California’s proposition system is very broken and has been for a while but this year really shows how grotesque our current system has become. There are five propositions on this ballot that are trying to subvert the democratic process to enrich an interested party. These five measures are an actual affront to democracy and if we continue to allow these kinds of power grabs to infect our elections we not only undermine faith in the democratic process, we hand control of our state over to corporate interests setting us up for a truly dystopian future. 

That said, there are some valid propositions before voters this year.

Proposition 1 Abortion — Provides a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion.

A response to the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights nationally, Prop. 1 specifically adds abortion access to the state constitution. It is broadly supported by healthcare professionals, abortion rights groups and liberal politicians.

Opponents claim it’s poorly worded and while there’s no cost embedded in changing the constitution, critics say the state will have to pay for court cases to clear up lingering questions. They also claim it could be interpreted to expand birth control and other services to low-income residents but those are diversions. Opponents are all organizations that are pro-life and their arguments against the measure are an attempt to hide their opposition to abortion rather than refine this measure. 

YES on Prop. 1.

Proposition 26 Gambling — Legalizes sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California.

Indian casinos can only offer selected forms of gambling including slots and some card games. This would allow individual tribes to negotiate new agreements with the state to radically expand their offerings to sports betting, roulette and dice games. Agreements are tribe-by-tribe so there’s no way to know what kind of money local governments or the state might get out of any new deals. Casino tribes are terrified that sports betting will be opened up in CA (where it’s still illegal) to companies that operate successful online operations hence this measure.

Aside from general opposition to gambling, critics of the measure say it will support the dying horse race industry (by allowing bets at tracks) which endangers horses and given tribes set their own age limits, it could encourage youth gambling. 

It also contains a second provision totally unrelated to sports betting that would allow tribes to sue non-tribal card rooms. This provision is trying to use state law to target currently operating businesses to the benefit of their direct competitors. It’s the first of many such assaults on the ballot this year. 

If we’re going to allow sports betting, the benefits need to come to all state residents and those benefits need to be incredibly transparent right up front. At the same time, it’s unconscionable to allow private enterprises to use the ballot for their own economic gain. This Proposition should be soundly rejected. NO on Prop. 26.

Proposition 27 Gambling — Legalizes mobile sports betting and dedicates revenue to the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Account and the Tribal Economic Development Account.

The State tried to get its act together and legalize sports betting two years ago but it failed. In response, big gambling companies like FanDuel and DraftKings, which have made billions in other states, have written Prop. 27 to force their way into California. The measure provides some money for services but it’s less than the share paid in other places and it’s written in a way that makes it impossible for anyone but the very largest gaming companies to operate here.

It’s supported by the two big companies and people who directly benefit from the givebacks. It’s opposed by almost everyone else including both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Modern sports betting is not just putting $20 down on the Rams. It’s micro-betting $5 on if the kicker will shank left or right or making real-time bets on the pitcher being pulled from the mound while he’s talking to his manager, or $100 on whether Steph Curry’s next basket will be a free throw, two-pointer or three-pointer. 

The dangers here are far more insidious than most people realize and we will see ripples in society as this kind of gambling proliferates and more and more people make bets they straight up can’t afford or just fritter away surprisingly large amounts of money over a period of years that will impede their ability to build wealth. 

However, we already allow gambling in the state and to clutch pearls about sports betting while allowing almost all other vices is hypocritical. So, while legalization of sports betting is almost inevitable given the amount of money to be made (re: taken from suckers), this isn’t the proposition to do it. Residents just don’t get enough out of the deal. Double the payment to the State to 20% of total revenues, use that money to give residents a discount on their State income tax and it would be much more appealing. For now, NO on Prop. 27. 

Proposition 28 Education — Requires funding for K-12 art and music education

Prop. 28 alters an existing law guaranteeing minimum funding to schools by requiring that 1% of the guaranteed money goes towards arts programs. It has no new costs and has no formal opposition but critics say it is “ballot box budgeting” that locks up money in a way that reduces flexibility to respond to other kinds of funding problems in the future. The criticism is valid but not strong enough to warrant rejecting the idea given the demonstrated value of arts education and the perpetually woeful state of arts programs in many schools. YES on Prop. 28. 

Proposition 29 Healthcare — Enacts staffing requirements, reporting requirements, ownership disclosure and closing requirements for chronic dialysis clinics.

This is the third time a union has tried to increase requirements for operating a dialysis clinic by demanding doctors or their equivalent be present at all times and adding new reporting requirements. Supporters claim clinics do not do enough to guarantee safety but there’s no data presented regarding waves of injuries nor is there widespread discussion of problems. About 75% of all clinics are owned by one of two companies so there are no heroes in this fight at the end of the day, but there are real victims: dialysis patients. Supporters include labor organizations while doctor/nurse organizations oppose it. 

This measure isn’t about patient safety. It’s about the union repeatedly subverting the democratic process to punish the corporations that don’t support unionization of their industry. Every time this item hits the ballot, the corporations have to spend millions to defeat it and the union has made it clear that they will keep forcing this issue until the cost of defeating it exceeds the cost of allowing unionization and the corporations end their opposition to unionizing the industry. This measure will increase costs, increase bloat and closures are a real possibility which would hurt patients. It’s a hard NO for the third time to this measure. 

Proposition 30 — income tax to fund environmental measures

Prop. 30 adds an additional 1.75% to the personal incomes of residents who make more than $2 million per year. The bulk of the new revenues (between $3.5 and $5 billion), would go toward subsidies for Zero Emission Vehicles (battery, hydrogen or plug-in hybrids). About 45% will go for subsidies or other incentives to help individuals and businesses purchase vehicles. Another 35% supports installation of charging stations. The remainder, about 20%, goes to hiring firefighters in response to wildfires and other wildfire prevention efforts.  

Supporters of the measure cite the relatively low number of people that will pay the tax and the necessity of addressing our climate crisis. Opponents don’t dispute the value of the cause but they point out the beneficiary of this measure is likely to be a large corporation and say billions are already available on this topic. 

The controversy centers on Lyft. The company is the largest supporter of this measure because California will require 90% of rideshare drivers to be in electric vehicles by 2030 and the corporations want taxpayers to subsidize their transition to an electric fleet. The goals of the measure are laudable but the state has already committed $10 billion to climate programs and there are federal incentives for electric vehicles. There’s also an argument that California’s tax rate is already among the top five in the country so squeezing more blood from that stone is going to drive high earners out of the state entirely (taking their tax revenues with them). Per our Editor’s Note above: corporate manipulation of the ballot box is a stain on our system. Vote NO on Prop. 30. 

Proposition 31 — ban on flavored tobacco

State lawmakers banned the sale of flavored tobacco in 2020 because flavored products are the way kids get addicted. The law did not go into effect because tobacco companies mounted the current effort to undermine the ban by putting this on the ballot. 

You don’t make candy-flavored products to appeal to adults. You make sugary-sweet flavors and fancy packaging to hook kids and when tobacco companies, who have spent years profiting from the addition and eventual death of residents, are upset about something, that’s all you need to know to see it’s a good idea. YES on Prop. 31.