17 Initiatives Qualify for November Ballot

Voting boothVoters have been warned for a while to be prepared for a seemingly never-ending series of ballot measures, and on Thursday the secretary of state released the final list of what initiatives qualified.

Seventeen total. And while voters will read and learn more as the campaigns unfold between now and Election Day, here is a quick reference guide to get your bearings.

Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags: This is as it sounds. In 2014, the Legislature passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. So a “yes” vote would uphold the ban. A “no” vote would overturn it.

To uphold the law would ban the use of single-use carryout bags, except for perishable items. It would also impose a fee of at least $.10 per paper bag or thicker plastic bag if the customer didn’t provide a reusable one.

The ban actually died on the Assembly floor in 2014 three days before it passed. What changed? A deal was struck between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Safeway creating the $.10 fee, which will be kept by the grocer/retailer.

Plastic Bags, Part II: If the plastic bag ban is upheld by voters, this initiative would divert the $.10 fees for bags to a state fund to pay for environmental programs. This would be in lieu of the money going to the grocers.

Campaign Finance (Poll): This is basically just an elaborate poll. It’s a non-binding measure that allows voters through the ballot process to log their approval or disapproval of campaign finance law in the country.

A similar measure got tied up in court in 2014, as opponents called it a ploy to drive voter turnout. But in January, the state Supreme Court ruled it was allowable, and so here it is.

Specifically at question is the 2010 Citizens United ruling where the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums in support or opposition of a political candidate.

Guns and Ammo: This is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pet project. This would ban magazines of 11 rounds or more, require background checks for ammunition and require the state to share data in the FBI’s background check system, among other things.

However, a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday but not signed yet by Gov. Jerry Brown would amend this ballot initiative (yes, it amends something that isn’t yet law) to further limit who can purchase ammunition to both persons whose data matches up with the Automated Firearms System and to those who have a ammunition purchase authorization. There are some exceptions.

Naturally, this sidestep of Newsom to amend his measure ruffled his feathers, dragging him and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, the bill’s sponsor, into a public disagreement.

“This last-minute, anti-democratic, poison pill sneak attack makes you wonder if the Pro Tem cares about himself more than he cares about doing the right thing,” said Newsom spokesman Dan Newman, according to The Sacramento Bee. “Is he someone who truly respects the will of the voters and wants to reduce gun violence or is he merely a self-serving cynic completely consumed with petty personal grudges?”

Death Penalty Repeal: This repeals the death penalty as the maximum punishment for murder and replaces it with life without parole, applying retroactively to those already sentenced to death.

This has a provision mandating those who’ve been sentenced to life without parole to work, with 60 percent of their income possibly going towards restitution to victims.

The Opposite of a Death Penalty Repeal: And for those who think the death penalty should stay as the ultimate sentence for murder, this measure would speed up the process by implementing a time limit on the lengthy appeals process, by assigning the superior court for the initial review and by limiting the number of successive petitions.

Like the competing measure, this would impose a work requirement for restitution to victims.

Drug Pricing: This would set pharmaceutical prices for any state agency to be as low as what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays — the VA benefits from federally mandated cost controls.

According to KPCC, the measure would apply to “any program in which the state is the ultimate payer for a drug,” which includes: Medi-Cal fee-for-service plans, CalPERS (provides health benefits to current and retired state employees), prison inmates and people receiving AIDS drugs from the government.

Condoms in Porn: This may as well be called the Condoms In Porn Act, because it would require porn actors to wear condoms during the filming of sexual intercourse.

It also requires that producers provide testing and vaccinations for STDs. And for what it’s worth, producers would also have to post the condom requirements at the job site.

No Blank Checks Initiative: This would require any bond of $2 billion or more for a state project to go before the voters for approval.

As dull as that sounds, it could have a dramatic impact on Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy, in that it would likely put funding for the bullet train and the twin tunnels water project up to a vote of the people.

School Bond: This would authorize $9 billion in bonds for school construction and modernization, supported by a coalition of school districts and school developers. Pretty self-explanatory.

The measure failed to qualify in 2014, however, amid opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown, who said at the time local school construction was best left up to local control.

Earlier this year, Brown reiterated his opposition, calling the initiative a “blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities,” according to EdSource.

FYI: Blunderbuss is a “blundering person,” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also an old fashioned, muzzle-loading gun.

Prop. 30 extension: This is a 12-year extension of Prop. 30, which was a seven-year temporary tax on earnings of more than $250,000 annually to bolster education funding, with the extension coming two years early.

Prop. 30 passed to stave of imminent sharp cuts in education. Now that the economy has recovered, proponents want to keep the money flowing and now hospitals want a cut too.

