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12th Edition, November 2005 Special Election

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News Stories about the Initiatives

This section provides California voters with convenient access to news articles that give an overview of the potential impact of each initiative on the ballot. If you have an article to suggest, please contact us.

Prop. 73 News Articles

Prop. 73 -- next battle over abortion rights initiative to require doctor to notify a minor's parents
The San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 2005


If voters approve Proposition 73, California will become the 35th state to require some parental involvement when a girl under age 18 seeks an abortion.

The constitutional amendment would require a doctor who is going to perform an abortion on an unmarried minor to notify in writing at least one parent or guardian 48 hours in advance of the procedure. Parents don't have to give their consent, they just have to be notified.

Backers say the notification reduces adolescent pregnancy rates, discourages older men from preying on younger girls and protects the minor by ensuring she gets the help and advice of a parent.

"A 15-year-old or 16-year-old girl who becomes pregnant is in a difficult situation under any circumstance. Her reproductive decision should be made with her mother -- mother and father preferably -- and definitely not in conjunction with the 17-year-old brain surgeon who got her pregnant,'' said Don Sebastiani, a Sonoma vintner and former state lawmaker who has contributed $250,000 to the "yes" campaign.


Opponents of Prop. 73 say they are concerned about the ballot measure's definition of an abortion as causing the "death of the unborn child," the preferred description used by abortion foes rather than the more clinical "fetus" or "embryo."

"That definition is not in other states' with prior notification. It has nothing to do with teen pregnancy; it's just a stepping stone to defining a fetus as a child so they can overturn Roe vs. Wade," said Kneer.

Albin Rhomberg, a retired physicist who is a spokesman for the "yes" side, dismisses the notion that the definition indicates a broader agenda.

Much of the "yes" campaign has been funded by James Holman, the publisher of the San Diego Weekly and a string of Catholic newspapers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Holman has loaned $700,000 to the campaign and contributed more than $1.2 million overall. During the signature-gathering part of the campaign, his Catholic newspapers donated advertising space and were stuffed with petitions.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza and a champion of Catholic causes, has contributed $300,000.(full story)


Publisher Pushes One Issue Above All Others: Abortion
Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2005


James E. Holman makes his living in the world of alternative newspapers. For 33 years, his irreverent and wildly successful weekly, the San Diego Reader, has needled the city's captains of commerce, government and society.

But Holman has also pursued a passion unusual among his brethren in the left-leaning alternative press: a quiet crusade against abortion.

This year, the strict Catholic from Coronado is tapping his sizable fortune to advance a November ballot measure that would make it harder for girls to terminate pregnancies in California. Proposition 73 would require doctors to notify a minor's parents at least 48 hours before performing an abortion. Teenagers facing a medical emergency, or obtaining permission from a judge, would be exempt.

Records show that Holman, 59, is by far the leading contributor to the cause, providing more than $1.1 million of the nearly $1.8 million reported by backers so far. His contributions have included loans, cash and nonmonetary donations, with much of the money used to pay for the gathering of signatures needed to qualify the measure for a vote.

"He's very passionate about the issue," said friend and fellow Proposition 73 supporter Albin Rhomberg, "and very committed to making this effort a success."

Holman did not return telephone calls from The Times. A campaign spokesman said he would not be granting interviews.

A father of seven, Holman has been described in some accounts as a recluse and ultraconservative ideologue. Friends say that portrait is off the mark.


"As my memory serves me, that was really the only taboo subject," said Krueger, who spent a dozen years at the Reader and now is a television news producer in San Diego. "If you had a story that made a pro-choice person or position look 'good,' it wasn't likely to get in the paper."

The Reader today is a glossy tabloid that runs an average of 220 pages each Thursday. Though critics say it has lost its reputation for tough but balanced investigative work, the Assn. of Alternative Newsweeklies describes it as the largest publication of its kind in the nation, with a circulation of more than 171,000.

