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Examiner Endorsements: Statewide ballot measures

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Proposition 53 seeks to require voter approval for the issuing of any public infrastructure bonds greater than $2 billion. (Courtesy photo)
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District 1

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Proposition 51
School Bonds. Funding for K–12 School and Community College Facilities

We support Proposition 51, the $9 billion bond measure for improvement and construction of public, charter, vocational and community college school facilities. The funds would provide $3 billion for the construction of new facilities; $500 million for charter school facilities; $3 billion for renovations; $500 million for career technical education facilities; and $2 billion for community college facilities.

Gov. Jerry Brown opposes this measure, calling it a giveaway to developers and objecting the funds won’t be appropriately distributed to the most needy districts. We acknowledge his concerns, but are compelled to support the measure’s goal of supplying adequate and safe classrooms to the state’s students.

It has no organized opposition and wide bipartisan support, including California’s Democratic and Republican parties, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 51


Proposition 52
Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program

Proposition 52 would ensure that fees from hospitals continue to be used to fund Medi-Cal services. Since 2009, California hospitals have been paying a fee to help the state obtain federal Medicaid matching funds.

This has meant about $2 billion a year in additional federal money to Medi-Cal that have gone to hospitals. The measure would not only continue the program but make it reversible only by voters or by a two-thirds vote of lawmakers.

It is a worthy and appropriate measure.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 52


Proposition 53
Voter Approval for Revenue Bonds

Proposition 53 would require voter approval before the state could issue any public infrastructure bonds greater than $2 billion that would raise taxes.

It is opposed by Gov. Brown, the state Democratic Party, the state League of Cities, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and labor unions, among many others, who claim the measure is an attack on local control that would impede needed infrastructure projects. This measure would require state votes to approve local projects — a bad idea.

Endorsement: No on Prop. 53


Proposition 54
Public Display of Legislative Bills

One sign that Proposition 54 is an interesting measure is the Democratic Party is opposing it as a waste of taxpayer money while the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Libertarians, typically quick to oppose unneeded government spending, support it.

This Republican-endorsed measure “prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and published on the internet for at least 72 hours before the vote, except in cases of public emergency.”

This is the kind of transparency and accountability we must demand from government. The intention is to stop the troublesome “gut and amend” practice of revising and adding items into bills right before a vote to conceal its contents from the public. The measure would also require video of all open Legislature sessions be posted online.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 54


Proposition 55
Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare

Proposition 55 is a must for our public schools. It’s an extension of Proposition 30, an income tax on the wealthiest Californians that has provided some $6 billion a year for public schools since voters approved it in 2012. Prop. 30 will begin to expire in 2018 unless voters extend it with this measure, which would ensure the funding until 2030.

Supporters have warned that without passage school districts will face teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms and program cuts. The tax applies to the 1.5 percent of Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year.

Some detractors complain that Prop. 30 was supposed to be only a temporary funding measure so approval of Prop. 55 would violate that intention. We don’t buy that logic; that’s why voters are being asked now whether it should continue. San Francisco Unified School District will benefit from the continuation of these funds and will suffer if they are cut off.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 55


Proposition 56
Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement

Proposition 56 would increase the California tobacco tax by $2, bringing the total state tax to $2.87 per pack of cigarettes. (There is also a $1.01 federal tax per pack.) It would also increase taxes on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

Revenue from the tax would help fund physician training, prevention and treatment of dental diseases, Medi-Cal, tobacco-use prevention, research into cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases, and school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 56

Proposition 57
Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing

Proposition 57 would increase parole chances for prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes and offer more incentives for good behavior. It would also give the decision whether to try certain juveniles as adults to judges instead of prosecutors.

If passed, Prop. 57 would mean about 7,000 inmates in state prisons, having served their full primary sentence and passed security screening, would be immediately eligible for parole. Prop. 57 is intended to help ease overcrowding in state prisons, similar to the intention of Prop. 47 two years ago. California’s overcrowded prison system was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 to violate prisoners’ constitutional rights.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 57


Proposition 58
English Proficiency. Multilingual Education

Proposition 58, if passed, would end the decade-old state requirement of English-only education for English learners in public schools. Bilingual programs will again allow teachers to teach using both the students’ native language and English.

While preserving the priority of English language proficiency for all public school students, the measure improves how public schools work with and support immigrant children and nonnative English speakers.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 58


Proposition 59
Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections

Proposition 59 is an advisory measure to direct California elected officials to work to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations have the same rights as people in campaign spending — one of the most damaging Supreme Court decisions to democracy in recent memory.