The extension would allow a quarter-cent sales tax that was part of Prop. 30 to expire, but would add up to $2 billion in funding per year for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

As part of Prop. 30, the program was supposed to receive several layers of accountability, including a state-run audit of the fund that doles out the money to schools that still hasn’t happened. The controller’s office previously told CalWatchdog the audit would likely happen before voters have to decide.

California Legislature Transparency Act: The CLTA is a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to make available online the final version of a bill at least 72 hours prior to a vote on either the Assembly or Senate floor. It would also require all open legislative meetings be recorded with the videos posted online within 24 hours and would give permission to individuals to record and share their own videos of open meetings.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, is currently negotiating with CLTA proponents over changes proposed by the Legislature — but the negotiations are not going well.

Multilingual Education: This would repeal most of Prop. 227, which in 1998 placed heavy restrictions on bilingual educations for English learners in favor of English-immersion education.

Why would voters overturn their prior decision? Education Week framed the debate well. Proponents argue new data shows the value of bilingual education, native English speakers would be allowed access to a bilingual education (if they choose), and because we live in a different world with rapidly changing demographics.

Why would voters keep Prop. 227 on the books? Ron Unz, a former candidate for U.S. Senate and governor who pushed for Prop. 227, argued that an overall improvement over a year-period in standardized test scores shows Prop. 227 worked. And others would likely make a nativist argument: This is America, and residents should learn English.

Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement: This one is a little confusing. The federal government contributes to the state’s health care program for low-income patients, called Medi-Cal. In order to get this money, the state has to contribute matching funds.

In 2009, the state passed a law taxing hospitals to help contribute to the state’s portion of the Medi-Cal funding to get the money from the feds. However, the state was diverting some of this money into the general fund.

So, this measure amends the state Constitution requiring these funds go to where they are intended.

It would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to amend the fee allocation program only when the changes would “amend or add provisions that further the purposes of the Act.” It would require voter approval to repeal or replace the program with a “similar statute imposing a tax, fee or assessment unless that similar statute is either.”

Sentencing overhaul:  Jerry Brown’s baby. After surviving a legal challenge and rumored sky-high signature collecting fees, this bill made it to the ballot just before the deadline.

Brown’s measure would allow for some nonviolent felons to be paroled early in certain instances, require judges to hold hearings prior to determining whether to try juveniles as an adult, and develop a good behavior, parole-and-sentence credit system for prisoners.

Marijuana Legalization: This would allow individuals, 21 and older, to transport and use up to an ounce of recreational pot. It would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.

If approved, California would join Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Oregon in allowing recreational pot.

Tobacco Tax: If this passes, smokers would pay a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes, with a similar increase on other tobacco products and e-cigs containing nicotine. The money will go primarily to healthcare and anti-smoking/tobacco-related health programs.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

‘Surf City’ First in Nation to Repeal Plastic Bag Ban

On Tuesday night, on an overwhelming 6-1 vote, the city council of Huntington Beach, California–which is officially known as “Surf City, USA“–directed the city staff to begin the process of repealing a policy that bans the use of plastic grocery bags, and requires grocery stores to charge a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

This coastal city in Orange County, which boasts 9.5 miles of beautiful beaches, is about to make history, as never before has a city with such a bag ban ever repealed it.

The city’s bag ban was an issue in last year’s council elections, and all four council members who won election were public in their support for repealing it, defeating two incumbents who had voted in favor.

Breitbart News spoke with Councilman Mike Posey, who placed the repeal onto the council agenda, and made the motion for its passage. He was crystal clear on his motive. “The intention of the bag ban was to reduce litter and improve the environment. We have no verifiable proof that our local bag ban has done anything to reduce locally sourced and discarded single-use plastic bags. Littering of any kind is unacceptable, but we already have laws in place to address littering.”

Posey added, “”I believe in protecting the environment, and I treasure the beach, ocean, air and environment. I drive a clean diesel-powered car and telecommute a few days per week. I am not necessarily an environmentalist but am steadfastly environmentally conscious. I also value freedom. However, litter from plastic bags is caused by misuse and not use, and I object to punishing everyone because some people choose to litter.”

Other Councilmembers supporting the vote to begin the bag ban repeal process were Dave Sullivan, Barbara Delgleize, Erik Petersen, Billy O’Connell and Dave Katapodis (the latter of whom actually voted for the original ban, but who has apparently changed his mind). Mayor Jill Hardy cast the lone dissenting vote.

Former mayor Matthew Harper, who had been on the losing end of the ban vote in 2012, but who was just elected to the California State Assembly this last November, lauded the actions of the city council.

