Proposition Roundup


As is often the case, California voters had to sort through a number of ballot propositions on Election Day. Here’s a quick breakdown of the statewide measures.

Proposition 14. Issues $5.5 billion in bonds for stem cell research, winning 51-49.

Instant analysis: In 2004, voters approved Proposition 71, authorizing the sale of $3 billion in bonds for stem cell research and creating the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. A 2018 analysis of the CIRM by the San Francisco Chronicle found it had fallen “far short of what Prop. 71’s promoters promised.” Yet a majority of voters are back, appearing to approve levying a tax on their fellow Californians to fund an enterprise that should be left to the private-sector.

Proposition 15. Strips commercial and industrial properties of Proposition 13’s tax protection, losing 52-48.

Instant analysis: It shouldn’t have been close. But at least voters are saying no, according to the current count. If it passes, taxes on commercial and industrial properties would be raised, accelerating the business flight from California.

Proposition 16. Would repeal 1996’s Proposition 209, which says “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin … in education or public employment or contracting,” rejected 56-44.

Instant analysis: Despite claims it would promote equality and “level the playing field for all of us,” Prop 16 was in truth an effort to “reinstitutionalize racial discrimination” in California. It’s actually a bit discouraging that it wasn’t voted down by a much higher margin.

Proposition 17. A constitutional amendment that will restore convicted felons’ right to vote as soon as they have completed their prison terms, approved 59-41.

Instant analysis: Being released from prison is not the same as having paid the entire debt to society. A parolee in California is still legally serving “a part of the prison sentence,” and is not trusted “with decisions that will impact the lives and finances of all other members of society,” Prop 17 opponents say. It’s not clear how allowing parolees to vote will impact elections, but we will start finding out in a couple of years.

Proposition 18. Allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and special elections if they will have reached 18 by the time of the next general election, rejected 55-45.

Instant analysis: A smart choice by the voters. Some 17-year-olds are mature enough to make good decisions with their ballots. Even younger kids can make wise choices. We let teens drive alone at 16. But what would come after this round of lowering the voting age? Letting 17-year-olds vote in general elections? Then 16-year-olds? It’s happening elsewhere. There’s no need to get into a race between states to see which will allow the youngest kids to vote.

Proposition 19. “Allows homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or wildfire/disaster victims to transfer primary residence’s tax base to replacement residence” and “changes taxation of family-property transfers,” winning 52-48.

Instant analysis: This proposition is worded as if officials intended to deceive voters about its true purpose. While it might not seem threatening, for many, Prop 19 will mean a tax hike. In some cases, “Californians who are hoping to keep a home, farm, or property that has been in their family for generations” are going to find that doing so won’t be easy and might even be impossible. Read Tim Anaya’s more comprehensive post for a deeper understanding of this proposition.

Proposition 20. “Restricts parole for non-violent offenders” and “authorizes felony sentences for certain offenses currently treated only as misdemeanors,” rejected 62-38.

Instant analysis: Voters had a chance to toughen up a bit on criminal behavior but chose instead to leave in place the effects of previous propositions that have likely led to increases in some offenses. According to Michelle Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, Prop 20 “simply requires violent offenders and sexual predators to complete their full sentences.” That was apparently too much to ask.

Proposition 21. Would have given local governments the authority to enact rent control on residential properties under some conditions, rejected 60-40.

Instant analysis: Maybe the biggest surprise in the proposition lineup based on the landslide nature of the vote. It’s a powerful rebuke. While that won’t improve California’s housing crisis, at least it won’t make it worse.

Proposition 22. Allows app-based drivers to be independent contractors rather than hired employees, as required by Assembly Bill 5, approved 58-42.

Instant analysis: It’s not unreasonable to believe this is a mandate for the repeal of Assembly Bill 5, which virtually outlawed freelance and independent contract – gig – work. As they did with Prop 21, voters made a strong statement, in this case in opposition of a law that has caused so much grief for so many by robbing them of their livelihoods.

Proposition 23. Would require doctors to be present in dialysis clinics while patients are being treated, rejected 64-36.

Instant analysis: No other proposition was treated with so much contempt by voters. It was well deserved. As Rowena Itchon has noted, “an idle doctor hanging around at a clinic will inevitably add to patients’ bills.” Voters apparently saw through dreck and realized Prop 23 was just “another attempt by the union to punish dialysis providers” by increasing their costs.

Proposition 24. Would expand consumer data privacy laws and create the Privacy Protection Agency to enforce them, approved 56-44.

Instant analysis: The appearances of Prop 24, says Bartlett Cleland, are deceiving. Even though “few think it is a good idea” and “people on both sides of the political aisle have real problems with the proposal,” voters gave it their endorsement. To see where they went wrong, see Cleland’s entire post.

Proposition 25. Would replace cash bail with risk assessments for criminal suspects awaiting trial, rejected 55-45.

Instant analysis: Voters repealed 2018 Senate Bill 10, which eliminated bail in California, except for violent felonies. It apparently wasn’t hard for them to see that a get-out-of-jail card might not be in their interests.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.


Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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