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California Online Voter Guide

June 2010 Statewide Primary Election

19th edition

Voter Guide toolbar - President selected Propostions Statewide Congress

News Stories about the Propositions

This section provides California voters with convenient access to a sampling of news articles that give an overview of the potential impact of each proposition on the ballot.


June ballot holds low-key propositions

Denis C. Theriault, San Jose Mercury News, April 26, 2010


New Prop. 13 closes loophole for retrofits

Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2010


The proposition was brought to the ballot by state Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, who hopes its passage will encourage owners of older buildings to invest in seismic upgrades, resulting in safer buildings and more construction jobs.

"I was concerned about the disparity and unequal treatment," Ashburn said. "The way the laws were written seemed counterintuitive."

The measure passed both the Assembly and Senate with zero "no" votes, and no one filed ballot arguments against it.

The proposition could result in a slight dip in tax revenue, as counties will no longer be able to raise assessments on buildings that have been improved.

But the overall fiscal impact is negligible, as any tax revenue decrease will be counterbalanced by job creation, Ashburn said.

The state association of county assessors pushed for the measure, which they say will simplify the assessment process and treat all property owners the same.

"It can be an administrative nightmare," Bordonaro said. "The nice thing about this, too, is that it's been absolutely non-controversial."

The measure must be approved by voters because the original legislation, which allowed the loophole, is written in the state Constitution. The only way to change it is through voter approval.

The Paso Robles earthquake, Dec. 22, 2003, left two people dead when a two-story building constructed in 1892 collapsed. Dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed, including numerous 19th century landmarks that had not been retrofitted. The quake was felt from San Francisco to Los Angeles. (continued)

Will Prop. 14 open elections, or close them?

Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 2010


A poll released this week by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 60 percent of likely voters support Prop. 14.

Proponents, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, argue that Prop. 14 would lead to less ideological and more moderate lawmakers. Researchers who have examined the measure say, however, that the effect is likely to be minimal.

The Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles has issued a 124-page report on the measure and found that more than one-third of all state and congressional races could produce general elections between members of the same party and that nearly all of those would be between Democrats.

The center found that there might be some races where decline-to-state and Republican voters would tilt the outcome to a more moderate candidate. Researchers there also concluded campaigns "will be significantly more expensive" than under the current system.

Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said voters want more bipartisanship.

"Elected officials are the ones who have become more polarized over time, not voters," McGhee said. "What has changed is the options they have at the ballot box."

Maldonado said it would take up to six years for the proposal to be fully applied.

The proposal is hugely unpopular among supporters of minor parties. They worry they will be shut out of most general elections because the measure raises the minimum number of registered party members for a party to be recognized by the state. If Prop. 14 changes were in place today, only the Green and American Independent parties would still qualify as minor parties.

Prop. 14 also would eliminate write-in candidates in general elections, though they still would be allowed in the primary. (continued)

'Top two' primary election plan would shift battlefield

Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee, May 4, 2010


Ruling on Arizona law affects state Prop. 15

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 2010


A federal appeals court upheld an Arizona law Friday that provides state funds to political candidates who forgo most private contributions - a ruling that lifts a cloud from a measure on the June 8 California ballot that would overhaul campaign financing for secretary of state.

A federal judge had struck down the 12-year-old Arizona law in January, saying one of its provisions violated the free speech of privately funded candidates whose rivals qualify for public money. Under the Arizona law, if a candidate or a supporting committee raises more than a certain amount in private donations, the opponent is entitled to additional state money.

The law's challengers, six Republican candidates and two conservative political committees, argued that it deters private contributions - and thus chills free speech - by subsidizing candidates whose opponents raise large sums.

But in a 3-0 ruling Friday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the disputed provision serves the state's interest in fighting political corruption, or the appearance of corruption, and has little effect on a candidate's ability to raise money.

"The more candidates that run with public funding, the smaller the appearance among Arizona elected officials of being susceptible to ... corruption," Judge A. Wallace Tashima said in the court ruling.

Californians rejected a similar measure for all state offices in 2006 but will vote next month on Proposition 15, which would make public financing available for candidates for secretary of state in 2014. Funding would come from a new fee on lobbyists.

