How I’m Voting California Ballot Propositions

voting_united_statesCalifornia has 17 new propositions up for vote on the ballot next week (the link has longer descriptions as well as arguments for each one). I had to do some research to figure out how I’m going to vote on each one anyway, so I figured I’d write down some thoughts here as well. In general my instinct is to reject unless given a good argument to accept, so we’ll see if any of them can convince me. I spent approximately 5 minutes deciding on each, so this analysis probably isn’t the deepest. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any good arguments on either side.

Proposition 51: Public School Facility Bonds

What it Does: Allows $9 billion in new borrowing to be used to improve education in California

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: California may be doing better in terms of budget these days, but debt levels are still not so good. Even Gov. Jerry Brown says no. Maybe if the money was going to a good cause it would be worth taking on more debt. But it’s going to education:


The $3 billion allocated to “modernization of school facilities” is particularly concerning. The school system has problems. More money is not the answer.

Proposition 52: Continued Hospital Fee Revenue Dedicated to Medi-Cal Unless Voters Approve Changes

What it Does: I’m not entirely sure. Apparently there is a fee paid by hospitals that goes to MediCal (California’s version of Medicaid). This proposition would continue that fee and would only allow it to change if voters agreed. A no would allow legislators to change it and potentially divert funds away from MediCal to the general fund

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: It looks to me that either way the money is going to be spent. If I understand correctly, a yes vote makes sure it is spent on healthcare for the poor rather than whatever politicians think is important. That seems better to me.

Proposition 53: Voter Approval Requirement for Revenue Bonds above $2 Billion

What it Does: Requires any infrastructure project that requires more than $2 billion in funding through bonds to be approved by voters first

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: Supporters refer to it as the “No Blank Checks Initiative.” Sounds good to me.

Proposition 54: Public Display of Legislative Bills Prior to Vote

What it Does: Requires laws to be posted online for 72 hours prior to a vote by the legislature

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: The opposition says “Prop 54 will throw a monkey wrench into the ability of our elected officials to get things done.” I thought they were trying to convince me to vote no. But seriously, increasing transparency in legislation is a welcome change.

Proposition 55: Extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase

What it Does: Extends a tax increase on incomes over $250,000 passed in 2012 for 12 more years

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: How about a tax decrease?

Proposition 56: Tobacco Tax Increase

What it Does: Increases taxes on cigarettes by $2.00 per pack

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: Current taxes are 87 cents per pack so we’re looking at a 230% increase. Here’s what the first study that comes up when you google “Do cigarette taxes work?” says about cigarette taxes: “Estimates indicate that, for adults, the association between cigarette taxes and either smoking participation or smoking intensity is negative, small and not usually statistically significant.” I’m already opposed to higher taxes in principle. Taxes that hit the poor the hardest and are allocated to specific government programs which are sure to be highly inefficient are even less appealing. I’m all for reducing smoking. The government isn’t the one that should be leading the charge. (Also perhaps most importantly I need my roommate to be able to pay his rent.)

Proposition 57: Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements

What it Does: Increases parole opportunities for non-violent criminals and allows judges to decide whether to try juveniles as adults

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: Seems like a no brainer. We put way too many people in jail. The opposing argument makes some scary claims that this is going to put rapists back onto the streets. I don’t buy it.

Proposition 58: Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education

What it Does: Repeals a previous proposition that required English to be used in all classrooms and non-English speakers to take an intensive English training class

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: Would it be better if all students knew English? Maybe. But the reality is they don’t. If I’m a science teacher and I can teach my Spanish speaking students in their native language better than in English I should be allowed to do so. Get politicians out of the classroom and let teachers make the decisions.

Proposition 59: Overturn of Citizens United Act Advisory Question

What it Does: Nothing as far as I can see. It will “Call on California’s elected officials to work on overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and other similar judicial precedents…Proposition 59 would not legally require officials to act as the measure advises them to”

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: What? This should not be on the ballot. It’s a poll not a law.

Proposition 60: Condoms in Pornographic Films

What it Does: Ahem, just read for yourself (Don’t worry, link is safe for work, just a description of the proposition)

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: No comment, except maybe they should have waited 9 more propositions before proposing this one (sorry)

Proposition 61: Drug Price Standards

What it Does: Regulates drug prices to ensure state agencies pay no more than the Department of Veteran Affairs

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: I think we should move closer to a free market in healthcare. This proposition moves us further away. Is this analysis too simple? Maybe, but unless there’s a crystal clear argument in support, I’m not voting for price controls in any situation.

Proposition 62: Repeal of the Death Penalty

What it Does: Self-explanatory

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: I don’t feel comfortable deciding whether another human being deserves to live or not. That’s already enough for a yes, but then I read the support argument and found out there’s been 13 executions since 1978, but they cost $5 BILLION?! and that “a death row sentence costs 18 times more than life in prison.” I can’t imagine why, but it makes my decision that much easier. Also, remember that even for the most heinous crimes, it’s not their fault.