Such success has provided Holman the money to bankroll Proposition 73. The measure is the fruition of years of effort by anti-abortion activists and others dismayed after the state Supreme Court blocked a parental consent law passed by the Legislature in 1987.

But Holman's role goes beyond check writer. He also has recruited other large donors — including Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, an acquaintance and fellow Catholic from Michigan — and has used his Catholic papers to rally support.

During the signature-gathering phase, the publications carried copies of the petitions that could be snipped out and circulated, Rhomberg said, as well as ads and articles that declared the initiative "the first pro-life measure to come before the public in California history."

At Planned Parenthood in San Diego, President Mark Salo said Holman's low-profile but critical support for Proposition 73 does not surprise him. For years, as he entered the driveway at the agency, Salo would pass a lone abortion protester. The man never yelled or bothered anyone, but he did hold a sign bearing an enlarged color picture of a fetus.

"It was Jim Holman," Salo said, "just standing out there with his sign." (full story)

Prop. 74 News Articles

Teacher job security fuels Prop. 74 battle
The San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 2005


It took nearly three years and about $70,000 a year for the San Francisco Board of Education to fire an obsessive kindergarten teacher who had lost the ability to throw anything away.

Her own union wanted her out. Her classroom had mice, and many parents refused to let her teach their kids.

Stories about how hard it is to pry some teachers loose from the classroom help fuel support for Proposition 74, the special election ballot measure that would make it somewhat easier to fire tenured teachers who receive two negative evaluations in a row.

The measure, championed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would also extend the time for teachers to become permanent employees from two to five years -- a change that would put California in line with only two states that have teachers wait that long.

"The goal is to give schools the time to evaluate staff and make sure they're the right fit for kids and for the academic environment," said Margaret Fortune, an education adviser to Schwarzenegger and former chairwoman of the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing.


California is one of nine states with a two-year probation period; 33 states have a three-year period. Only Missouri and Indiana require five years, although Indiana teachers attain near-permanent status at three years.

Missouri School Boards Association spokesman Brent Ghan said the five-year probationary period has worked well. "It gives teachers the opportunity to build up a track record of performance, which in many ways is fairer to the teacher than the shorter time," he said.

But Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association, said that if extending probation were all that Prop. 74 did, his organization might like it. Plotkin said he believes the measure "actually makes it more difficult to dismiss teachers" -- perhaps inadvertently -- by requiring the process for teacher evaluations to be negotiated with the teachers unions.

"This is the principal reason we oppose it," said Plotkin.(full story)

Prop. 75 News Articles

Union political spending under fire
The San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 2005


The fight over Proposition 75, which would require members of California public employee unions to give permission before their dues are spent for political purposes, is a bare knuckle battle for power.

It is aimed at the most vociferous critics of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and would limit the flow of money to Democrats, the traditional beneficiaries of union political contributions.

"It's a very deliberate attack against the voice of working people," said Art Pulaski, the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

"That's bunk," said former Gov. Pete Wilson. "They're not silenced. There will be those who consent to the expenditure'' of union dues for political spending.

If all of this rings familiar, an earlier version appeared on the ballot in 1998. Advocates on both sides that year spent nearly $25 million in the battle over Proposition 226, which would have restricted all labor unions from spending member dues on political causes. The earlier attempt was rejected by voters by 53 percent to 47 percent.

This year, under Prop. 75, teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers would have to give written consent before their unions could use their dues for political purposes.


According to the AFL-CIO, so-called paycheck protection bills have been introduced in 35 states as part of an effort, it believes, to restrict unions and their members' participation in politics.

But in only one state, Utah, has there been a serious impact.

The Voluntary Contributions Act -- a 2001 law passed by the Utah Legislature which requires authorization by public employee union members before dues can be used for political purposes -- had a disproportionate impact on the Utah Education Association, said Mark Mickelson, a spokesman for the union. Between spring 2001 and last spring, the number of members making political contributions fell from 68 percent to 6.8 percent, he said, adding that Political Action Committee contributions have also fallen, from $143,000 a year to $40,000.

