased for, but would not affect homes or properties under $3 million in value.
An analysis by the California Secretary of State’s office estimates the new tax would bring in anywhere from $8-12.5 billion annually starting in 2025, with 60% of the new funds going to counties and cities while the other 40% goes to local community college districts and K-12 school districts.
A yes vote would mean an increase in property taxes to fund local governments and schools, while a no vote would leave the system as is.
Proposition 16: Affirmative Action
Another major debate in this year’s propositions comes with the potential return of affirmative action programs, which would allow the state to “consider race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin in public education, public employment and public contracting,” according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
In 1996, California voters passed an initiative banning any consideration of sex, gender or ethnicity for public jobs and schools, with many calling those programs a violation of the Constitution that benefited minorities.
Advocates of Proposition 16 this year include the League of Women Voters of California, California Federation of Teachers and the Minority Business Consortium, which have argued that the return of affirmative action would help open up opportunities for women and minorities who have been historically closed off due to systemic racism and wage discrimination.
Those new measures could include changing college applications, a long-running debate that continues to grow more complex as the University of California voted earlier this year to phase out the standardized testing system that has impacted students’ college acceptance for decades.
The new proposition would align the state’s guidelines with those of the federal government, setting limits to ensure that race, sex and ethnicity are not the only requirements in the application process, but are considered among several other factors to provide equal protection for all citizens.
While the proposition does not directly affect the state’s budget, the final outcome of the budget remains unclear as different departments could choose to implement programs in different ways, or not at all.
Proposition 22: Independent Contractors
In a public battle between employers and employees, if passed, this ballot would turn Uber, Lyft and Doordash drivers into independent contractors which could exempt companies from providing a standard wage and hour restrictions.
It would also allow drivers to decide when, where and the amount of hours they wish to work, although in turn, they would not receive employee benefits and the protection required by companies.
If the law is not implemented, the companies would hire drivers as official employees. The passing of California Assembly Bill 5 in Sept. 2019 made it more difficult for companies to treat their workers as independent contractors.
Ever since the bill's passage, California has sued Uber and Lyft for violating the law. This ballot measure is a $110 million effort by the companies to exclude their drivers from the law.
Those in favor of the proposition argue that it would provide workers with new benefits, guaranteed earnings and strengthen public safety.
Opposers argue that voting no on the measure would stop billion-dollar companies from attempting to exempt themselves from California law all while profiting from it. Proponents also point out that under this bill, drivers would not receive protections or rights such as health care and unemployment benefits.
Proposition 17: Parole Voting
A ballot measure causing much debate, Proposition 17 could restore voting rights to those who have successfully completed their prison time or those currently serving parole.
In 1974, Californian voters passed a ballot measure allowing those with completed sentences and not on parole to vote. As a result, approximately 40,000 residents who are no longer in prison are unable to legally vote because they are still on parole.
People eventually associated the issue with race since the majority of people on parole being Latino or Black, according to a 2018 study.
Opponents to the proposition argue that the measure would amend the California Constitution, granting those who have broken the law the right to cast their vote, despite their parole remaining incomplete.
Proponents said that those who have served time and have restored their right to vote are less likely to commit future crimes, thus allowing them to be reintroduced to society.
Proposition 21: Rent Control
Rent control has made an appearance on the ballot once again, this time granting cities the authority to introduce new rent control laws or expand current ones to homes that are at least 15 years old. It would also exclude single-family homes owned by landlords.
The statute is being pushed by Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who had attempted to get the proposition passed in the previous election.
Supporters of the proposition proclaim that, if passed, the measure would tackle homelessness by allowing families to stay in their homes. Those who argue against it hold that the current rent control laws in place are already strong enough, all while providing a form of protection that the proposition would lack if implemented.
Proposition 18: 17 Year Olds Voting In the Primaries
If passed, Proposition 18 could let underage high school students vote in the primary election as long as they turn 18 years old by Election Day.
The California primary election, which was moved to March for the first time earlier this year, dictates who will be the final two candidates in November for the state Assembly and state Senate, as well as the federal House of Representatives and Senate.
Placed on the ballot by the California State Legislature, proponents have pointed out that if citizens under the age of 18 are allowed to hold a job, pay taxes and enlist in the military, then they should be allowed to vote.
Opponents have pointed to scientific evidence that the logic center of teenager’s brains have not fully developed. But according to multiple researchers, the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25.
The new law would also apply to any special elections held between a primary and the general election, including recalls and appointments to fill a vacated seat.
The Daily Titan will be providing more in-depth analysis of the California 2020 ballot propositions heading into the election.