02 November 2014

2014 California ballot endorsements

Some friends have asked how I'm voting in the California election on Tuesday, since there are a number of tricky ballot initiatives. So these are my endorsements. I drew a lot on the voting guides from KQED and the reliably-progressive SF Bay Guardian. (Update: After posting this, Peter Merholz pointed me to Pete Rates The Propositions, which makes the surprising and surprisingly persuasive argument that one should vote Yes on every proposition right here. If nothing else, you should check out his discussion of 48 as a witty piece of writing.)

It's worth noting that as a general rule, I'm hesitant to support California ballot propositions, because they create changes in the law that are very difficult to update. This is especially true for propositions which affect taxation and funding. A big part of why California has a budget crisis almost every year is because the accretion of rules and set-asides from past ballot initiatives has made budgeting into a kind of unwinnable Jenga game.

Water infrastructure bond

Proposition 1 — Yes

I think we don't spend enough on infrastructure, and this year's drought is a reminder of California's dependence on complex water infrastructure. One can certainly conceive of a better policy, and better mechanisms for funding it. But politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the conceivable. Without this bond, California water infrastructure will suffer.

Why might one vote No instead?

If you want to strike a symbolic blow against bond issues because you are stupid and think the state should never take on debt, or because you want to strike a symbolic blow against California's water management infrastructure because you read Cadillac Desert, you might want to consider voting No.

State rainy day fund

Proposition 2 — No

This looks likely to pass. I understand the appeal of the idea, nobody serious seems to oppose it, and the legislation seems reasonably well-crafted. But as I'm a crank who is opposed to this budget-by-proposition process, I'm voting No.

Why might one vote Yes instead?

It is an improvement to the ineffectual old law, and the Rainy Day Fund is not a bad idea.

Health insurance rate regulation

Proposition 45 — No

This initiative to tweak California's health insurance regulatory apparatus gives more power to the Commissioner, which might be a good idea. Or might not. It's hard to say.

Again, when in doubt, I vote No.

Why might one vote Yes instead?

Health insurance companies are spending a lot of money to fight this proposition. When it comes to health insurance regulation, you could do a lot worse than run the opposite direction from where insurers are pointing.

Medical malpractice regulation

Proposition 46 — No

This is a bundle of several forms of regulation, including drug testing of doctors.

There's stuff in here to like, but making doctors pee in a cup offends me. And there's a lot going on in the proposition, which spooks me. If part of the policy is good and part of it is bad, it's going to be difficult to dislodge if it passes.

Why might one vote Yes instead?

The core element of this proposition — raising the malpractice suit award limit — is probably a good idea.

Reduced criminal sentencing

Proposition 47 — YES YES YES

This is the key item which I feel excited about. It turns a lot of minor property and drug crimes that are now felonies into misdemeanors. If you're reading me, then you're probably familiar with all the reasons why I would say that the criminal justice system is harsh in the wrong ways, which makes this a welcome change.

Why might one vote No instead?

If you're a vindictive person who supports the racist prison-industrial complex, you might vote against this proposition.

Off-reservation tribal casino

Proposition 48 — No

Allowing casinos is bad policy: there's no stopping people from gambling, but creating a wealthy, powerful corporate entity with an interest in encouraging gambling is asking for trouble. Despite that, I support casinos on Indian reservations because I'm adamant in support of the independence of governance of reservations. But this casino is not on a reservation.

The arguments in favor of this proposition are such weak tea that looking at the official pro-48 website actually made me less sympathetic to the initiative. So again: when in doubt, I vote No.

Why might one vote Yes instead?

Given a horrific history of genocide and oppression, at this point it's a good idea to try to err in favor of giving Native Americans what they want.

State offices — The Democrats

If you know me, you know that I'm a believer in “partisanship”. Saying “I don't vote for the party, I vote for the candidate” isn't a demonstration that you're above bonehead politics, it's a demonstration that you're naïve. Given the options, I'm voting for all Democratic candidates on the slate.

Superintendent of Schools — Torlakson

My trusted informant on school policy tells me, “Tom Torlakson is doing a good job, and Marshall Tuck is a charter school asshole.”

I've been following the charter school movement for some time now. I'm sympathetic to a hunger for serious school reform in the US, but like a lot of progressives I've become very critical of the charter school movement, which reflects not reform-minded educators but rather meddling amateurs motivated by neoliberal ideology.

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