Since spring, there has been a 30 percent uptick from teachers upset by the law, but contributions are still minimal, Mickelson said.

"They put these really cute names on these things, like Voluntary Contributions, giving people the impression that groups that work in the public arena are taking money out of members' paychecks and doing strange and bizarre things with it," Mickelson said. "But there's no money being taken out that's not authorized in advance."(full story)

Prop. 76 News Articles

The Unpleasant, Untold Story of the Gov.'s Spending Cap
The Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2005


The main choice voters face on Proposition 76 — the governor's spending cap — is one that makes both sides wince. Put simply, choose one: Cut the school funding guarantee or raise taxes.

Neither Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nor his school adversaries are framing their campaign arguments in quite those terms. But the issue really comes down to that — less guaranteed school money or higher taxes.

Schwarzenegger pitches the need to "live within our means," complaining that "each year we are adding billions and billions of dollars to our deficit … spending $1.10 for every $1 we take in." Never mind that he is a co-conspirator. No legislation gets enacted — no dollar spent, no buck borrowed — without the governor's signature.

But the larger point here is that no debt-ridden government can "live within its means" without either raising taxes or slowing the growth of spending.

Forget taxes for now. That means cutting back programs. And 43% of the state's $90-billion general fund budget is being spent on schools — kindergarten through community college.

In dollars, about $35 billion in general fund money goes for K-12. An additional $3.5 billion is for community colleges. Of this total, $36.6 billion is guaranteed by Proposition 98, passed by voters in 1988.

Schwarzenegger, disingenuously, keeps telling campaign audiences that "we are spending, this year, $50 billion on education." What he never acknowledges is that $13.4 billion of this comes from local property taxes, not state coffers.

He also shamelessly reiterates, ad nauseam, that "we increased education funding by $3 billion." That's the amount basically required by the Prop. 98 guarantee.

The governor isn't about to admit that it's $3.1 billion less than what he really owes schools under a budget deal they cut shortly after he took office.

Schwarzenegger couldn't keep two promises at once: His pledge to give schools their share ($3.1 billion) of any unanticipated state revenue growth, and his vow to voters not to raise taxes in order to staunch Sacramento's red ink. So schools lost.


Prop. 76 — like Prop. 98 — is too complicated for mortal comprehension. But one thing Prop. 76 says is that money previously borrowed from schools ($3.8 billion) to balance state budgets no longer needs to be returned to the schools' guaranteed annual funding base, as required by Prop. 98. So that's a nearly $4 billion annual cut right there. The current $3.8 billion debt would be repaid over a 15-year period, but not returned to the annual base.

Another feature — which does make sense — is that in boom years, a generous state could give schools a bonus above their guarantee without the payment being built into the future assured base, as currently required by Prop. 98.

State fiscal gurus — not just Schwarzenegger — have complained for years that the schools' funding guarantee has been growing so rapidly it threatens to gobble up the rest of the budget, devouring healthcare, prisons, parks….

Prop. 76 also does this: It allows a governor, unilaterally without legislative approval, to cut spending for schools — or virtually anything else — if a budget deficit looms and there's a legislative stalemate. With California's tyrannical two-thirds majority vote requirement, that's a license for a minority party to cede complete budgeting power to a governor.

Prop. 76 doesn't necessarily mean there'd be less Sacramento money for schools. But it does mean there'd be less guaranteed. There'd be more reliance on the largesse of politicians.

It comes down to raising taxes or whacking schools — neither popular with voters.

Between now and election day, you won't hear the school lobby pitch a tax hike — or Schwarzenegger advocate clipping schools. (full story)

Prop. 76 prompts a fear of cuts
The San Diego Union-Tribune, October 21, 2005


A state spending limit backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is aimed at avoiding future deficits, but it is not expected to help close the current budget gap and may have no impact on overall spending for years.

