Your “Cheat Sheet” to voting
Mammoth voters heading to the ballot box on June 8 will have at least two Measures (U and M) to decide on. Voters countywide, however, will also have a fistful of state propositions to consider, with as many as two-dozen more waiting in the wings for their turn in November. The five props won’t, for the most part, cost you anything up front, but a couple could have some down-the-road impact on your checkbook.
As a service to our Sheet readers, once again we’ve done our best to break them all down for you, but make sure to read your Primary Election voter guide for all the information you need to decide.
PROP. 13: “LIMIT PROPERTY TAX REASSESSMENT ON SEISMIC RETROFITS” – Amends the state constitution to ensure that seismic retrofit construction won’t trigger reassessment of your property tax value. Sets state standards for seismic improvements that qualify. Cost to you: Minor reduction in property tax revenues related to assessment of earthquake upgrades. Upside: Proponents say the earthquake improvements mean safer buildings and will not result in higher property taxes until the building is sold. If the prop doesn’t pass, they say improved buildings would only be excluded from property taxes for up to 15 years. Downside: Apparently no one has any issues with this one. No opposition argument was submitted.
PROP. 14: “PRIMARY ELECTIONS MODIFICATION” – Purports to allow voters to choose any congressional, state and legislative candidate, regardless of either the candidate or voter’s political affiliation. The two candidates pulling in the greatest number of votes will go to the general election ballot. Cost to you: No significant change in cost. Upside: You get to vote for any candidate you want to, which proponents say will result in elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington who are less partisan and more practical. Downside: Opponents say the prop has a “deceptive provision” … candidates won’t be required to list their party affiliation on the ballot, wanting to “look like independents” while still remaining in their party, which the opposition says amounts to “business as usual disguised as reform.”
PROP. 15: “CALIFORNIA FAIR ELECTIONS ACT” – Would if passed repeal a ban on public funding of political campaigns. Creates a voluntary system for Secretary of State candidates to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to limitations on spending and private contributions. Cost to you: Nothing; all candidates with enough public support would receive the same grant amount, and be prohibited from raising or spending money beyond the grant amounts. Act would be funded by contributions and biennial fees on lobbyists and lobbying firms, amounting to increased revenues of $6 million every four years. Upside: Advocates say 15 cuts the “outrageous” amount of money in politics and corruption in the system. It will, they say, get politicians out of the fundraising business and allow them to focus on state priorities. “Elections should be won, not bought by special interests!” Downside: Critics charge the prop is not real campaign reform, just a “trick,” which raises taxes with no real accountability and provides millions in taxpayer dollars to fund negative campaigns. They also say it does little or nothing to stop politicians seeking to raise money from special interests.
PROP. 16: “VOTER APPROVAL FOR LOCAL PUBLIC ELECTRICITY PROVIDERS” – Amends the state constitution to require a two-thirds voter approval before allowing local governments to provide electricity service to new customers or establish “community choice” programs using public funds or bond issues. Cost to you: unknown. Upside: Backers of the prop say YOU should decide if local governments can use public money to go into the retail electricity business. “Whether or not government-run electricity is a good idea, in these tough economic times voters should have the final say in how government spends our money. We’re paying the bills!” Downside: Opponents coutner that passing 16 limits your choices on who provides you with electricity, and lets for-profit utilities raise rates again and again, and protecting their monopolies and eliminating competition.
PROP. 17 “AUTO INSURANCE DRIVER HISTORY BASE PRICING” An initiative that, if passed, will allow companies to base their prices in part on a driver’s history of coverage. Cost to you: At the state level, probably nothing; on a personal level, who knows! Upside: Supporters say a “yes” on 17 might save drivers up to $250 by eliminating a surcharge for changing companies. It also allows insured drivers to take continuous coverage discounts with them if they change providers, correcting what they say is a flaw in California law that currently prevents this. Downside: Detractors charge that Mercury Insurance is spending millions on 17 so that auto insurers can raise premiums “as much as $1,000 on good drivers.” It would, they add, allow new surcharges that would sock it to already overburdened middle-class families and lead to more uninsured drivers.