Like the Arizona law, the California measure would allow candidates to receive more state money if their opponents raised a specified amount of private contributions. (continued)

Prop. 15 calls for public funding of elections

Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 2010


California voters - for the third time in a decade - will decide whether political campaigns should be publicly financed.

Proposition 15 on the June 8 ballot drops the ban on public funding of campaigns and develops a pilot program for public financing that pins the cost on lobbyists.

The measure would significantly increase lobbyists' registration fees and use the extra money to finance campaigns for secretary of state in 2014 and 2018. Backers of the proposal say it will diminish the influence of big-money donors on lawmakers and make running for office easier for average Californians.

Current campaign fundraising practices lead to "the appearance of corruption and possibly actual corruption," said Trent Lange, chairman of the campaign to pass the measure.

On top of that, "you currently have to be wealthy or know wealthy donors to run for office. This governor's race is a perfect example of that," he said.

The Republican candidates, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, have contributed a combined $90 million of their own money to the primary race.

Prop. 15 has been endorsed by a host of government reform groups, including the League of Women Voters, California Common Cause and the New America Foundation. The measure was placed on the ballot by the Legislature, where it barely passed and received no Republican support, and the campaign is backed by the California Nurses Association.

But opponents of the measure say it is much more than simply a pilot program and call it a disingenuous attempt to remove any restrictions on public financing of elections and that it could be taxpayers who wind up footing the bill for campaign spending.

California voters first passed the ban on public campaign financing in 1988. In 2000, 65 percent of voters rejected an attempt to lift the ban. Another attempt in 2006 failed with 74 percent of voters saying no.

"It sounds harmless and safe - everyone's for fair elections - but you have to look below the surface on these things," said Richard Wiebe, spokesman for the campaign against the measure. "They're playing 'hide the ball' here with the voters." (continued)

Ballot measure would test public campaign funding

Robin Hindery, The Associated Press, May 11, 2010


In a year when candidates' wealth and spending has often overshadowed their policy ideas, Californians will have a chance to start changing the way campaigns for statewide office are financed.

Proposition 15 on the June 8 ballot would create a voluntary system of public financing, beginning with the secretary of state races in 2014 and 2018. It would repeal the state's 26-year-old ban on public funding of political campaigns.

Candidates who agree to limitations on spending and private contributions would receive a base level of funding of $1 million for the primary and an additional $1.3 million for the general election. Candidates facing privately financed opponents or attacks from independent expenditure groups could receive millions in additional matching funds.

To qualify, a candidate would have to gather signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters, with the proceeds deposited into a newly created Fair Elections Fund.

The majority of the money would come from a $350 annual fee paid by California's 4,300 registered lobbyists and their employers. The fee would generate about $6 million every four-year election cycle, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

Currently, lobbyists pay $12.50 per year to register with the state, while their employers pay nothing.

Supporters acknowledge that Proposition 15 does not fully solve the problem of out-of-control spending and the outsized influence of special interest groups, but say it's a start.

"This is a small but important step toward restoring citizen confidence in government," said state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who sponsored the 2008 legislation that created Proposition 15.

Hancock said the recent rise in ultra-affluent candidates has made reform all the more necessary. The June primary ballot alone includes billionaire gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, her multi-millionaire rival Steve Poizner, and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who received a $21 million severance package from Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2005.

Opponents say Proposition 15 does little to limit the advantage of wealthy candidates and fails to address the increasing power of independent expenditure committees.

"Proposition 15 does nothing about either of those situations; it's not real campaign reform," said Richard Wiebe, a spokesman for the Stop Prop 15 campaign. (continued)

Utilities do battle on California ballot

Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2010


Big investor-owned utility PG&E Corp. has stirred a hornet's nest by sponsoring and funding a measure on California's June 8 ballot that could impede the growth of municipal utilities.

The measure, Proposition 16, would amend the state constitution to require the state's 47 city-owned utilities and a new kind of supplier called a "community choice aggregator" to hold public elections to add new customers. Two-thirds of voters would have to approve a utility's expansion plan for it to proceed.