The initiative also requests that state officials seek ways to fully regulate and restrict election campaign contributions. Lawmakers would not be required, but would be encouraged, to act in accordance. We support this as a half-measure, even though we wish the mandate would be legally binding.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 59


Proposition 60
Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements

It should not be left to the voters to regulate workplace safety on porn shoots.

Endorsement: No on Prop. 60


Proposition 61
Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards

Bernie Sanders is leading the charge on this one. Proposition 61 would allow state agencies to buy prescription drugs from drug manufacturers at the same price as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

This measure would fight price gouging by big drug companies and expand access to life-saving medicine. The opposition has heavily outspent the proponents of this measure, and nearly every major newspaper in the state has backed Big Pharma on this issue. We do not follow them.

Locally, it is being championed by state Assemblymember and former SF Supervisor David Chui and current supervisor and state Senate candidate Jane Kim. We stand with them and urge a yes vote.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 61


Proposition 62 and Proposition 66
Death Penalty

Proposition 62 argues that California could save $150 million a year by repealing the death penalty and ending the lengthy appeals process. But more important than saving money, Prop. 62 must be supported to reform the justice system away from the barbaric practice of executions. No matter how vile an inmate’s crimes might have been, California must turn away from sanctioning death as a punishment.

The other death penalty measure on this year’s ballot, Proposition 66, works in the opposite direction — it seeks to speed up the rate of state executions. It also cites economic savings — potentially in the tens of millions annually in court costs and fewer prisoners — by reforming the appeals process to clear the path for more executions. Prop. 66 aims to lead California on a dark and savage course.

Of the 2,943 inmates awaiting the death penalty in the United States, California’s 743 condemned inmates are by far the most of any state. The death penalty has been abolished or overturned in 20 states and is under gubernatorial bans in four others, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

In California, the last inmate put to death was a decade ago. Since then, the state’s death penalty procedures have been the subject of ongoing legal challenges to how lethal drugs are administered, effectively producing a moratorium on capital punishment.

Critics of capital punishment pose convincing concerns over the justice system’s racial bias, conviction errors, the cost and timeline of appeals, litigation over administering lethal drugs and the constitutional, ethical and civil rights implications of state-sanctioned killing, even for the most egregious of crimes.

Government must function to value and preserve life whenever possible, even among those who have acted unforgivably to the contrary. Beyond arguments of cost savings and critiques of a biased justice system, a civilized society must stand against institutionalized brutality and murder.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 62, and No on Prop. 66


Proposition 63
Firearms. Ammunition Sales

Proposition 63 is simple and sensible. It would require anyone who wishes to purchase ammunition for a gun to first obtain a permit to use one. No permit, no bullets.

Opponents charge that this would only burden law-abiding gun owners with more restrictions. Any measure that increases gun safety and could possibly block someone who shouldn’t have a loaded gun from obtaining one is a worthwhile effort, no matter the inconvenience. The measure also makes the theft of any gun a felony and toughens some other gun sale requirements.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 63


Proposition 64
Marijuana Legalization

Should California open its doors to the pot industry? Proposition 64 would allow people 21 and over possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes, and it would make the sale of marijuana legal with a state permit. Taxes from the sales would go toward the law’s enforcement, research and education. It’s high time California decriminalized something that has long ago shown to have medicinal and other beneficial attributes.

Prop. 64 would also potentially save thousands of people from the criminal justice system who are now incarcerated each year on marijuana-related charges. The law would insist that marijuana be used responsibly by adults. It had never made sense why marijuana was criminalized while alcohol wasn’t. Prop. 64 would correct that injustice.

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 64


Propositions 65 and 67
Carryout Bags Charges, and Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags

This is the plastic bag war. Proposition 65 would direct revenue from all sales of take-out plastic bags, which the state now requires, to an environmental fund. That might sound fine at first glance, but this measure was created by the plastic bag industry to save their livelihood in the face of Proposition 67, which seeks to ban take-out plastic bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores.

California lawmakers and Gov. Brown signed the law banning plastic bags in 2014, but the sinisterly-named American Progressive Bag Alliance successfully ran a veto referendum to put the question to the voters this year — the result is Prop. 67, which asks the voters to now ratify the law. The group also put Prop. 65 on the ballot as a countermeasure to protect its interests.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first California city to ban single-use plastic bags. Since then, more than 120 laws banning plastic bags have been passed in the state. If Prop. 67 passes, California would become the first state to ban the use of plastic bags.

Plastic bags are the scourge of the environment. They are convenient, sure, but no one really needs them. Let’s get rid of as many of them as we can for the sake of a better future.

Endorsement: No on Prop. 65, and Yes on Prop. 67

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