Propositions -Nov 2010

Proposition 19
Proposition 20
Proposition 21
Proposition 22
Proposition 23
Proposition 24
Proposition 25
Proposition 26
Proposition 27

Measures coming soon


Proposition 19: Legalizes Marijuana Under California but Not Federal Law. Permits Local Governments to Regulate and Tax Commercial Production, Distribution, and Sale of Marijuana. Initiative Statute.

Recommendation: Strong Yes

Having watched friends’ “experiments” with drugs go decidedly awry, and having worked briefly as both a criminal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, I can definitively say that I am anti-drug.  I don’t even like taking prescriptions, much less recreational mind altering substances.  That said I have never felt that my government should impose my wishes on others.

Health Effects of Mary-Jo, Doobage, The Jolly Green Giant, etc.

Marijuana advocates will tell you that marijuana is a perfectly healthy substance.  Those opposed will tell you the opposite.  Neither position is accurate.  In high doses marijuana can cause serious health risks – of course the same is true of alcohol, cigarettes and even heath supplements.    It can be difficult to find balanced information about the health effects of marijuana for two reasons.  First, the “drug war” has created defined “sides” that each shade the truth to argue a particular result.  Second, because of the long-term prohibition imposed by governments world-wide there is less reliable research into this substance.  However, the medically conservative and peer reviewed WebMD website expressly states “Occasional marijuana use is rarely seriously harmful.”  By the same token, there can be little doubt that like other drugs, prolonged use of marijuana puts the user at risk of psychological (though probably not physically) addiction, cancer (though at substantially lower rates than cigarettes), and other more mild health consequences.

Some useful resources on the subject are available here and here:

Accepting the proposition that marijuana is not healthy, but also less unhealthy than some legal substances makes it more difficult to justify a government imposed criminal sanction against private, personal use of the substance.  For example, inhalation of glue, “huffing” of paint (seriously, people do it), and other toxic substances is unhealthy and even potentially deadly.  It is also completely legal to possess and consume these products in private.  Only public intoxication is prohibited.

The Proposed Pertinent Changes.

The proposed proposition seeks to decriminalize personal possession and consumption of marijuana in private locations by effectively mimicking alcohol use laws (with some enhanced prohibitions).  The proposition also passes control over the regulation of “personal consumption” of marijuana to local governments thus allowing for more progressive cities and counties to have different regulations from more conservative ones.

Because of the anxiety surrounding decriminalization of marijuana (some of which is justified) a review of what is not decriminalized (as set forth in this direct quote from the proposed law) is useful:

(c) “Personal consumption” shall not include, and nothing in this act shall permit, cannabis:

(1) Possession for sale regardless of amount, except by a person who is licensed or permitted to do so under the terms of an ordinance adopted pursuant to Section 11301.

(2) Consumption in public or in a public place.

(3) Consumption by the operator of any vehicle, boat, or aircraft while it is being operated, or that impairs the operator.

(4) Smoking cannabis in any space while minors are present.

(emphasis added)

In other words, the proposition is crystal clear on what it DOES NOT legalize.  It is intended to simply remove the state criminal prohibitions imposed against individual adults who chose to engage in this moderately unhealthy behavior in the privacy of their own home, so long as no children are present, or in another location as permitted by a local government.  Anticipating the added risks of marijuana intoxication, the drafters also added these useful restrictions:

11304. Effect of Act and Definitions.

(a) This act shall not be construed to affect, limit, or amend any statute that forbids impairment while engaging in dangerous activities such as driving, or that penalizes bringing cannabis to a school enrolling pupils in any grade from kindergarten through 12, inclusive.

In other words:  No stoned driving and no drugs in school.

(b) Nothing in this act shall be construed or interpreted to permit interstate or international transportation of cannabis. This act shall be construed to permit a person to transport cannabis in a safe and secure manner from a licensed premises in one city or county to a licensed premises in another city or county pursuant to any ordinances adopted in such cities or counties, notwithstanding any other state law or the lack of any such ordinance in the intervening cities or counties.

No transportation of marijuana is permitted except between licensed locations and then only if the city or county chooses to permit it.

(c) No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301. Provided, however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected.

In other words, we can’t discriminate against users of marijuana, except that employers can take action against employees whose performance on the job is impaired.

Employers Can Still Fire Their Stoned Employees.

