Puzzling Propositions: A Breakdown Of The 2020 California Ballot Initiatives

This election season, Californians have 11 ballot initiatives on which to vote. These propositions can appear daunting to understand, so I decided to break down what they do and the case for and against each prop. Prop 14: Gives $5.5 billion in bonds to state stem cell research institute , with $1.5 billion of this […]

This election season, Californians have 11 ballot initiatives on which to vote. These propositions can appear daunting to understand, so I decided to break down what they do and the case for and against each prop.

Prop 14: Gives $5.5 billion in bonds to state stem cell research institute , with $1.5 billion of this going towards research/therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, epilepsy, and other brain/central nervous system conditions.

  • Proponents of this proposition argue that the funding provisions established in this bill would go towards institutes focused on protecting the health of Californians. The state stem cell research institute, which ran out of money in 2019, would be able to complete unfinished projects being done to make breakthrough medical advances. The $1.5 billion in funding that goes towards research for various brain and central nervous system conditions/diseases could help bring us to brand new medical breakthroughs that allow us to slow down or stop the progression of these degenerative terminal illnesses. Passing this bill would ultimately save countless lives by funding necessary (currently underfunded or completely defunded) research.
  • Opponents of this measure argue that its passing would increase California’s deficit, expand bureaucracy, and fail to address conflicts of interest within the public agencies that would be funded by the proposition. Some opponents have moral objections to the bill, claiming that there are ethical issues with using human embryonic cells as raw material for experimentation.

Prop 15: Commercial and industrial properties taxed on market value.

  • Proponents of this measure argue that major California-based corporations, which currently pay property taxes based on the purchasing value, should be paying their fair share in taxes, which would be done under this bill. This bill would close the commercial property tax loophole that’s never been available to small businesses or homeowners in California. The massive funds raised by this bill would go towards increased funding of public education.
  • Opponents of this proposition, which largely includes the major corporations that would face increased taxation if it were to be passed, argue that the bill would disincentivize businesses from moving to California or from establishing jobs in the state.

Prop 16: Repeals Prop 209 that ended affirmative action in California.

  • Proponents of this proposition argue that the end of affirmative action has only increased racial disparities in California by lowering hiring and college admissions primarily of black and brown Californians, and especially of black and brown women in the state. Prop 209 forced legislators, employers, and college admissions offices to try to eliminate racial disparities without being able to take race into account in the hiring process. Affirmative action doesn’t mean giving priority over Asian and white Californians, but instead says that when all other factors are equal (skill, qualification, etc.), priority should be given to the most economically and socially marginalized people in California rather than their non (or less) marginalized counterparts.
  • Liberal opponents of this measure argue that affirmative action isn’t a good way to end racial or gender-based discrimination because preference could and would still be massively impacted by income, diluting the intended effects of the proposition by continuing class-based disparities. They also argue that the solution to these disparities should come through comprehensive public education reform that eliminates massive disparities in public schools across the state. Its conservative opponents argue that it would increase marginalization primarily of Asian Californians and be against the state’s ideals of nondiscrimination.

Prop 17: Gives people with felony convictions on parole the right to vote

  • Proponents of this measure argue that giving felons on parole the right to vote increases future civic engagement and massively lowers recidivism rates. Parole’s purpose is to allow people who’ve committed crimes to properly reintegrate into society and granting them the fundamental right to vote would enable them to do this more easily. People on parole already pay taxes and work, so denying them the right to vote on policies that directly impact their lives would only continue to deny marginalized people of political power.
  • This proposition’s opponents argue that people who’ve been convicted of felonies who are on parole have committed particularly heinous crimes, which means that they should have to completely serve their sentence before being granted their right to vote. Parolees already face certain restrictions on what they can do and where they can go, so denying them the right to vote would be consistent with other restrictions placed on them.

Prop 18: Allows 17 year olds who will be 18 by the next general election to vote in party primaries and special elections

  • Proponents of this legislation assert that because these 17 year olds will be able to vote in the next major election, they should logically have the right to also vote in primaries for the candidates that will be on the ballot in these major elections. It’s illogical to stop them from participating in our democratic processes because of a few months difference in their age, even though participation in primaries and special elections directly impacts who they’ll have the option to vote for in major elections.
  • Opponents of this legislation argue that because 17 year olds are legally still minors and have restrictions on other things like signing contracts, their right to vote in primaries should also be restricted. They argue that because most 17 year olds still live at home with their parents/guardians and are still in school, their voting could be influenced by the authority figures around them.

Prop 19: Changes law regarding property tax transfers and exemptions, allocates additional revenue (net savings from the measure) towards state/county wildfire agencies.