Proposition 63: Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban

What it Does: Self-explanatory

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of increasing the difficulty of getting a gun, but this just seems like putting another layer of red tape on top of the red tape that’s already there

Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization

What it Does: Legalizes marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21

How I’m Voting: Yes

Reasoning: The drug war costs a ton and puts a bunch of people in jail for doing something that doesn’t harm anyone. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. Anyone that wants it can already get it with ease (if anything, legalization might make it more difficult for minors to get it although probably effect would be small). Easy vote for me.

Proposition 65: Dedication of Revenue from Disposable Bag Sales to Wildlife Conservation Fund

What it Does: Diverts all funds from the sale of bags to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. Currently stores are allowed to keep them I believe.

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: I wish I could just eliminate the fee altogether, but I definitely don’t want to turn it into a tax.

Proposition 66: Death Penalty Procedures

What it Does: Reforms death penalty legal procedures, shortening time legal challenges can take to 5 years

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: Let’s just repeal. If this gets more yes votes than 62 it supersedes it. I much prefer 62.

Proposition 67: Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum

What it Does: Bans plastic bags

How I’m Voting: No

Reasoning: I like plastic bags


4 thoughts on “How I’m Voting California Ballot Propositions”

  1. Good job on putting together all these arguments! Im very impressed at the fact that Californians get to make so many decisions, I wish Argentina was more like this.

    Anyways, I had a couple questions as I read along.

    Prop. 57: why would rapists be considered non-violent criminals? Raping is abut as violent as you can get.

    Prop. 65 & 67: I understand you want to continue to be able to buy plastic bags in supermarkets. But, some places like Target only offer plastic bags and stoped offering paper bags at all. Even in UCLA plastic bags seem to be the default. If its indeed the case that plastic are more harmul for the environment, how do you intend to reduce the externalities that stem from them without increasing taxes or imposing sales regulations? Maybe by forcing stores to offer paper bags as the default option?

    Prop.55: what about inequality? If bad things arent so much our fault, good things arent so much our deeds either. Like you said, California is not precisely in the best budget shape, and im sure money is a limitation for a lot of useful programs: subway system, homesness reduction program, mental health services, increased quality of education and access to higher education etc.

    1. Thanks for the comments!

      On prop 57 I’m also not sure. I guess the opposition’s argument is that “non-violent” is not well defined so anything could be considered non-violent. Just seems like scare tactics to me and since almost every one of the opposers is a Republican it seems to have become more of an ideologically driven stance than a fact based one, but I admit I haven’t looked into it too deeply. Either way, I doubt it would cause a major change in how parole decisions are made.

      On plastic bags, I’m not convinced that banning them will actually help the environment. I haven’t done a ton of research, but this WSJ article brings up the question of whether paper or plastic is better and it seems like it’s unclear.

      Tax increases are a trickier issue. I’m not concerned about inequality at all and I’m planning a post on why at some point so stay tuned if you’re interested in that. Not being able to afford useful programs is more concerning, but in general I think there’s a lot of not so useful spending we can cut before we need to raise taxes. Ideally, giving politicians less to work with would force them to choose only the most important programs and if that’s not true, then why do I want to give them even more money to waste on things that are not important? I realize that’s a pretty simple analysis for a complicated issue, but I also don’t think it’s so far off the mark.

  2. I am surprised how much I agree with you…

    51 – agree

    52 – disagree, unless there is a specific reason why certain tax funds certain cause (e.g. externality correction), no money should be locked-in in a specific cause

    53 – agree

    54 – agree

    55 – agree

    56 – disagree. I get the principle and would’ve supported killing tax if you did not have state-funded healthcare. Now, lower taxes on tobacco just allow people to bear only fraction of the social cost of their habit. Treatment of tobacco-related illnesess are paid by non-smoking taxpayers in many cases (especially in CA). But in principle, if there was no state-medicine, I would’ve agreed.

    57 – dont know current requirements in detail, but agree in principle

    58 – strongly disagree. You want to be Belgium in 30 years? From individual student perspective, you are also making them a disservice. In general I am aginst regulation of education, but those schools are public.

    59 – agree

    60 – agree

    61 – agree

    62 – agree

    63 – agree

    64 – agree

    65 – agree

    66 – agree

    67 – agree







    1. 52 I could really go either way. Doesn’t seem to be hugely important

      On 56, that’s definitely a fair point and it does give me some hesitation. If I were more confident that the money raised would actually go to paying for the healthcare of smokers I might be more inclined to vote yes.

      58 is the one where we disagree most for sure. If individual schools want to impose English only rules on their own, they should be allowed to, but I don’t think I can decide better than they can what is best for their students.

      So only one real disagreement I would say. Not too bad!

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