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Other ballot measures

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Don't worry, I'll be a lot briefer here.

Here are my current thoughts on how I'll be voting tomorrow:

Prop. 73: requires parental notification for abortions for minors
Voting No. Even if I didn't care about the rest of it, the part about defining abortion as causing "death of the unborn child" in the state constitution would turn me off.
Prop. 74: extends probation period for teachers from 2 years to 5, and makes it easier to fire teachers
Voting No. Proponents seem to take the view that the schools are overrun by terrible teachers, and that the only way to stop this plague is to make it easier to get rid of 'em by eliminating the "tenure" system, which 74's opponents say doesn't really work like tenure. I don't completely buy the anti-74 argument, but I have a high opinion of teachers in general, so (oversimplification alert!) I'm against laws that hurt them.
Prop. 75: prevents unions from using any member's dues for political contributions without explicit opt-in from that individual member
Voting No. I'm not entirely convinced that unions should be spending their members' dues on political causes the members don't support--but then, shouldn't those members be voting for union leadership that they like better? At any rate, the deciding factor for me is that I think it should be up to the unions how they spend their money. Though I realize I'm being glib and insufficiently sympathetic toward members whose political views don't match the majority views in their union. (Btw, the subtext of this measure is quite clear: it's an attempt by business to break the political clout of the unions. I suspect the proposition's sponsors couldn't care less about the plight of minority-view union members.)
Prop. 76: amends constitution to limit school funding in a complicated way
Voting No. I don't remember what led me to that decision, only that it took a long time and I was both uncertain and bored during most of that time.
Prop. 77: sets up a complicated system for improving the redistricting process
No idea. It sounds like a reasonably good system, but I don't understand enough about how the current system works to be able to tell whether this is an improvement, or even to be able to judge the pro and con arguments. And I know I should care, but the truth is I'm not all that excited about this either way.
Prop. 78 and 79: provide discount drug programs
See my gargantuan exegesis. Hey, baby, wanna come up and see my gargantuan exegesis? . . . Getting punchy. Must . . . stay . . . awake.
Prop. 80: re-regulates ESP, which is to say the Electrical Service Providers, in the wake of having tried more or less unsuccessfully to deregulate the IOUs (Investor Owned Utilities) ten-plus years ago
Am trying to care about this, but instead I keep thinking, "ESP took the IOU down to Main Street, PUC. . . ."

Thankfully, that's all the propositions. Anyone have any useful techniques for removing the glaze from eyes?

6 Comments

Jed - I think Proposition 77 would be an improvement. I wrote up a summary of how the current situation works, and what the changes would be, here. Basically, the current system is the legislators draw the districts, in theory adhering to certain rules which are in practice ignored, and the federal courts have oversight to ensure that the state isn't deliberately discriminating against Latinos.


My own rule of thumb (developed as a California voter) is that I vote no on any and all propositions unless there is some reason why the proposed law is not a matter for the duly elected legislature. That is, certain bond proposals must (by law) be put to a popular vote (which I dislike, but it's the law), so I vote those on their merits. Further, something like Prop 77 (redisctricting) is all about not trusting the legislature to act properly, so it should be addressed on its merits. None of the other ones you describe are an appropriate matter for popular vote (in my view); if the legislature can't legislate, vote 'em out and get a better one. There's no reason you should have to put in hours deciding which detailed plan for discount medication properly balances the interests of patients, doctors, administrators and patients. That's what you have a state assembly for, right?

That said, a different way to relieve yourself of having to get all the appropriate information is to rely on endorsements. Fortunately, in California, you should be deluged with slate cards. It's easier (and more reliable) to find three or four groups whose principles align well with yours, and to rely on their recommendations, balancing one against the other when they disagree, than to attempt to make each decision as an individual matter. Of course, depending on what your principles are, you may find it difficult to find those groups; you may have to take, say, the Harvey Milk card for some stuff, and the teacher's union for others, and the Sierra League for others, etc., etc. It's a pain, anyway.

Thank you, Jed, not only for posting this, but for spending the time to think about it. You get community points, and (even outside your voting area) I appreciate that we are working together to try to govern ourselves.

Thanks,
-V.


Ah...bless you Jed. It was very kind of you to guide those of us who only get our news from Doonesbury and the surf report (I don't seem to have the attention span necessary to follow politics. Unlike some actors, I recognize my limitations)


Prop 74 is scary. It seems that one the best reasons to try to eliminate tenured teachers is they get paid far too much! One older, experienced teacher costs between 50,000- 70,000 a year. That would buy two young tyros. I'm getting pretty sick of politicans picking on teachers as the problem with the educational system. Yeah...let's give people even more incentive not to teach.


I'm not a Californian, so I won't comment specifically on the propositions (or at least, I don't think I will), but I'll take issue with Vardibidian's proposition heuristic. Or rather, maybe I'll take issue with it. :-)

If you're just saying, I have little time, so let's focus on what's important, then sure, the extra-legislative ones should have priority.

But if you're implying that there's something unseemly about the use of direct democracy to supercede the legistative body... well, I think I'm a little more Jeffersonian about this.

The view in Switzerland, where they have binding national referenda and initiatives modelled (in 1848!) on California's, the attitude seems to be that if no one is particularly interested in a given law, it can be safely left to the technocrats to muddle out, but if 10,000 people sign a petition, then it has captured the imagination of the people and should be submitted to them. The professional legislators are there to do the busywork of running things and cut down on the load; but that's a necessary evil, because making laws is ideally the People's job.

I attribute to this the fact that Switzerland has, as far as I can tell, a great deal less political cynicism than the rest of Europe, and America.


Hmm. I've never spent time in Switzerland, nor read Swiss newspapers. They may be less cynical these days. I suspect that their relative homogeneity (relative to California's, that is, compared to which the schweitzers and the francophones might as well be speaking the same language) has a lot to do with it, too. Just an ignorant guess, though.

Well, and I prefer Hamilton to Jefferson, myself, and Madison to either. I, myself, would much rather have a professional legislature that, you know, legislates, particularly on complicated stuff, and takes its general guidance from the populace in the form of elections. I don't want to vote on which complicated energy regulatory scheme or discount drug program is the best, I want to vote for a legislator to do that for me.

Mark Schmitt (of The Decembrist) has a note over at the TPM cafe about how (a) most initiatives lose, and (2) almost all complicated initiatives lose. I think that the initiative process is a lousy one for making law in complicated areas, and most areas are complicated.

Thanks,
-V.


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