Just intuitively, you might think it would make sense to consider the California ballot propositions in numerical order. After all, that’s how they will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
But as we all know, intuition, common sense and public policy-making do not generally go hand in hand in California. We’ve opted instead to take the initiatives out of order, grouping them according to their basic, as-advertised intent.
Prop. 32 and 40 deal directly with government process, so today we’ll examine them and make our recommendations.
Prop. 32 essentially prohibits labor unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.
At first glance, this seems to be a straight-up anti-union ploy by those who don’t like labor’s powerful influences in state and local elections. Union political activities historically have favored Democrats, blessing that party’s candidates with campaign money from one of the most powerful special interests in this or any other state.
Prop. 32 also imposes the same payroll-deduction restrictions on corporations and government contractors.
This all sounds like a dandy way to end the influence of both labor unions and corporations on election outcomes. But there is, as you might have guessed, a catch. Unions and corporations can still contribute to campaigns and elected officials, but only through direct employee contributions to groups and/or committees. The so-called super PACs are exempt. Another caveat — corporations generally don’t use payroll-deductions for political purposes, so this would mostly keep unions from using the same tricks as corporations.
In that sense, Prop. 32 is little more than another layer of regulation, riddled with loopholes, and would end up costing taxpayers a significant sum that the state would have to spend to enforce the new election provisions.
We don’t like the way labor unions and corporations can empty their deep pockets to steer the course of an election, but this regulation won’t stop that, in large part because the concept of union and corporate political investment has been supported by the U.S. Supreme Court.
We recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 32.
Prop. 40 offers a textbook demonstration of how California ballots get loaded down with meaningless initiatives.
The original purpose of Prop. 40 was to facilitate state Senate redistricting, which occurs each 10 years, after the U.S. Census. However, the districts have already been redrawn, with the map receiving full court approval.
There’s always a catch in California politics. If Prop. 40 is voted down, the state Supreme Court will be required to name a special master, whose task will be to redraw state Senate district lines — which have already been redrawn and approved. If Prop. 40 goes down, taxpayers will be on the hook for at least a half-million bucks to pay for the process of completing a job that’s already been completed.
When this initiative first qualified for the ballot — before the redistricting was accomplished and approved by the courts — there were both supporters and opponents. Now, even the opponents have withdrawn their objections, and are encouraging voters to pass Prop. 40.
So, we’ll go with the flow, and recommend a “yes” vote on Proposition 40.
But we can’t do that without commenting on what a waste of time and money the initiative process has become, and yet another indication of the need for state government reform. What worked for so many years no longer works, and it’s up to California taxpayers and voters to demand fundamental, forward-moving change.