  • This proposition’s proponents argue that this law change would protect the most vulnerable Californians, including seniors, people with disabilities, and victims of wildfires by allowing them to move without seeing a massive increase in their taxes. It would also close currently existing tax loopholes currently used by California’s richest citizens to avoid paying property taxes that could be going towards infrastructure and other necessary expenses. The money raised by this bill that would be allocated towards state and county wildfire agencies would be critical in fighting the wildfires that have devastated communities across California.
  • Opponents of this legislation argue that this would increase taxes on Californians by making children of parents who own property pay far more in taxes when trying to sell a property.

Prop 20: Adds certain crimes to the list of violent felonies to restrict parole, requires DNA collection for certain misdemeanors, categorizes certain theft and fraud crimes as chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies.

  • Proponents argue that the passing of this legislation would keep violent criminals in prison, which would protect the public. Certain offenses currently considered nonviolent should rightfully be classified as violent ones.
  • Opponents argue that this proposition would massively increase mass incarceration by raising penalties for low-level offenses and increasing the already huge scope of California’s prison-industrial complex. This bill would also make it so that people trying to make a better life for themselves after conviction would be less able to because this proposition would increase the punity of the criminal justice system instead of creating a system that tries to rehabilitate convicts.

Prop 21: Expands the power of local CA governments to enact rent control.

  • Proponents argue that this legislation would protect families, seniors, and veterans from massive increases in rent exhibited all across California. The bill would minimally impact landlords and property owners and would significantly help people currently displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be far cheaper and ethical to enact rent control and enable unhoused Californians to acquire affordable housing than to allow families, veterans, and seniors who’ve been displaced by skyrocketing rent prices to become homeless.
  • Opponents to the proposition argue that rent control would disincentivize the private sector from further developing affordable housing, make it less profitable for builders to construct more housing, and decrease revenue for city and state governments that are facing budget crunches caused by the pandemic. Opponents also note that Californians already rejected a similar rent control proposition in the 2018 election.

Prop 22: Classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than workers.

  • Proponents of this bill argue that continuing the classification of app-based drivers as independent contractors instead of workers gives these drivers more freedom through greater flexibility in work schedule.
  • Contractors working 40+ hours a week for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other companies are currently denied healthcare, paid sick leave, paid family leave, and paid vacation days due to their classification as independent contractors. Not only would the passing of this bill mean a reversal of the workers’ rights for app-based drivers established by California state legislatures in 2019, but also the addition of a clause that would require a 7/8 majority for the legislature to overturn it.

Prop 23: Mandates a licensed physician or nurse to be on-site at dialysis clinics; requires consent from the state in order to close a clinic.

  • Proponents of this measure argue that because dialysis is a dangerous procedure and that the lack of requirement of a physician or nurse on-site makes the procedure even more dangerous. The second major part of this measure, which requires consent from the state to close a clinic, would help protect patients in need of dialysis by implementing safeguards against abruptly closing down dialysis facilities. This second part would especially help patients in rural communities of California, who have previously faced lack of treatment options in their vicinity due to the closure of dialysis clinics.
  • Opponents of this measure argue that because of the requirement for a licensed physician or nurse to be on-site at dialysis clinics, many would be forced to cut services or shut down completely. Opponents also claim that dialysis centers already provide quality treatment, and the additional costs incurred by the measure would harm Californians.

Prop 24: Expands California Consumer Privacy Act provisions and establishes California Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the CCPA.

  • The proposition’s proponents argue that the enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is crucial to protecting the privacy of Californian citizens by limiting corporations’ use of private information including precise location, race, gender, genetic information, private communications, sexual orientation, and health information. By forcing businesses to comply with these laws, the data and information of the citizens of California will be protected. This would be beneficial to the people of California by stopping state legislatures from repealing key privacy rights and ending corporate overreach on extremely personal and sensitive information. 
  • Opponents of this legislation argue that despite its good intentions, the proposition has major flaws. First, instead of handing issues of privacy rights over to the California Department of Justice, it would create a brand new agency which is opponents claim is likely to be highly underfunded by this proposition. Additionally, it harms workers by creating years-long delays to disclosure of what information has been sold to corporations. And arguably one of the biggest negative impacts of this bill is that it would result in a “pay-for-privacy” model that would allow businesses to charge more for privacy rights or even limit consumers’ access to services if they don’t sign away their privacy.

Prop 25: Eliminates cash bail in favor of algorithm-based risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trial. 

  • Proponents of this legislation argue that cash bail is a predatory system that disproportionately harms poor black and brown citizens.
  • The liberal opposition to this legislation argues that cash bail’s replacement with an algorithm-based system, which is just as susceptible to racial biases as humans due to the nature of programming algorithms, would do little to help the poor Black and brown people this legislation is designed to protect and help. They argue that while the system of cash bail is corrupt and ought to be eliminated, replacing it with algorithms that would increase mass incarceration and continue to harm Black and brown people is not the solution. The conservative opposition to this legislation argues that cash bail isn’t anti-poor or anti-Black and brown at all, and therefore there is no reason to replace it.

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