One argument made by opponents in the official voter guide argues that the proposition would forbid an employer from taking action against an employee who is impaired (i.e. stoned).  This “legal beagle” strongly disagrees.  Their “read” appears to stem from a strained interpretation of the term “actually impairs” found in section 11304 (c) (quoted above).  Since judges interpret laws, it is highly unlikely that a judge would read that section in any way other than its clear intent:  to allow an employer who deems an employee to be impaired to take action against that employee.  As a result, employers will need to address employee’s use of marijuana the same way they currently address users of alcohol and other minor drugs – if the employee’s poor choices do not affect their job the employer can take no action; if those poor choices do affect job performance the employer can fire the employee.

Nor does the statute create liability for employers for the bad acts of their employees.  For example, some have argued that a stoned employee will create liability on the employer.  Again, the same rules for users of alcohol and other drugs will apply:  So long as the employer did not act negligently (i.e. ignoring obvious impairment, or permitting an employee to act while impaired) there is no added liability.  Finally, just like alcohol, a blood test can prove whether a driver has used marijuana.

Moreover, unlike some propositions, this one expressly empowers the legislature to pass further legislation that is not inconsistent with the intended statutory scheme.  So, to the extent there is a problem with the statutory scheme, the legislature can step in to remedy the problem (it is only prohibited from undoing the actual rules passed by the statute).

Conclusion: Align the Law with Current Reality.

At bottom, this seems like a law that is overdue.  As it stands, there are many localities that either openly or subtly tolerate marijuana use.  The result is an inconsistent scheme of occasionally enforced criminal laws – some of which are quite severe.  When the laws are enforced, possession and personal use charges can carry a severe criminal sanction for what is effectively a poor health decision.  To our thinking the government should not be in the business of criminally punishing personal health decisions that do not immediately affect others.  It should, as it would if this proposition passes, continue to criminalize intoxication (be it through alcohol or minor drugs) criminalize activity that puts children at risk (since children lack the capacity to uniformly make such decisions) and criminalize activity that puts the general public at risk (such as impaired driving).

There is also a practical argument.  Allowing the marijuana industry to partially legitimize (the industry will still face severe criminal sanctions under federal laws) both enables government safety regulates to be implemented and enables governments to impose taxes on these otherwise unreported sales.  Both positive effects of legalization.

The list of supporters of Proposition 19 is also telling.  The list ranges from numerous retired police chiefs, to multiple retired judges, former Surgeons General, Nobel Prize winner and economics guru Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, and social and fiscal conservative columnist George Will.

In related move, seemingly conceding the concept that the states criminal laws relating to marijuana are out-of-step with reality, on October 2, 2010 the governor signed legislation downgrading possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to an “infraction” – the lowest level of criminal sanction available.  However, personal, private, possession or cultivation of amounts greater than one ounce of the substance still carry heavy criminal penalties and the use of any amount of the substance is still illegal.  We recommend removing these prohibitions and instead focusing on educating individuals to make their own choices as we do with cigarettes, alcohol, and other potentially dangerous substances.


Proposition 20: Redistricting of Congressional Districts. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Recommendation: Weak No.

This redistricting proposition is in many ways the opposite of the companion redistricting proposition in this election – Proposition 27.  Since these are two opposing propositions, the analysis for both propositions is presented collectively under Proposition 27 (below).


Proposition 21: Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge to Help Fund State Parks and Wildlife Programs. Grants Surcharged Vehicles Free Admission to All State Parks. Initiative Statute.

Recommendation: Weak No.

This proposition enacts an $18 vehicle surcharge and dedicates the approximately $400 million generated to fund State Parks and Wildlife programs.  These parks and programs are currently funded through the general fund and, like most of California’s public programs, face difficult cutbacks.

California’s “Kid-in-a-Candystore” Problem

Unquestionably, Californians, like most of the rest of the country have a problem with “limits.”  We like to have the benefits of an impressive state government system of state-police, state-fire agencies, state-funded schools, attorneys general, insurance regulators, roads, parks, a national guard, a paid professional legislature, state oversight of fraud claims in some industries, a state superior, appellate, and supreme court system, and literally thousands of other programs.  However, we don’t like to pay for what we get.  Because legislators have figured this out, they shy away from creating revenue streams (read taxes) to pay for the programs that California runs.  Governor Davis discovered this the hard way when he was recalled for attempting to raise this same vehicle tax in order to balance the budget.  As a result our state perpetually teeters on fiscal disaster – as we are now (… despite having recalled a governor for daring to raise our vehicle license fees and replacing him with a governor who claimed he was going to tame our fiscal problems with the talents of a futuristic action figure.)  The result is a piecemeal mish-mash of efforts to raise revenue for certain projects in order to avoid admitting that more money is needed to sustain the current level of benefits provided by the state.  Not a particularly clever way of determining what we do and do not want to pay for.

