(This was originally an e-mail I sent around to some of my close friends. A few of them encouraged me to blog it, so what the heck, here it is.)
One week from Tuesday, Nov. 4, is the big election -- although some of you may be voting early (and may have done so already). There are also 12 proposed laws on the California ballot. The props are long and filled with legalese, and the arguments from both sides are adamant and compelling.
I won't tell you guys how to vote (aside from no on Prop 8 -- it seriously goes against everything America is supposed to stand for), but I can tell you how *I* plan to vote at this point, and why, and perhaps help you make your decisions as well.
So here we go:
A proposed bullet train system, to connect the major metropolitan areas of the state. Proponents claim that it would be a boon to the economy, alleviate CO2 emissions, and all-around bring the state into the 21st century.
The prop allows for a nearly $10 billion bond to be taken out, and no new taxes to be levied.
Well, here's the problem. The money's got to come from somewhere. And if new taxes aren't going to be spent, that means it has to come out of the state discretionary funds. That means that the money to pay for this train would come out of education, law enforcement, healthcare, roads, and other "discretionary" projects, and be added to the existing $7 billion state deficit we've already racked up under the Governator's watch.
In addition, it would appear that the bullet train lacks oversight or even a cohesive plan for the actual building. You know those government workers who shut down freeways but never actually seem to be working? We'll get more of that. There is no incentive for the construction companies to actually even start the project, let alone finish it; and no way for taxpayers to take action against them.
While I like the idea of a high-speed rail system in our state -- and really nationwide -- this proposition is not written with the citizens' best interests in mind, and can too easily be abused leaving the state saddled with a nearly $20 billion debt (the initial bond plus interest over 30 years) that we will still have to pay even if the project is not completed, or shut down entirely. A massive infrastructural project like this needs to be better planned and regulated -- and oh yeah, should probably specify exactly where the money will come from. I will be voting NO on Prop 1.
Provides for the "humane treatment" of animals raised for food, such as egg-laying chickens and cows raised for veal.
The argument for is basically treating animals humanely. I personally question the logic a little bit since they will eventually be killed and eaten, and it seems to humanize the animals unnecessarily.
The argument against claims that the measure will harm local farmers by creating additional overhead, forcing them to own more land to give more space to the animals, or cut back on their production.
Frankly I don't know what to think about it. But I don't like the idea of creating new laws for special interests on either side of the table. I'm going to go with my default on this, which is to vote NO on Prop 2.
Provides a bond for just under $1 billion to fund Children's Hospitals.
This one smells pretty fishy to me. Whenever someone claims that it's "for the children" I'm automatically suspicious, because that's an easy way to stop people from really thinking about the claims being made and just pull the lever "for the children."
This is another bond that will not create new taxes -- but as I said with prop 1, the money's got to come from somewhere. The opponents point out that a previous bond -- prop 61 passed in 2004 -- have apparently not yet been exhausted. They talk about these children's hospitals being able to afford the latest medical technologies -- but it sounds to me like the suppliers are just holding their hands out looking for cash.
I don't like the sound of it, and again, there's unspent money already there for this very purpose. It's not for the children, they're using the children to get more money to fill their coffers, and that's not right. I will vote NO on Prop 3.
Requires a waiting period and parental notification before terminating (aborting) the pregnancy of a minor.
The fact is, I agree with the opponents pretty much flat-out on this one. This law would not prevent teen pregnancy, or safeguard young women from sexual predators. It would merely make them more likely to hide their pregnancy, and seek out illegal or out-of-state abortions instead.
This is obviously an attempt by anti-abortion activists to create a chink in the abortion laws so that they can continue chiseling away at them.
Without getting into opinions about abortion itself, the fact is that the answer to this is education, not legislation. I will be voting NO on Prop 4.
Reforms drug laws, sentencing, and rehabilitation programs for non-violent offenders.
I am personally of the belief that drug use is a victimless crime. It can lead to crimes that victimize others, but prop 5 will not make California judges unable to sentence violent offenders. Instead, it reduces criminal penalties for non-violent offenders, as well as establishing/funding rehabilitation programs.
I believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I believe that people can get "clean." And under California's existing three-strikes legislation, it's not like they would get to make their mistakes ad infinitum.
