There are two ways a measure can be placed on the ballot:
- The Legislature has the ability to place constitutional amendments, bond measures, and proposed changes in law on the ballot.
- Any California voter can put an initiative or a referendum on the ballot by following the “How to Qualify an Initiative Process” as described on the California Secretary of State website.
A statewide ballot measure can be approved by a majority vote of the people.
For the November 4, 2014 Election, six propositions have qualified for the ballot. The AAUW CA Public Policy Committee has studied the ballot measures in the context of the approved AAUW CA Public Policy Priorities – 2013-2015, and has taken positions on four. AAUW CA recommends that members study the detailed Voter Information pamphlet with pros and cons, soon to be mailed to registered voters, as well as read the full text of the propositions on the Secretary of State website, http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2014/general/pdf/
Proposition 1: Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014
Under existing law, various measures have been approved by the voters in past elections to provide funds for water supply and protection facilities and flood control, but not all authorized bonds have been sold. Put on the ballot by the California Legislature, this measure, if passed, would authorize the sale of $7,120,000,000 in state bonds, and reallocate $425,000,000 of unissued bonds to finance the purpose of water quality, supply and infrastructure improvements.
Safeguarding California’s supply of clean and safe water for homes, businesses and farms is an essential responsibility of government and critical to protecting the quality of life for all Californians. Every Californian should have access to clean, safe, and reliable drinking water. This measure provides funding to implement the three objectives of the California Water Action Plan which are more reliable water supplies, the restoration of important species and habitat, and a more resilient and sustainable managed water infrastructure. It will also enable investment in expanding groundwater storage. It is “tunnel neutral” and provides no funding for the proposed tunnels in the San Joaquin Delta region. This measure provides a comprehensive and fiscally responsible approach to addressing the varied challenges facing California’s water resources.
This initiative is consistent with AAUW’s Public Policy Priorities promoting the economic, social, and physical well- being of all persons. AAUW CA supports the passage of this initiative.
Proposition 2: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. Legislative Constitutional Amendment
Senate Bill 867 (Chapter 186, 2014) was signed by the Governor on August 11, 2014; changing the proposition number of this measure from 44 to 2.
Proposition 58 passed in 2004 required reserves to be set aside in the CA General Fund for economic uncertainties. However, no funds are currently set aside because the governor can declare a budget emergency and waive the “set asides” of 3% of the general fund revenues or a cap of $8 million or 5%, whichever is greater, into a Budget Stabilization Account (BSA). Then 50% of these annual transfers must be used to pay off Economic Recovery Bonds.
Proposition 2 requires the state to spend minimum amount each year to pay down specified debts. It creates a Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA) which is funded by a transfer of capital gains-related tax funds in excess of 8% of the general fund revenues. It creates rules about forecasting estimates of revenues and expenditures for 3 fiscal years with 1.5% annual deposit of general fund revenues and taxes from capital gains in excess of 8%, and changes rules for taking money out of the BSA. Funds would be appropriated when state support for K-14 education exceeds the allocated revenues and resources. School districts will be limited in the amount of reserves that can be kept at the local level.
While theoretically the PSSSA is a positive step for education, an analysis by Ed Source (of which AAUW CA was a founding partner) states the PSSSA would not likely be funded until the end of the decade. With this degree of uncertainty, AAUW CA remains neutral on this proposition.\
Proposition 45: Healthcare Insurance. Rate Changes. Initiative Statute
If passed by voters, this initiative would require the Insurance Commissioner’s approval before a health insurer could change its rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance. It provides for public notice, disclosure, and hearing, and subsequent judicial review, and exempts employer large group health plans.
If an appointed Insurance Commissioner is given the power to approve “the change of rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance”, concentrating this power in a single individual could have significant, negative ramifications. The commissioner could undermine key components of the Affordable Care Act, making quality affordable healthcare inaccessible for many. Insurers could withdraw their plans from the exchange if their rates are rejected by the state and lead to fewer affordable, quality plans from which consumers could choose. Passage of this initiative could cause a number of unique, unintended consequences creating barriers to coverage, confuse consumers, and possibly increase out-of-pocket costs for low-and moderate-income families enrolled in Covered California.
The ballot measure creates multiple, conflicting review processes and lengthy delays that undermine Covered California’s ability to negotiate lower health insurance rates and coverage on behalf of California consumers.
AAUW’s Public Policy Priorities promote “quality affordable and accessible health care” for all. This proposition holds no commitment to meeting this assurance, thus AAUW CA recommends an oppose position on Proposition 45.
Proposition 46: Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute
Proposition 46 would require drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board. It would also require the California Medical Board to suspend a doctor with a positive test and to take disciplinary action if the doctor was impaired while on duty. Health care practitioners would be required to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. It would require health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Finally, it would increase the cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits from $250,000 to over $1 million, reflecting inflation.
Raising the cap on noneconomic damages would likely increase overall health care spending in California (both governmental and nongovernmental) by: (1) increasing direct medical malpractice costs and (2) changing the amount and types of health care services provided. The increased awards in medical lawsuits would likely be passed on to the consumer and would therefore increase the costs of health care. It is likely that some physicians would leave California if their malpractice insurance costs rise, thus decreasing access by consumers. Also there are concerns that the state prescription drug history database is inadequate for the scope of record-keeping required by this initiative.
Recommendation: Because AAUW supports access to quality, affordable health, it opposes this initiative and recommends a NO vote.
Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute
The initiative would reduce the penalty for most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative would mandate misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, non-violent crimes,” such as petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent and serious crimes.
It would permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative lists as misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates would be eligible for resentencing, according to the Californians for Safety and Justice group. Safeguards in this initiative include requiring a “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individuals before resentencing to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.
This proposition would create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund would receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year. Funds from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund would be distributed as follows: 25% to the Department of Education, 10% to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and 65% to the Board of State and Community Correction. These funds will be applied to the above for k-12 schools for truancy etc.; mental health and drug treatment programs; and crime victims programs.
Basic to all AAUW’s public policy efforts is the understanding that true equity requires a balance between the right of the individual and the needs of the community. AAUW CA recommends a support position on this initiative.
Proposition 48: Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum
AAUW CA did not study this initiative, as it is not related to the AAUW CA Public Policy Priorities.