The particular type of tax proposed here is a straight “use” tax.  Meaning that every user of a car must pay the same tax (except commercial vehicles).  It also means the tax scheme is not at all “graduated” – namely the tax is the same irrespective of your income level.  So the multi-millionaire who has enough discretionary income to drop $100 on tips at the club pays the same tax as a single mother of four with no discretionary income who is trying to decide if she should skimp on diapers for her daughter or use expired formula she has left over for her son.  Put simply, such “flat” taxes do not take poverty into account.  That said, we must consider that this particular tax, in real terms, is very low – $18 per year per car owner.

Dedicating a revenue stream to a particular project – like parks and wildlife does guarantee that the programs will enjoy a particular level of funding.  However, it destroys any holistic view of what a government can and cannot afford.  For example, by dedicating funds to parks, the state can find itself in a bizarre scenario where its tax base is unable (or unwilling) to support police, fire, and educational services but has no problem supporting  a particular wildlife program.  Some may say that is a good thing because it safeguards the particular program.  To my thinking this is a negative because it stops legislators from rationally distributing available funds according to logical priorities.

Conclusion – We Need to Either Raise More Money or Have Less Services, But Voters Shouldn’t Create Independent Income Streams For Every Good State Program They Like.

Supporters of this tax will rightly say that in an environment where the citizenry is simply unwilling to pay for the services it wants to consume this type of tax is essential because the $300 million that is generated will free-up a similar amount of funds in the general fund to go to other essential services.  While there is some logic to this argument, the proposition system puts on the citizenry the responsibility to legislate wisely and this “robbing-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul” scheme does not seem to be a sound legislative strategy for the long-term.   We recommend you vote “no” and allow the legislature to make appropriate decisions on where the limited funds we raise should be spent rather than dictating a particular income stream be spent on this one particular “pet project.”

Proposition 22: Prohibits the State from Borrowing or Taking Funds Used for Transportation, Redevelopment, or Local Government Projects and Services. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Recommendation: Strong No

This constitutional amendment dramatically limits the state’s power to engage in fiscal management by curtailing its existing right to manage the nearly $6 billion in funds obtained from the gas tax and certain vehicle license fees.  Under current law these funds are allocated partially to the State and partially to local governments and redevelopment agencies.

The mere complexity of this constitutional amendment is in and of itself a minor reason to vote against the measure.  By way of example, the League of Women Voters who diligently review these propositions each year have expressly refused to either support or oppose both this proposition and proposition 21.  This is presumably because there are good and bad aspects to this very complex piece of legislation.  For those who have followed this report over the years you know that our default position on constitutional amendments is “No.”  We only recommend using the very powerful tool of constitutional revision in cases where the proposed change is clearly warranted.  This change is not clearly warranted and it creates some serious immediate and long-term fiscal problems.

Transportation is Important, But it Isn’t More Important Than Every Conceivable Need, Even in Cases of Emergencies or State Disasters.

As with proposition 21, this provision is intended to prioritize the funding of transportation and redevelopment projects over all other state priorities by requiring that the funds raised by this tax only be used for those purposes.  Generally speaking, this concept (which this author does not support) already exists.  This amendment strives to take an even more extreme position by mandating that even during times of fiscal emergencies, the State cannot redirect these funds for any other purpose.  Additionally, it prohibits the State from using these funds to cover short-term cash shortages.  Of course, the amendment does nothing to eliminate the cash shortages themselves, so the State will need to find other sources of money to cover this expense – probably in the form of increased expensive short-term debt.  The proposition also eliminates the State’s current authority to borrow transportation funds for other purposes and then repay them – again, the need for the funds is not eliminated, so the result is simply an increased burden on the state to either borrow more money or find other sources of income (i.e. taxes or fees).

A related “wrinkle” exists in this proposition relating to vehicle license fees.  Under current law, the state must usually reimburse local governments when it creates a “mandate” for certain spending.  This amendment would also eliminate vehicle license fees as a source of funds from which the state could reimburse the local governments.  Once again, the state would be forced to either borrow, or find other funding sources from which to reimburse the local governments (since the required reimbursements are not eliminated).