“The vote to begin the process of repealing the ill-advised ban is a step forward for the local community,” he said. “Whether you look at this as a consumer choice issue, or from the perspective that the ban seeks to correct an alleged problem that is not prevalent on our beaches, I applaud the council’s overwhelming vote.”

The city’s plastic bag ban/paper bag fee ordinance was adopted in 2012 amidst much controversy, with the Surfrider Foundation, major proponents of the ban, committing to cover the city’s $20,000 cost of conducting a necessary environmental impact report.

While the city moved forward at the time, ultimately adopting the ban, it is worth noting that the Surfriders never did make good on their pledge.

Last year, in the final hours of the California legislature’s session, legislators put SB 270 onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, and he signed the statewide ban on plastic grocery bags, which required grocers to charge at least ten cents for every paper bag used.

However, right after Brown signed the bill, the American Progressive Plastic Bag Alliance, an industry group, announced that it would seek to gather the signatures necessary to trigger a statewide referendum on the bill.  A few months later they turned in over 800,000 signatures of registered voters, well above the required 504,760 number.

The effect of qualifying the referendum is that SB 270 does not go into effect, and instead the question of whether to ban plastic grocery bags and mandate a fee on paper bags will appear on the 2016 general election ballot.

For years more extreme environmental activist groups had been trying, without success, to pass a statewide ban on plastic bags. Year after year, the effort was beaten back by a coalition made up of bag manufacturers, grocers, liberty-oriented groups, and groups concerned that a bag ban is regressive and adversely impacts the poor.

The lynchpin for the ban finally passing was the placing of the mandatory ten-cent fee on paper bags into the bill, with the profits from that fee (double the actual cost of the paper bags) going straight to the profit margin of grocery stores. That amounts to hundreds of million of dollars of years to grocers, and thus it is not surprising, if alarming, that with this economic incentive the California Grocers Association abandoned its traditional opposition to the ban, instead reversing its position to support it.

There is no doubt that Surf City’s repeal of its local ordinance will be featured in the statewide campaign against the bag ban on next year’s ballot.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R), who along with Harper lives in and represents Huntington Beach and who testified to the Council in support of repealing the ban, told Breitbart News, “Huntington Beach reversing their ban is proof that a one-size-fits-all statewide ban on plastic bags is a terrible idea.”

The projected timeline for the final repeal of Huntington Beach’s ban, after the results of an environmental impact report, and the requisite multiple votes on the repeal, is late May.

Originally published in Breitbart CA.

CA Bag Ban Tied in Knots by Referendum Threat

California’s tug-of-war over the legality of single-use plastic bags will get another twist in 2015. Thanks to a determined signature collection campaign mounted by industry opponents, a referendum putting the ban to a vote now seems certain to land on state ballots in 2016.

The plastic-bag industry, unhappy with the law’s requirement that they shift to the manufacture of more durable multi-use bags, moved with a degree of swiftness and efficacy unusual in signature-collection campaigns.

Would-be ballot initiatives often rely on relatively unfocused or underfunded operations. But would-be referenda, as the Sacramento Bee reported, come with a legally mandated 90-day window to collect sufficient signatures. That left bag-ban opponents with just 90 days to rack up over 500,000 valid signatures.

But the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry group, launched its signature drive right on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown’s own signature — of Senate Bill 270, the final bag-ban bill that landed on his desk in September. Fully prepared for a swift, successful effort, the Alliance got to work. Now, supporters of the referendum say they’ve cleared the 800,000 signature mark, although the final tally has not been officially counted.

An immediate victory

Cold, hard political reality provided much of the impetus behind the signature-gathering campaign. Not only was a hustle essential to landing the referendum on the ballot. Qualifying for ballot placement puts an automatic freeze on the implementation of the law to be challenged. Scheduled to kick in on July 1 of this year, the bag ban will be put on hold until the results of the referendum are certified.

What’s more, however, the time that delay buys manufacturers will result — at minimum — in an extra revenue boost of two years’ worth in single-use bag sales. As the Washington Post observed, the 16-month freeze triggered by ballot qualification “will allow manufacturers to continue producing plastic bags until voters act. Sales of those plastic bags could amount to $145 million,” according to Californians Against Waste, a pro-ban group that announced its estimate.

It’s a number that adds some perspective to the big industry outlay of over $3 million in signature collection.

An unfree market

The bag industry has not been alone in throwing its weight around over the dollars and cents on the line when Sacramento Democrats determined they wanted to take California’s many municipal bag bans statewide.

