The Hedgehog Blog November 8, 2005 California State Special Election Advisory
We need to start out with our annual disclaimer: The following are simply our opinions. We are speaking in our individual capacities only. No one but us is responsible for these opinions, and we may be completely wrong. (We think we are right.)
We also have the following advice, which we repeat in all of these advisories: Ignore all radio and television political advertising, especially on ballot initiatives. Those ads are designed to confuse the voters. They seldom frame an issue in proper perspective, and are often paid for by interests from outside California. Read the election summaries in your local papers. (We hope this advisory is helpful too.)
Here’s our breakdown of each ballot measure:
State Measure 73: Waiting Period For Minors Seeking Abortions
We think parents of minors should be informed by physicians before any kind of surgery on their children, particularly an abortion. One can never be sure what the courts will hold, especially here in California, which is part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit at the federal level. The Ninth Circuit is the most liberal in the country and the one most often reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even so, we think Proposition 73 will be found constitutional under the standards already set by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and other decisions. UPDATE: Here's an interesting reason to vote for Prop 73, from Doug TenNapel.
STAND BY THE GOVERNOR ON THE FOLLOWING INITIATIVES:
State Measure 74: Tenure and Dismissals For Public School Teachers
In essence, this proposition requires new public school teachers to work successfully for five (5) years before they receive tenure and pretty much have a job for life. Currently only two years are required. On this one, the Governor is looking out for your kids. This initiative will allow school boards to dismiss a teacher who has received poor evaluations two years in a row. How long would you like students to wait before removing a teacher who is not meeting the established minimum requirements for his or her position? A union representative for Los Angeles teachers made a revealing comment to a Granada Hills Charter High School official this past week: "If this measure passes I'm going to have a ton more work!" In other words, even teachers union representatives know that our school systems have many teachers in the classroom who shouldn't be there. We need to be able to support our strong, committed teachers, and police the weaker, less-committed ones. Delaying tenure for public school teachers greatly enhances the schools’ ability to do so. Strong teachers want to work with other strong teachers. It's time to raise the bar.
State Measure 75: Public Employee Union Dues and Political Contributions.
Unions throughout the country are pouring enormous amounts of money into this election just to stop this one state measure. It is a huge battle being watched nationwide, and the stakes are also huge.
Here’s the issue: Right now public employee unions can deduct money from their members’ paychecks and donate it to legislators who vote to raise public employee salaries and benefits. In other words, liberal legislators appropriate the funds, which are then siphoned off and directed back to them in the form of campaign contributions. Prop 75 would require the unions to get written permission from employees before deducting money from their paychecks. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal described the problem:
[T]he passage of Proposition 75, also known as "paycheck protection," would go a long way toward ending California politics-as-usual. By forcing public-sector unions to get written permission from employees before using involuntary dues for political purposes, Proposition 75 has the potential to significantly reduce the political influence of the state's quintessential special interest.You can read the entire piece here.
Former Governor Jerry Brown gave public employees the right to collectively bargain back in the 1970s, and now their interests lie directly in their ability to tap into the public fisc through higher salaries, better benefits and larger pensions. "The unions have essentially bought and paid for the California legislature," says Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an advocacy group.
We think a vote for Proposition 75 is a vote for a more responsible Legislature.
State Measure 76: State Spending Limitations
If you don't vote yes for this initiative, you might as well have voted for Gray Davis! To summarize, this proposition would require the State to live within its means without annual automatic spending increases. We think opposition advertisements claiming Prop 76 would require cuts in school spending and public safety spending are irresponsible scare tactics. The California Taxpayers Association’s analysis shows that 76 will actually increase the funds available for schools and will protect public safety spending. One might argue that the only reason to vote against 76 is if you enjoy seeing your taxes go up!
State Measure 77: Redistricting
This is a close call because in a perfect world, congressional and legislative districts would be drawn by elected representatives who are accountable to the electorate. But we believe the situation in Sacramento now will not change without drastic action like Proposition 77. Ask yourself: Is our Legislature functional, or does it make policy based on the largest donors, like trial lawyers and labor unions? I've blogged more about this here.
Both parties have carefully drawn district boundaries that assure their own re-election. Once elected, everyone in the State Legislature has a safe seat, until term limits force them to leave. That means that if you are running for the Assembly, for example, all you need to do is get nominated by your party. Once nominated, you will be elected, and the only constituency you need to worry about are the party activists who nominated you. Such activists are always more liberal or more conservative (depending on party) than the electorate at large. So what we have is a majority of very liberal Democrats clamping down on a minority of very conservatiove Republicans. Is it any wonder nothing gets done in Sacramento? As Jill Stewart wrote in today's New York Times:
Honest observers on the left and right have long complained that California's voting district map is a masterwork of cynicism that assures victories for incumbents as well as party hacks seeking open seats. The fix is so complete that in 2004 not one of the 173 state legislative and Congressional seats being contested in California changed party hands. Robert Stern, president of the liberal-leaning Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, told me that California's elections are "less democratic than the Soviet Politburo."This is not good government. The Governor is right on this one too. Prop 77 would empower an independent, bipartisan panel of judges to re-align the boundaries fairly, and not just drawn to ensure the re-election of one party or the other.
State Measures 78 and 79: Discounts on Prescription Drugs
VOTE NO ON BOTH
Both 78 and 79 are supposed to be efforts to reduce the cots of prescription drugs in California for low-income people. Proposition 78 is backed by the pharmaceutical companies, and Proposition 79 is backed by consumer groups. We recommend a “NO” vote on both.
First of all, we don’t think a special election is the way for California to resolve complex health care issues, including finding a way to make soaring prescription drug costs affordable for the uninsured.
Second, the pharmaceutical industry’s proposition seems to be mainly an effort to put forward a proposition that would compete with Prop 79, the consumer groups’ proposition. Some people think the pharmaceutical companies’ goal was to confuse voters and cause 79 to lose. It certainly looks like they succeeded in confusing people. Ask yourself: Do you know anyone who has a clear understanding of these two propositions and the differences in them? Is this any way to make health care policy?
Even if using initiatives were a good way to make policy in such a complex area, we think both propositions are bad policy. Prop 78 is bad because the pharmaceutical companies should not be able to buy the right to govern themselves, and it sure looks like they are trying to do that with an $80 million Proposition 78 campaign.
Proposition 79 is bad because it simply goes overboard. The state would be directly involved in negotiating the price of prescription drugs. If you agree with us that the government should not be involved that way in private enterprise, then you’ll vote no too. Besides, the only people who would make out really well if 79 passes are the trial lawyers. They’ll make millions.
State Measure 80: Electric Service Providers
Proposition 80 would re-regulate electricity. It is an overreaction to the shortages of the Davis years. We do not believe it will make electricity cheaper, and it would introduce considerable government interference into the market.
Statewide Bond Issue: Measure Y
Didn't we just approve a large bond issue for the schools in the past two years? This is the L.A. Unified School District's problem. They don't know exactly where all the money they have now is going. Should we really give them more? We say vote NO.
And . . . we hope all this helps you decide how to exercise your franchise.