Perhaps most disturbing, the amendment prohibits the state from using these transportation funds from being used to service or repay debt – even debt incurred for transportation projects passed by the electorate.  So, not only will the electorate continue to be able to pass bonds without any source of repayment for those bonds (as we regularly do), but with this amendment we would also remove one of the sources that he legislature could otherwise use to cover our spending-spree.  Not a wise move.

Conclusion – It’s a Mixed Bag, But Overall Not a Good Move.

There are some redeeming aspects to this proposed amendment.  For example, the proposition would give greater control to local governments over some of the funds allocated to them.  Oddly, however, the allocations to local governments themselves would be locked in based on the current allocation (not because the allocation has been carefully studied or is perfect, but simply because it happens to be the current allocation).  So, some smarter controls, are offset by a relatively random allocation of funds.

Overall, this is an effort to further tie the hands of the legislature at a time that the state faces serious financial crises.  The independent analyst’s official fiscal effect analysis (printed in your voter guide) predicts losses of $1 billion dollars per year to the state as a result of this proposition this year, with the possibility of multi-billion dollar losses in the future.  This means that in a year where the legislature is already fighting to balance the budget, they would immediately find themselves in a “financial hole” to the tune of $1billion dollars.  Future years would only get worse.  Since we think the financial problems faced by the state are real – we urge you to vote against this measure that would both reduce available funds to solve the crisis and concurrently worsen the crisis by several billion dollars.


Proposition 23: Suspends Implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB 32) Requiring Major Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming, Until Unemployment Drops to 5.5 Percent or Less for Full Year. Initiative Statute.

Recommendation: Strong No.

According to the independent State Legislative Analyst, California is the second largest producer of damaging greenhouse gases in the country and one of the leading producers in the world.  This initiative seeks to “suspend” some (but not all) environmental restrictions until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5% and stays below that level for a year.  Since the state unemployment rate has only dropped to 5.5% three times over the past 40 years, it is fair to consider this effectively a repeal of many environmental regulations purportedly in exchange for increasing economic activity.  Curiously, however, proponents cannot point to any solid evidence of such increased economic activity.

Where’s The Data?

To the contrary, both government and private analysts who have considered this initiative have concluded that it is not clear what economic benefits would be obtained by the passage of this provision – if any.  There are claims by proponents that it would save jobs and claims by opponents that despite its stated purpose it would actually cost jobs – however, these claims are all based upon theoretical conclusions.  In reality, the real net economic effect of this proposed change is probably not definitively discernable because the “cause-and-effect” is simply too attenuated.  Similarly, while it is never easy to isolate what causes an economic downturn, the economic woes of this state are probably more attributable to the housing meltdown, the concurrent dearth of mortgage loan and financial market regulations, the residual “credit-crunch” resulting from a lack of confidence by lenders who do not want to issue new loans, and a general economic malaise – notably missing from this list of “causes” is the 2006 passage of the bi-partisan AB32 statute that this initiative seeks to effectively repeal.

Companies who have an interest in avoiding the expenditures on new cleaner technologies (which investment would act as a “stimulus” to the economy) and continuing high consumption of fossil fuels have spent millions of dollars to try to pass this initiative. Since proponents can point to zero direct evidence showing that those environmental provisions that would be suspended would result in a net economic benefit, there seems little reason to seriously consider this initiative as anything more than a marketing campaign by interest groups to kill an environmental bill that has near universal support by Republicans, Democrats, independents and businesses (with the exception of the few oil companies who sponsored and backed the proposition).   Recently the “Tea Party” movement (formerly known as the Tea Bag movement) has embraced Proposition 23.  However, according to reports their interest in passing Proposition 23 appears to have less to do with a particular agenda and more to do with the perception that the group is searching for a political “cause” after their candidate failed to qualify as the Republican candidate for senate.  Checkout the article.

Conclusion – Don’t Effectively Repeal California’s “Green” Laws.

We strongly urge you to vote no because we see no reason to effectively repeal these important environmental laws based on an unsupported hope that doing so will create more jobs than the new regulations themselves are creating.


Proposition 24: Repeals Recent Legislation That Would Allow Businesses to Lower Their Tax Liability. Initiative Statute.

Recommendation: Weak No

This initiative seeks to undue parts of certain tax legislation passed in 2008 and 2009 as part of a larger political deal aimed at addressing financial problems.  Authors of the bill make no bones about their agenda:  to use the initiative process to re-legislate that part of the tax deal that they don’t like.