Backroom negotiations cobbled together enough support in Sacramento to outlaw the bags last year. Then the coalition of environmental, political and labor interests behind the ban fell apart at the last minute — only to be resurrected after further wrangling.

The result was a failed vote to ban single-use bags, followed swiftly by a do-over that succeeded in placing the ban on the books. What made the difference? Concessions to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which scuttled the first vote by turning against SB270 when it became clear a minimum 10-cent surcharge on bags would be part of the deal.

After cutting a deal with the Safeway grocery chain, dispelling union fears the surcharge would flow into executives’ pockets, not its own, the UFCW switched back to supporting SB270. The bill passed.

Tough sledding

Despite the unglamorous machinations that played out only partially behind the scenes, California’s bag bans — both at the state and local level — have managed to maintain a significant base of public support.

Already, as the Post reported, about a third of the state’s population is within local jurisdictions that have done away with single-use bags. Much of that comes from the ban by the city of Los Angeles that went into effect on July 1 last year.

Add to that Californians outside those areas agitating for a ban, and residents who don’t have an objection to the law, and referendum supporters face a challenging electoral landscape in 2016.

Though there is still plenty of time to shift public opinion, a USC Dornsife poll showed Californians still backing the ban by a 2-to-1 margin.

This piece was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Tax Hikes Loom for 2016 Ballot

Although it may seem far in the distant future, there has been a great deal of speculation regarding what ballot propositions might appear on the 2016 General Election ballot in California.  Focusing on just those proposals having the potential for real harm to taxpayers, here is our short list:

SALES AND INCOME TAX EXTENSION — An extension of the temporary sales and income tax increase voters approved with Proposition 30 in 2012 is being advocated by public sector labor leaders.  The proponents will argue that, since Californians are accustomed to paying these higher rates, it should be more palatable to voters to make these tax increases permanent as opposed to some “new” tax.

OIL SEVERANCE TAX — An oil severance tax – taxing petroleum as it is extracted – is likely to be advanced by those who see an opportunity to soak an unpopular industry. They will count on the public not noticing that these taxes will be passed on to California drivers in the form of higher gas prices.

SPLIT ROLL PROPERTY TAX — Those on the far left are salivating over the prospect of an increase in property taxes for commercial property.  This attack on Proposition 13 would split the tax roll so that business property will pay much more. The impact on small business and jobs will be glossed over with the usual platitudes like, “It’s for the children.” They will totally ignore that higher taxes on businesses are passed through to consumers in the form of higher costs for goods and services.

TOBACCO TAX — A tobacco tax is also in the offing.  The state tax on a pack of cigarettes is 87 cents.  Those wanting more tax revenue would like to add another two dollars and will probably also claim it is a blow for public health because it will help smokers quit.  Even if one opposes smoking, it has to be acknowledged that tobacco taxes are highly regressive as well as leading to more black market commerce which, by the way, goes untaxed.

LOWERING OF THE TWO-THIRDS VOTE FOR BONDS AND/OR PARCEL TAXES – Of greatest concern to California homeowners is the possibility that the two-thirds vote requirement for local bonds and parcel taxes will be eliminated.  These levies are repaid only by property owners.  How realistic is this threat?  Considering that, for the first time since Prop 13 was passed in 1978, a house of the California legislature actually passed this anti-13 proposal (ACA 8) the threat is very real.

BAG TAX – The “bag tax” – a charge on single use bags – is actually not a tax increase proposal. Rather, this tax was enacted by the legislature but is now subject to repeal via the referendum power by those opposed to the tax. The tax reflects “nanny government” at its worst.

Here are a couple of observations about this potential tax “tsunami” at the ballot box. First, the threat from anti-taxpayer initiatives is even higher than in prior years because, for 2016, it is much easier to qualify initiative measures generally.This is due to the fact that the signature requirement is based on the most recent election’s voter turnout. 2014’s historically low turnout means that initiative measures now need far fewer signatures to qualify than in previous years.

Second, what happens if all these tax hikes appear on the ballot?  Would this be the ultimate “Dooms Day” for taxpayers?  Perhaps.   But, in an odd way, it might be a positive development. By overreaching and asking for the moon, the tax-and-spend crowd might ensure defeat of all the measures as voters begin to add up how much these proposals, in the aggregate, are going to cost.

Third, while Californians in the last election were fairly generous in passing local tax measures, this does not necessarily translate into support for state tax hikes. Voters’ recent support for Proposition 30, discussed previously, was based on a perceived crisis for education if the taxes were not approved. Plus, the hikes were sold as “temporary.” Those conditions are not currently present. Californians are increasingly aware that we live in a high tax state and resistance to higher taxes will be high for the foreseeable future.

