CMA Capitol Insight: Aug. 3, 2016

August 03, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy 

CMA Capitol Insight is a biweekly column by veteran journalist Anthony York, reporting on the inner workings of the state Legislature.

November Ballot Rundown

California’s ballot has evolved into an impressive – and daunting – laundry list of policy proposals, running the gamut of fiscal and social policy.

While the 17 measures on the ballot are not a statewide record, many of the state’s hot-button political issues – including health care, guns, criminal justice and environmental protection –  will all be decided by voters this fall.

Tax measures loom large this year, with Propositions 55 and 56. Prop. 55 would extend the state’s income tax rates on top earners, which were initially instituted in 2012 when voters approved Prop. 30. Prop. 56 would implement a new $2-per-pack increase of the levy on tobacco products to help raise money for Medi-Cal and other important health-related services. The tax is supported by the California Medical Association (CMA), Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, and the state council of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU).

This ballot has a little something for everyone – from taxes to transparency to new regulations for the porn industry. We’ve got price caps and bag bans, guns and cannabis, and that’s all before you get to any of the candidates for federal, state and local office.

Here is a rundown of the ballot proposals, broken down by subject matter:

Health care

Prop. 52 (CMA supports) would lock in hospital fees to allow the state to draw down federal health care funds. While that is a non-controversial measure, another health-related proposal could be the most costly of the election fights this year. And that’s saying something.

Prop. 61 (CMA opposes) would cap prices the state could pay on prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has already raised more than $60 million to fight the proposal. While the proponents will be massively outspent, the idea of price caps has polled well among California voters. CMA maintains that Prop. 61 would likely increase – not lower – state prescription drug costs. Legislative vehicles, like SB 1010, provide real reforms to protect consumers and lower drug costs.

Prop. 56 (CMA supports) falls into both the health care and tax categories. The measure would raise per-pack taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products by $2 to $2.87. The money would be used to shore up Medi-Cal and provide other health care services.


The larger tax measure is Prop. 55 (CMA supports), which extends the state’s higher income taxes for those earning more than $500,000 per year. Billed as a way to fund schools, projections from the governor’s office show the state running future budget deficits if the measure is not approved.


Despite opposition from Gov. Brown, who has indicated that school bonds should be left to local governments, Prop. 51 would authorize $9 billion in state borrowing to dedicate to school construction projects. The proposal has bipartisan support, with major funding coming from developers, as well as backing from education groups.

Prop. 58  (CMA supports) would overturn Proposition 227, the “English Only” initiative passed by state voters in 1998. The fact that this is not a hot-button issue this cycle is a sign of just how much has changed in California politics over the last two decades.


The two environmental proposals on the ballot are tied to the legislature’s passage of a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2014. Many local governments have already passed similar bans, and more than half of all Californians live in places that have local bag bans in effect.

Prop. 67 would overturn the statewide ban, while Prop. 65 would require grocery stores to direct paper bag sale proceeds toward environmental fund instead of allowing stores to pocket the money. Grocers were a major backer of the 2014 legislation, and Prop. 65 is seen largely as political retribution from the plastic-bag industry.

Public safety

Prop. 57 is the criminal justice reform package backed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The measure would allow for earlier parole for non-violent offenders and give judges more latitude in deciding whether or not to try juvenile offenders as adults.

Prop. 60 would require adult film actors to wear condoms during sex while filming.

Prop. 63 (CMA supports) is the gun-control measure backed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom, who is a candidate for governor in 2018, has been heavily engaged on the guns issue and is a staunch supporter of the cannabis legalization initiative.

Backed by the California Academy of Preventive Medicine and others, Prop. 64 (CMA supports) would regulate and control the cultivation and use of non-medical cannabis. The proposal would raise up to $1 billion in taxes for state and local governments, according to a fiscal analysis of the proposal.

Death penalty

Californians will have two chances to vote on the death penalty this fall.

Prop. 62 ends the death penalty in California, making life imprisonment with no parole the strongest possible sentence. This would be a smidge of poetic justice for students of California history, since the death penalty issue was among the most controversial in Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor. The issue led to the electoral defeat of three of Brown’s state’s Supreme Court justices, including Rose Bird.

Prop. 66 would preserve capital punishment and attempt to speed up judicial review of death penalty cases.

General government

Prop. 53 (CMA opposes) would change the law to require voter approval for state revenue bonds of $2 billion or more. The measure, backed by wealthy Central Valley agribusiness executive Dean Cortopassi, is seen as an effort to stifle Gov. Brown’s plan to build two massive new tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California. The water project is one of the major legacy infrastructure projects being pushed by the governor.

Prop. 54: Backed by wealthy Republican donor Charles Munger Jr., this measure would change the way the state legislature does businesses. The proposal is an effort to end the last-minute writing of legislation, requiring any bill to be in print for 72 hours before it is approved by state lawmakers.

Campaign finance

Prop. 59 holds no legally binding authority. The measure is simply a way for Californians to voice their displeasure about Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for increased corporate participation in electoral politics. This measure urges the court to reconsider that decision, and change our nation’s campaign finance laws.


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