I'm all for sending fewer people to jail for non-violent "crimes" and giving people a second chance. I will be voting YES on Prop 5.
More money to law enforcement, more things criminalized with harsher penalties (even adding new life sentences).
This goes against what I said above in 5. The answer to the problems is not more incarceration and potential for abuse of police power. And there is no guarantee of oversight of the nearly $1 billion that will go into this program.
Aiding in the creation of a police state is not and will never be part of my agenda. I will be voting NO on Prop 6.
Provision for renewable energy generation. Appears to be opposed by the major electrical utilities and the major political parties. I don't trust politicians or the folks who benefit most from keeping the status quo. They call prop 7 poorly-written, but having read it, it appears to close up current loopholes in the production of renewable energy, providing a legal mandate that these energy groups must achieve their goals and not merely try.
It also eliminates exemptions for "electrical corporations," defining them as "retail sellers" and holding them accountable.
We need renewable energy, in California and throughout the world. I'm no lawyer, but as far as I can tell the folks against 7 stand the most to profit if it fails, and the rest of us the most if it succeeds. I will vote YES on Prop 7.
Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry. Constitutional amendment.
Besides my obvious stake in this, it is wrong in any and all cases to pass laws that take away existing rights from a minority group. You don't have to approve of it, but don't make it illegal when it doesn't harm anyone.
I'll be putting out a video on this in the next day or so, but the short version is: VOTE NO ON 8.
Victims' rights to notification and testimony.
My default position to constitutional amendments is no, and Prop 9 is no different. While I feel for the victims of violent crime, prop 9 is a redundant constitutional amendment, and has been judged to cost taxpayers (us) in the hundreds of millions, in the middle of a serious deficit; and again, the provisions that it would "enact" already exist, and have since 1982. I will vote NO on Prop 9.
Bonds to purchase alternative fuel vehicles.
This proposition will cost $10 billion over 30 years, and fails, according to independent analysts, to provide adequate funds for its actual administration. As with the other bonds that will "not raise taxes," this money will come out of education, roads, healthcare, and other discretionary projects. It is also written in such a way as to possibly be construed to specify *certain kinds* of alternative fuel -- natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen -- and could be used to exclude major clean-fuel vehicle types like hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and full-electric cars.
Prop 7 covers the state's renewable energy issue, and the idea of taking $10 billion out of our economy with no real plan where it's going to come from is a bad idea. As much as I'd like the gov't to buy me a Prius, I will be voting NO on Prop 10.
Redistricting, Constitutional amendment.
Basically would allow the districts of state representatives to the federal congress to be redrawn. The weasel word that concerns me here is that it allows of the creation and maintenance of "communities of interest" -- and doesn't define what that means. This sounds to me like it would allow for redistricting based on ideological biases. This power, by the way, is given to an appointed -- not elected -- commission.
I don't like the smell of this. It's a new bureacracy that is not elected and therefore not accountable to the will of the people. And another constitutional amendment, which are hard to undo once done. I will vote NO on Prop. 11.
Provides low-interest rate home loans to U.S. Veterans.
It's understandable if folks are gun-shy of the home loan market after these last couple of harrowing weeks, which were caused in part by bad home loans. But as my roommate Brian pointed out, those were high interest rate home loans, not low interest rates. This could actually help the state economy.
Generally speaking, a house is one of the best investments you can make. This program has apparently been in place for a long time and is merely renewed each election. And regardless of your feelings on war or the military -- I happen to be a pacifist and don't get me started on Iraq -- the fact is that the people in the military do what they do out of loyalty to this country, and if they need a little help buying their piece of the American dream when they get done, then I think that's the least we can do.
(It's also a little telling that the opposition apparently consists of one guy. Most ballot measures get at least three people for each side, representing particular interests that want the measure to either pass or fail. He doesn't even have an organizational affiliation. He's just some guy.)
I will vote YES on Prop 12.
So, to recap:
Prop 1: NO
Prop 2: NO
Prop 3: NO
Prop 4: NO
Prop 5: YES
Prop 6: NO
Prop 7: YES
Prop 8: NO
Prop 9: NO
Prop 10: NO
Prop 11: NO
Prop 12: YES