In any event, expect to see the groundwork laid for these and other tax raising initiatives very soon.   It will be important for taxpayers to pay close attention and to keep a tight grip on their wallets.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This article was originally published on HJTA.org

Top 10 Measures Likely to Appear on November 2016 California Ballot

The General Election ballot in 2016 is likely to have more statewide ballot measures on it than California voters have seen in a long time. The main reason for this is that the number of signatures needed in order to qualify a statutory measure or even a constitutional amendment have plummeted with the pathetically low turnout in last month’s election (the signature requirement is 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election).

To be specific, it previously took 504,760 valid signatures to place a statutory initiative on the ballot. It will now take less than 370,000. For a constitutional amendment, the number has dropped from 807,615 to less than 590,000. A couple of years ago, a law was signed that requires that all measures placed on the ballot by signature petitions must appear on the November–not the June–ballot.

Below are the top ten measures most likely to appear on the November, 2016 ballot:

PLASTIC GROCERY BAG BAN — In a naked profit grab supported by the California Grocers Association, the legislature passed and Governor Brown signed into law a bill that would ban single-use plastic grocery bags and would mandate that stores charge at least ten cents for every paper bag given to a customer. This paper bag fee puts hundreds of millions of dollars of profits straight into the pockets of grocery store owners. A coalition representing plastic bag manufacturers is currently gathering signatures to refer this bill to the voters.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA — In 1996, California voters passed a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana. Now the push is on to put another measure before Golden State voters that would decriminalize recreational marijuana use and regulate it, much the same way that alcohol use is currently regulated. Similar measures have recently passed in a handful of other states, and advocates are already targeting California.

PROP. 30 EXTENSION — In 2012, at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, California voters approved a significant increase in sales and income taxes in California. It was sold to voters as needed to fund California schools, although money from these tax increases has been spent much more broadly. It is virtually certain that a “renewal” of this tax hike package will be placed on the ballot by Governor Brown.

OIL SEVERANCE TAX — Billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has, on many occasions, talked about his desire to see California impose an oil extraction tax — taxing oil companies on each barrel of oil extracted from the ground. Steyer calls the absence of such a tax in California a “loophole” that he thinks should be closed. Of course someone of Steyer’s means could easily hire the paid signature gatherers to put this on the November ballot.

TOBACCO TAX — Currently, California’s smokers pay 87 cents per pack of cigarettes in state taxes, ranking us 33rd in the country. The well-heeled California Medical Association announced this month that they are part of a coalition to seek a $2 per pack increase in the state’s tobacco tax. The number of packs of cigarettes sold in California has dropped from 1.4 billion back in 1990 down to around 870 million today.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY TAX — California’s landmark property tax reform measure, Proposition 13, passed in 1978, limits reassessment of property values to when properties change ownership. Those seeking to increase state revenues are advocating placing what is called a “split roll tax” before the voters, which in essence would keep the tight restrictions on residential property taxation but really make it a lot easier to increase taxes on commercial properties.

BATHROOM BILL — In 2013 a law was signed, referred to as the transgendered bathroom bill, that would have allowed students to play on gender-segregated school sporting teams, or use bathrooms based on their gender identity rather than their biological gender. An attempt to refer this bill to voters fell short – barely. But the signatures gathered were well above what would be needed to place a measure on the ballot in 2016.

PENSION REFORM — Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed led a coalition of folks who were looking at putting potential significant public sector pension reforms on the ballot this year, but they ended up holding off for 2016. Both the lower signature threshold and the growing magnitude of the combined unfunded public employee pension liabilities at both the state and local level make it extremely likely that Reed puts this reform up in 2016.

MINIMUM WAGE — This last year saw multiple ballot measures pass around the country hiking the minimum wage. Liberal activists in California have been advocating for an increase in the minimum wage here. Actually our minimum wage here is about to jump to $10 from it’s current $9 — but there is thought that a hike up to $13 could find its way before voters if it isn’t just approved out the gate by the left-wing legislature.

GAY MARRIAGE — In 2008, by a 53%-47% margin, voters passed Proposition 8, which stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Public opinion has shifted away from this definition in the last eight years and, while Prop. 8 was invalidated by the courts, look for gay rights activists to place something on the ballot next go-around to make sure that the people have a chance to state their collective opinion on same-sex marriage.

Yes, the 2016 ballot will keep voters busy and be a full-employment act for political consultants.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at jon@flashreport.org.

VIDEO: James Lacy: ‘Green revolution’ takes over The Golden State

James Lacy, author of “Taxifornia,” discusses California’s plastic bag ban and state government with Stuart Varney on Fox Business.