Here's why: The limit in Proposition 76 on the Nov. 8 ballot is based on how much money the state takes in, and an improving economy is boosting state tax revenue. Simply put, increasing revenues could raise the spending limit.

Schwarzenegger's finance department estimates that projected spending would be near the limit next fiscal year, about $2 billion under the limit in the following year and may not reach the limit for six years.

"The key is not to crank government spending down," said Tom Campbell, Schwarzenegger's former finance director, who left the post to campaign for the initiative. "It's just to spend no more than we have."

The opponents of Proposition 76 are not buying the soft sell and are warning instead that the "California Live Within Our Means Act" will result in significantly less funding for schools and other programs than current law.

Another concern of opponents is that the initiative shifts too much budget power to the governor, who could make midyear spending cuts if the budget falls out of balance and the Legislature fails to close the gap in 45 days.

If only indirectly, the initiative also raises the broad issue of whether the state is spending enough on schools, roads, social services and other programs or a tax increase is needed to boost revenue.


"At a time when our state is already 8th from the bottom in per-pupil spending, Proposition 76 would reduce school funding by $4 billion every year, about $600 per student, and that is unacceptable," Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement for the No on 76 campaign.

His remark is an overstatement in two ways.

California's per-pupil funding ranks in the middle of states, and drops toward the bottom only when an adjustment for the high cost of living in the Golden State is added, as it was in an analysis by Education Week.

Nor is Proposition 76 likely to trigger an immediate cut of $4 billion a year in school funding. Even under current law, the $3.8 billion owed schools will be repaid under a complicated formula that could take a number of years.

But because the initiative would spread repayment over 15 years and prevent the repayment from increasing the Proposition 98 guarantee, this part of the measure arguably lowers school funding by more than $3.8 billion over time.

On the other hand, the backers of Proposition 76 argue that two things in the initiative would tend to increase school funding:

The Proposition 98 guarantee would no longer be lowered by "Test 3" in lean years. And, in good years, lawmakers would be more likely to provide more money for schools than Proposition 98 requires because the additional "one-time" money would no longer increase the guarantee in future years.

The campaign for Proposition 76 cites a study by the California Taxpayers Association, a business-backed group, that concludes that Proposition 76 would increase school funding.

Legislative Analyst Hill said in a Sept. 30 report that, overall, the initiative could indeed have that effect.

"However, while the Proposition 98-related changes, by themselves, would not necessarily reduce K-14 spending, other provisions of the measure might have that effect," Hill said.

She pointed out that "budget reductions resulting from the spending limit or the governor's new authority (to make midyear cuts) could apply to schools. (full story)

Prop. 77 News Articles

Redistricting initiative would set state apart
The San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 2005


If Proposition 77 passes in November, California would become the 13th state to put an independent commission in charge of drawing its political lines. But that's about the only thing the redistricting plan would have in common with the rest of the nation.

"We looked at those other plans and we didn't like them,'' said Ted Costa of People's Advocates, who helped write the ballot initiative. "If ours passes, we'll be better. We want to be a model."

At a Los Angeles legislative hearing last month, Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures explained what makes California's proposed method of drawing the lines for Assembly, state Senate and congressional districts so different.

No other state puts its plan in the hands of retired judges, he said, and only Arkansas has as few as three members on its commission.

California also will be the only state to select its members at random from a pool of qualified applicants and the lone state to put the new reapportionment in front of the voters for final approval.

"It would be unique,'' Storey said.

That's not a plus for many of the initiative's opponents.


Using randomly selected retired judges can eliminate some of the partisan problems in California, Costa said.

But opponents argue that elderly retired judges are anything but representative of California's voters and anything but nonpolitical because Republican and Democratic governors tend to name judges of their own party and political leanings.

"Proposition 77's features do not remove the politics from redistricting, they simply replace one set of political interests with another,'' said John Trasviña of San Francisco, a senior vice president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Proposition 77 puts three retired judges in the virtually impossible position of understanding the districting desires of a multitude of diverse California communities neighborhoods and interests.''