The changes are highly technical, but they deal with the way in which California businesses need to account for the business they do outside of California, the amount of time for business to carry-forward or back tax credits for losses they have incurred, and their ability to “share” credits among affiliated businesses.  The fiscal effect of this initiative will be increased revenues amounting to approximately $1.3 billion with about half of that revenue being generated by California businesses conducting business outside of California.

Unquestionably California needs the money.  The question for voters is whether as lay voters we are in the best position to evaluate and legislate tax policy – in this case expressly overruling our paid legislators.  Just the changes proposed in this initiative are hard to explain, much less what all the effects of those changes might be.  Lay voters are poorly equipped to evaluate the complexities of tax policies at this level.  So, without a compelling reason to do so, we should decline to overrule our paid legislators who have already done so.


Proposition 25: Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass Budget and Budget-Related Legislation from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Retains Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Taxes. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Recommendation: Strong Yes.

This Constitutional amendment changes the voting requirement from the current 2/3 super-majority required to approve a budget to be submitted to the Governor to a simple majority.  There is no change the 2/3s supermajority required to increase taxes or the same supermajority required to override a governor’s veto.  It also mandates that legislators permanently lose their salaries if they fail to pass a budget by the deadline.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane… Oy, It’s Another Super-Majority
A supermajority is a good way of ensuring that a particular action is difficult to undertake.  A budget, however, is not really something that we want to make more difficult to pass.  To the contrary, our Constitution requires that a budget be passed and signed by the Governor every year.  Thus, removing the existing supermajority vote requirement seems logical.

The withholding of salaries of legislators is a little more questionable.  Although not referenced in the voting material, there is some question in this analysts mind as to whether such a provision is enforceable since both legislated and constitutional laws prohibit requiring people to work without pay.  That said, this seems like a fairly insignificant part of this initiative.  If the provision is upheld it would yield a cost savings of about $50K per day that the legislature fails to pass a budget.

Conclusion – A Useful Change That Can Only be Implemented by Voters

This provision does not guarantee that a budget will be approved, since the governor still has the right to veto a budget bill and then a 2/3 supermajority would be required to override the veto (assuming no compromise is reached).  However, it does remove one procedural hurdle to passing a budget.  The removal of this procedural hurdle must be done through a constitutional amendment, thus, this particular amendment is useful and so we support it.


Proposition 26: Requires That Certain State and Local Fees Be Approved by Two-Thirds Vote. Fees Include Those That Address Adverse Impacts on Society or the Environment Caused by the Fee-Payer’s Business. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Recommendation: Strong No

This Constitutional amendment dramatically expands the type of legislation that would be defined as a “tax” and therefore be subject to California’s supermajority vote requirement (a 2/3 vote to approve any “tax”).  The proposed revision seeks to include any “fee” imposed on virtually anything, irrespective of whether the fee actually generates revenue or is simply an offset for expenditures.  The amendment would also repeal any such “fee” legislation that was already passed in 2010.  The legislative analyst has been unable to ascertain the exact cost to the State if this amendment passes, but has estimated losses of at least $1 billion in revenues.

Supermajorities Are Like Mayonnaise – Good in Some Instances, But Potentially Harmful if Overused

As with proposition 25, this amendment deals with a supermajority requirement.  However, unlike proposition 25, this provision ads the requirement rather than removing it.  A supermajority is generally used to safeguard fundamental beliefs held by a group.  For example, a supermajority is often required to change a constitution (except in California where voters do it by a simple majority of those who show up to vote in any election), to override a governor’s veto, or to remove an officer or director from a board of directors mid-term.  A supermajority is implemented in order to make it difficult to undertake the specified action.  Normally, this extra protection is implemented to address unusual or extreme situations.

A fundamental part of a government’s job is to collect fees for various services and regulations.  Forcing a 2/3 majority vote each time the government needs to impose or change any fee that the government imposes is senseless. The independent legislative analyst provides these examples of fees that you might not think of as “taxes” that would be classified as “taxes” requiring a supermajority vote under proposition 26:

  • Oil Recycling Fees
  • Hazardous Materials Fees
  • Fees Used To Clean Toxic Waste Sites.
  • Fees on Alcohol Retailers
Conclusion – If You Don’t Like Your Legislator Vote Them Out, Don’t Permanently Tie All the Legislature’s Hands for all Time.

