State ballot measures synopsized at Three Rivers town meeting

 

The October town meeting, held Monday, Oct. 6, highlighted the upcoming November 4 state general election along with local news and announcements. The measures Californians will vote on were described by the meeting’s moderator, Lee Goldstein. 

California has an important history as the leader of status-quo-altering ballot measures — same sex marriage (Prop 8), medical marijuana, GMO labeling (Prop 37), and affirmative action (Prop 209), to name a few. As a result of these former ballot initiatives, one trend is common — California paves the way for not only the nation, but internationally when it comes to tackling controversial issues. 

Here is a summary of the 2014 issues:

 

Proposition 1: Water funding 

Approval of this measure would allocate $7.1 billion for quality, supply, treatment, and storage of California’s water. 

“Particularly in the valley, there have been rising concerns about the quality of water,” Lee Goldstein said. 

Considering the current drought, this issue is a hot one. The money would be divided into several projects, which include water recycling, flood control, water storage, and cleanup of water systems, to name a few. 

Proponents include Governor Brown and the State Assembly and Senate; opponents include some ranchers, environmental groups, and taxpayers. Proponents argue that with California’s growing population and the current dwindling water supply, improvements need to be made. 

Opponents believe that “pork won’t bring rain,” and that the measure will crowd out other worthwhile public investment.

 

Proposition 2: Budget stabilization

Passage of this measure would dictate the formation of a rainy day fund for California. Starting October 1, 2015, the funds would be collected using 1.5 percent of general fund revenues. This can be suspended at any time by the Governor’s declaration of a state of fiscal emergency. 

The proposition would also include the formation of a Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA), funded by tax revenues in excess of 8 percent of general fund revenues. Proponents include bipartisan, almost unanimous legislative support, while opponents include some banking and education advocates. 

Advocates stress that while revenue cycles are unavoidable, this measure would lend some support to the fiscal integrity of the state. Some opponents believe that instead of the rainy day fund, there should be the formation of a state bank.

 

Proposition 45: Health insurance rate changes 

This measure would require health insurance rate changes, or any other change affecting charges, to be approved by the insurance commissioner. It also doesn’t allow insurance companies to determine eligibility based on a lack of prior coverage or credit history. This would affect individual and small group business health insurance, or about 16 percent of current health insurance customers. 

Proponents argue that with health insurance rates rising five times faster than inflation, there needs to be more accountability on part of the insurance companies. It would create regulation similar to auto and homeowners’ insurance. Opponents argue that the measure would produce more red tape and would give too much power to one elected politician.

 

Proposition 46: Drug testing for doctors 

Passage would increase the cap for damage in medical negligence suits from the current $250,000 to $1.1 million and would require random drug and alcohol testing for doctors. It would also require doctors to consult a prescription database before prescribing certain controlled drugs in order to reduce drug abuse and “prescription shopping.” 

Proponents include the California Nurses Association and the group Consumer Watchdog. Opponents, including the California Medical Association, argue that it unfairly benefits trial attorneys, that the prescription database is not fully functional, and the Medical Board already has protocol for disciplining doctors.

 

Proposition 47: Redefining felonies

Upon approval, felonies classified as “non-serious, non-violent” crimes would become misdemeanors. Funds released from lowered prison costs would be allocated to education (25%), victim compensation (10%), and community corrections (65%). Savings are estimated at $150 million to $250 million annually. It would permit resentencing for anyone currently serving a sentence for what would now be only considered a misdemeanor. Proponents, which include several justice groups and George Gascon, San Francisco district attorney, argue that the savings would reduce government waste and reallocate funds to more important causes, and that it would save prison space on low-level crime. Opponents, which include the California Police Chiefs Association, argue that resentencing will overwhelm the criminal justice system and that it would release thousands of dangerous inmates.

 

Proposition 48: Indian gaming 

This measure involves a contract made with the Mono Indians, allowing them to build a casino in Madera County. The proposed location isn’t within their reservation boundaries, but is considered to be part of their historic tribal lands. They would share the proceeds with the Northern California Wiyot Tribe. This initiative would set a precedent in that allowing the tribe to build (CEQA exempt) outside of their reservation lands would mean other tribes might follow suit. Proponents include the Mono Indians and Governor Brown, who argue that the project promotes tribal self-sufficiency and will create jobs. Opponents argue that it will promote the building of new casinos while neglecting environmental laws and the water supply.

The next town meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 3, the eve of the general election. The Town Halls are sponsored by Three Rivers Village Foundation. For information or to suggest an agenda item, call 561-3204.

Vote by Mail ballots are now available for the November election. A request to receive the absentee ballot must be received by the county Registrar of Voters by October 28. The completed ballot must be received by the office by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

For more information, call the Tulare County Elections Office, 624-7300.

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