Giving voters the final say on the redistricting plans trumps all those concerns, argued Costa. Under Prop. 77, voters must approve the plan put forward by the redistricting commission. If the plan is rejected, a new commission is formed and a new plan is put before the voters at the next general election. This goes on until a redistricting plan gets majority support at the polls.

"In focus groups, we found that 90 percent of both Republicans and Democrats wanted to vote on (the redistricting plans),'' Costa said. "If you give this power to the people, the plan will pass any muster.''(full story)


Debate on Prop. 77 over retired judges
The San Francisco Chronicle, October 17, 2005


If California voters pass Proposition 77 next month, the three retired judges who will draw the state's political lines are likely to resemble one another more than they will the rest of the people in this increasingly diverse state.

The state's 1,000 or so retired judges are mostly elderly, relatively wealthy, white men who, opponents of the redistricting initiative argue, cannot fairly make decisions that will affect everyone in California.

"We're not saying retired judges are bad people, but three people can't represent the diversity of California,'' said John Trasvina, a senior vice president for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "They have their own partisan baggage.''

The measure would take the reapportionment power away from the state Legislature with the intention to draw new political boundaries as soon as the 2006 election instead of waiting until the regularly scheduled redistricting in 2012.

Backers point to the success of redistricting plans for the 1970s and 1990s, which were drawn by judges named by the state Supreme Court. If judges can make fair, nonpartisan decisions about how districts for the Assembly, state Senate, Board of Equalization and Congress can be designed, their age and ethnic background shouldn't matter, Prop. 77 supporters argued.


"A lot of retired judges are doing work as mediators, arbitrators and special masters and we pride ourselves on being impartial,'' he said. "This would toss us into the political arena.''

But retired Judge Quentin Kopp, who's also out of the running because of his years as an independent state senator, is convinced that his colleagues could make sense out of the redistricting process.

"Most judges don't have a political ax to grind,'' he said. "A minority are fascinated by politics, but most are not. To them, it would be just another decision to make.''

Even good government groups that want to see the Legislature out of the reapportionment business have expressed concerns about the size and makeup of the proposed panel. With three members, it would be the smallest independent redistricting body in the nation, charged with drawing the political lines for the country's largest state.

"We'd like to see a nine-member commission split between retired judges and citizen members,'' said Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. The size of the Prop. 77 panel "is a concern, but we've had judges do (redistricting) in the past.''

Poizner said the issue comes down to who voters trust more to make the decisions about redistricting: legislators or retired judges.

"All the complaints about the judges are a smokescreen,'' he said. (full story)



Prop. 78 & 79 News Articles

Propositions 78 and 79: Rival plans target pain of uninsured
The Sacramento Bee, October 14, 2005


Here's what you need to know about Propositions 78 and 79, the drug-discount measures that may end up being at the center of the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in history:

Drug companies are prepared to spend $80 million to persuade voters to approve 78 and defeat 79. Consumer groups, waging a low-budget campaign with mere tens of thousands of dollars, are supporting 79 and opposing 78.

That's just the condensed version of another complex issue facing voters on the Nov. 8 California ballot.

Most Californians, and most voters, wouldn't be affected by either measure. The discount programs outlined in both propositions would only cut drug prices for uninsured or underinsured state residents up to certain income levels.

Legal and economic factors also make it unclear whether either program would end up delivering deep discounts.

"Clearly, these are one step," said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. "They only affect between 11 and 28 percent of Californians, and everybody is feeling the squeeze."

Both propositions would set up state programs to issue discount cards to eligible consumers. But they are very different.

Proposition 79 would allow the state to punish companies financially if they failed to cut prices for the uninsured. Manufacturer participation under Proposition 78 would be voluntary.

Proposition 79 would also allow Californians to sue pharmaceutical makers for charging excessive prices.