The proper remedy for voters who do not approve of the revenue decisions made by their elected officials is to vote those officials out of office – it is not to issue a blanket restriction on imposing fees of any kind.  California already requires a 2/3 majority anytime the legislature seeks to raise our taxes (something this analyst believes is fiscally unwise) – that does not change no matter how you vote on this issue.  Because we do not think the same high burden should be imposed anytime any state fee changes we strongly urge a no vote.


Proposition 27: Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting with Elected Representatives. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute

Recommendation: Weak No. (both Prop 20 and Prop 27)

Propositions 20 and 27 both relate to the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 (approved by 50.9% of voters).  Proposition 11 took the power to redistrict state assembly and state senate districts away from the legislature and gave it to a paid independent commission of Democrats, Republicans and independents.  The delineation of voting districts is important because depending on where lines are drawn, particular constituencies may have more or less power making it more or less likely that particular party will win or lose within that hypothetical district.

Traditionally (before proposition 11), the legislature controlled how districts were drawn and created districts that were gerrymandered (a process where boundaries are deliberately manipulated to achieve a political end resulting in a contorted physical boundaries) in a way that was perceived to benefit incumbents.  As demonstrated in this cartoon from the 1800s, the disdain for gerrymandering is not new:

Original cartoon of “The Gerry-Mander”, this is the political cartoon that led to the coining of the term Gerrymander. The district depicted in the cartoon was created by Massachusetts legislature to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists in 1812.

Proposition 20 – Expanding Proposition 11

Proposition 20 expands prop 11’s reach to include congressional districts (in addition to state districts which are covered by proposition 11).  But Proposition 11 also includes a revision of a particular term:  Community of Interest is defined as  “a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”  As discussed below, some groups have attacked this definition (though ultimately we conclude it is of no moment).

Proposition 27 – Undoing Proposition 11

Proposition 27 effectively goes the other way.  It returns the power to redistrict back to the legislature.

The independent analysis provides this breakdown of the key provisions under consideration under current law (post Proposition 11), the law if Proposition 20 passes, and the law if Proposition 27 passes:

Comparing Key Provisions of Current Law and
November 2010 Propositions on the Drawing of Political Districts
Current Law Proposition 20 Proposition 27
Entity that draws State Assembly, State Senate, and Board of Equalization
(BOE) districts
Citizens Redistricting Commission a Citizens Redistricting Commission Legislature
Entity that draws California’s congressional districts Legislature Citizens Redistricting Commission Legislature
Definition of a “community of interest” b Defined by Citizens Redistricting Commission/Legislature “A contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation” Determined by the Legislature
aThe commission was established by Proposition 11 of 2008.
bUnder current law and both Proposition 20 and Proposition 27, redistricting entities generally are charged with attempting to hold together a “community of interest” within a district.
Conclusion — Why you should defeat both provisions:

While many groups are urging a “yes” vote on proposition 20 (expanding proposition 11) and a no on 27 (overturning proposition 11), we disagree.  For those who have followed our recommendations you know that in 2008 we issued a split recommendation on Proposition 11 (a weak “no” and a weak “yes” by two opposing contributors).  However, it did pass, the commission was created, and the first redistricting by this commission will be completed this year (after the election).  At this juncture, it seems unwise to undue that work and go back to pre-Proposition 11 rules (as urged by Proposition 27 supporters).  Similarly, it seems unwise to take this untested system of redistricting and apply it to the federal system – particularly with the understanding that the newly drawn districts may well result in increased turn-over in elected officials, which in turn would result in decreased power for California in congress where many roles are dictated by the elected official’s seniority.

It also seems unwise to make the additional administrative changes: increasing the commission’s workload shortly before the deadline for redistricting later this year and reducing the number of months the commission has to act.

Some groups have also attacked the provisions in proposition 20 redefining the “community interest” terminology that must be used by the committee.  While we ultimately urge a “no” vote on the proposition we cannot agree that the proposed definition is improper.  To us it seems sensible to group similar socio-economic groups and those with similar beliefs into a single voting district so long as the district is not geographically contorted.  Doing so would seem to group like-minded voters together and allow representatives to more easily represent their collective interests.

In other words, while some or all of these changes may prove useful down the road, it seems wise to allow the commission to complete its first try at redistricting under the rules that were enacted two years ago – rather than “shuffling the deck” again months before the district lines must (by law) be completed.  Because we would like to see the redistricting experiment completed (even though at least some of us did not support the idea in ’08) before we expand and modify it, we urge you to vote no on both propositions 20 and 27.


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