Currently, many city-owned or municipal utilities can gain new customers or expand their service territories with the approval of local elected officials.

"Prop. 16 is a way to stop competition," said David Modisette, executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association in Sacramento, a trade group. He said a supermajority requirement allowed a minority of voters to stop municipal utilities from winning over customers from investor-owned utilities like PG&E or, by one interpretation, even adding customers in their existing territories.

Critics of the measure say the courts would need to interpret its language, which they say is ambiguous.

The Yes on Proposition 16 campaign says that wasn't the intention, and that voters need more say-so in tough economic times. "Our opponents like to frame this as PG&E trying to stifle competition," said Robin Swanson, campaign spokeswoman in Sacramento. "We think people should be allowed to vote. A two-thirds vote is not a high bar."

With California's primary election still a month off, PG&E is outspending opponents by nearly 400 to 1, according to numbers gathered from the two campaigns and California's secretary of state. PG&E is bankrolling the campaign with a $34.5 million donation, so far. The proposition is endorsed by the California Chamber of Commerce.

Municipal utilities, which have the most to lose, are prohibited from donating money to ballot measures. Opponents of Prop. 16 raised $82,000 as of April 23, mostly with small individual donations, and the opposition campaign has been endorsed by editorial boards of all of the state's major newspapers and many environmental organizations, cities, and labor organizations.

Last week, the California Association of Realtors donated $25,000 to the "No on Prop. 16" campaign, fearing that passage would make it difficult for new housing developments to receive service from municipal utilities, even when their rates are lower than PG&E's or that of other investor-owned utilities.

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The proposition also applies to a new kind of supplier known as "community-choice aggregators."

Under a 2002 state law, aggregators can buy bulk power, and utilities must deliver it over their power lines. Unlike municipal utilities, aggregators don't own power lines or substations. Utilities collect their regular fees for delivering energy. Aggregators garner customers when elected officials decide to have their jurisdictions join. Customers in these jurisdictions who don't want to join can "opt out" and stick with their old utility.

PG&E faces the prospect of losing customers in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, due to a new aggregator, the Marin Energy Authority. Seven cities and Marin County have voted to get power from MEA beginning in May. Its electricity costs the same as PG&E's but contains a higher proportion of renewable energy.

Shawn Marshall, a city council member from Mill Valley, Calif., which has voted to get power from the Marin Energy Authority, said PG&E was using "scare tactics" to get people to opt out. She said it was ironic because PG&E supported the 2002 aggregation law.

Paul Fenn, president of Local Power Inc., a consultant who helps supporters of community choice aggregation, said passage of Prop. 16 would effectively kill the movement. "It would stop at Marin," he said, adding that the two-thirds requirement would discourage citizens from even attempting to form buying groups. He said efforts under way in Sonoma County, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo would be hurt.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said the utility "supported giving its customers more control over how public funds are spent," and added the utility business "is very complex and there are a lot of risks in being a provider." (continued)

Big bucks advantage in fight over Prop. 17

Steve Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, May 12, 2010


The Mercury Insurance Co. is spending millions of dollars to sell its ballot measure, Proposition 17, as a surefire pocketbook winner for voters.

Opponents, being outspent at a ratio of 20-to-1, are hoping that voters' suspicion of Big Insurance will outweigh the promise of extra cash in their wallet.

Voters historically have gone with their gut: They don't trust insurance companies, said Bruce Cain, director of the University of California Center in Washington, D.C., who noted the historic 1988 campaign when voters rejected two ballot measures sponsored by insurers and approved Prop. 103, the measure that limited auto insurance companies' ability to raise rates.

"This is basically insurers testing the waters to see if they can get away with what they could not get away with in 1988 — putting something forward that benefits them in the guise of the public interest," Cain said.

But, with the monetary advantage that the Mercury-backed initiative has — Mercury has essentially single-handedly financed the campaign with $10 million, compared with the $500,000 raised by opponents — voters may not get the full picture. (continued)


This page was first published on April 24, 2010 | Last updated on May 24, 2010
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