And it would affect more people: low-and middle-income Californians without insurance and those with extremely high medical costs. Proposition 78 would apply only to poorer people who are uninsured or on Medicare.


Drug companies are concerned that if California enacts a discount program with an enforcement mechanism, other states will follow, said Stern, whose organization is tracking the issue on a Web site,

"They're worried that 79 would be the second step after Maine in terms of states starting to regulate this area," he said. "If they can defeat it in California, I think they feel they can defeat it anywhere. The fear is that it will snowball and keep on going."

That's not the only thing that worries pharmaceutical makers: They also oppose the Proposition 79 provision allowing Californians to sue for excessive pricing.

If citizens were able to file lawsuits over drug costs, it could "seriously damage the pharmaceutical industry," Faiks said.

These two initiatives are just the latest step in a long-running political battle over drug prices in California.

Last year, consumer groups and Democrats tried to pass legislation making it easier for Californians to get their prescriptions from Canada, where drugs cost an average of 40 percent less than they do in the United States. The Canadian government limits what drug makers can charge for brand-name prescriptions.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed those bills, saying they would violate federal law against drug imports.

Schwarzenegger said he would come up with an alternative to help Californians pay less for prescriptions. So in January, Schwarzenegger and the drug industry unveiled SB 19, a bill virtually identical to Proposition 78.

Democrats refused to approve that measure. Meanwhile, Democrats and consumer groups placed Proposition 79 on the ballot and drug companies put Proposition 78 on the ballot to compete with it.

Even if both measures pass, the one that gets the most votes will win. (full story)

2 Drug Discount Measures in a Duel
Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2005


In Maine, bus trips to Canada for cheap prescription drugs aren't as popular as they once were — thanks to a new drug discount plan for the poor.

Since it took effect in 2004, the program has pushed retailers and pharmaceutical companies to cut prices substantially for eligible residents, reducing demand for the cross-border bargain-hunting excursions.

But though Maine's approach is winning praise from consumer groups, the pharmaceutical industry points to another discount program in Ohio as the real success story.

That program, because it is voluntary for drug companies and did not attract legal challenges that dogged the effort in Maine, was launched more quickly, backers say.

In California, those two states' plans are being held up as examples in the debate over Propositions 78 and 79, dueling drug discount initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot. Both campaigns tout Maine and Ohio as models that California should follow.

Pharmaceutical companies and consumer groups disagree over what the Maine and Ohio experiments demonstrate. But this much is clear: Maine's plan reaches a far greater share of the state's needy residents — and it appears to give them better prices in the drugstore.

One indication of the Maine program's success is that participation in bus trips to Canadian pharmacies sponsored by the Maine Council of Senior Citizens is half what it was a couple years ago.

"Seniors who had signed up for a bus trip were able to get prescriptions … for what it cost them in Canada," said Neena Quirion, director of the senior citizens consumer group.

Called Maine Rx Plus, the program resembles California's Proposition 79, a measure backed by consumer and labor groups that would set up a drug discount system for low-income residents and allow the state to steer business away from drug companies that don't participate.

Proposition 78, like Ohio's Best Rx, is backed by the drug industry. It sets stricter eligibility rules and makes participation voluntary for drug makers.

Although the programs in Maine and Ohio are out front, California — by virtue of the size of its drug market — could set a national trend.

With stakes that high, pharmaceutical companies are paying to promote Proposition 78 and defeat Proposition 79, raising more than $80 million for the campaign at last count. (full story)


Prop. 80 News Articles

Prop. 80 would retool state's energy policy
The San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 2005


Sacramento -- Nine years after lawmakers, regulators and virtually everyone in the energy industry agreed on an electricity deregulation plan that proved disastrous, California voters will now get a say in setting power policy.

Consumer advocates and an alliance of labor unions are pushing Proposition 80, which spells out market rules for how utilities will buy power, ends a key tenet of deregulation and encourages the use of nonpolluting energy sources like the sun and wind.

It's unclear whether the proposition would finally pull the state out of the energy hangover that has lingered since 2001's crisis and address California's two biggest problems: high electricity prices and ominous forecasts that suggest electricity shortages within a few years.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office concluded it was impossible to determine how Prop. 80 would affect rates.

And while supporters argue that the proposition will spur power plant development and increase electricity supply, a coalition opposing the measure, including companies that build power plants, argue it could slow new development.

The initiative is sure to revive the state's long-running debate over what exactly caused the energy crisis, and how to prevent another one.


Some environmentalists are concerned that the measure would actually hurt the development of renewable energy.

The initiative includes a provision that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to override any part of the measure. Because the measure includes the 20 percent renewable goal, advocates of renewable energy are worried that it would require a two-thirds vote by lawmakers to increase that number in the future.

V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, said the initiative's proponents may have meant well but could hinder solar and wind power.

White is concerned the initiative could end up capping the amount of renewable energy used in the state.

Florio said that the concerns were "baloney," and that the two-thirds vote requirement was not relevant to the renewable portion of the measure.

But White and other veterans of the state's endless energy debates who were around for the 1996 deregulation agreement in Sacramento -- passed unanimously by the Legislature and without opposition from groups like TURN -- warn that Prop. 80 could have unintended consequences.

"We should have learned our lesson: We need to be very careful when we do this stuff, and this is not a carefully written proposal," White said.

While both proponents and opponents of the measure argue that it could have profound impacts on the state's energy future, Prop. 80 has been largely overshadowed by other initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot. One indicator of interest, fundraising, has been lackluster on both sides.

The measure is backed by the coalition of labor unions formed mostly to oppose Schwarzenegger's initiatives, but the group has not taped television commercials in support of the measure, and a campaign promoting Prop. 80 had only raised about $163,000 by early October.

Opponents of the measure, including some of the largest energy companies in the country, had only raised about $1.8 million.

And a legal question mark hangs over Prop. 80: Energy generators have sued to have the measure thrown off the ballot. They argue it is unconstitutional because it changes the duties of the state Public Utilities Commission, which they say can only be done by the Legislature.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the measure should be voted on first; the case will return to court if Prop. 80 passes. (full story)

Energy measure heats up election
The Modesto Bee, October 21, 2005


Nearly five years after energy issues gripped California by the throat amid rolling blackouts and market games, consumer advocates are backing a ballot measure they say could lessen the risk of energy crises.

That contention is under heavy fire from state regulators, power marketers and others who oppose Proposition 80, warning it would worsen the state's lingering problems.

While in many ways less sweeping than either side paints it, Proposition 80 gives voters a chance to help guide the state's energy policy for years.

It is a multi-pronged measure, with portions that have triggered angry spats over how energy should be priced and how renewable power can best be encouraged.

Its farthest-reaching provision, though, in time would steer the state further away from a key feature of deregulation by making permanent today's temporary ban on new "direct access" contracts.

Those are deals that mostly large power users, including colleges and businesses, have made with independent suppliers to get their electricity at prices or terms that beat what utilities offer.


The initiative would prevent the PUC from imposing special new electric rates, which could vary sharply hour by hour, on residential and the smallest commercial customers without their consent.

Such rates could one day be part of a package of high-tech metering and "dynamic" pricing that is being investigated by some of the state's biggest utilities and the PUC.

Supporters of the methods say advanced metering and dynamic pricing would force consumers to use less electricity when prices are highest. That way, the state's peak electricity demand would be reduced, and we would need fewer of the more-polluting plants that tend to operate only at peak times.

TURN and others argue, though, that the smallest customers, including frail elderly people in some of California's hottest climates, could endanger their health in an effort to save money on peak, and don't want to be bothered with having to track energy prices minute by minute.

Like expanding direct access, imposing dynamic pricing on everyone isn't something the PUC wants to do today. Even so, its commissioners are eager to keep their options open. (full story)


This page was first published on June 14, 2005 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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