California Voter Guide Explainer

Every election cycle, my California friends who know what I do for a living ask me to clarify the often confusing voter guide. I get so many texts and calls that I decided to make it a tradition to summarize and simplify the convoluted California voter guide for weary voters.

Here is our 2020 election guide, as simplified as possible. In this guide, you’ll find the title, what it does, what it costs, what your YES vote means, and what your NO vote means. I also tell you how I’ll be voting on each measure in case that matters to you at all or helps clarify anything.

As always, your vote is your own. I just want to help you understand the purposefully confusing language.

As you peruse this simplified guide, please remember (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT)… a “bond” is a loan and a “fee” is a tax.

Pro tip: If you’re still not sure about how you want to vote on a measure, look at which groups are sponsoring/supporting the measure. Sometimes that helps.

Proposition 14: Authorizes bonds continuing stem cell research

What it does: Approves $5.5 billion in borrowing to fund grants for stem cell and other medical research, including training, therapy development, facilities, and administrative costs; borrows to provide $1.5 billion in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research and therapy as well as for other conditions like stroke, epilepsy, and nervous system diseases; expands existing research and therapy programs in aforementioned fields; draws on General Fund monies to pay off bond debt.

What it costs: $5.5. billion in principal debt, $2.3 billion in interest debt, $260 million per year over 30 years

What your YES vote means: YES, I approve of the state borrowing $5.5. billion to fund new stem cell research and funding

What your NO vote means: No, I do not approve of the state borrowing $5.5. billion to fund new stem cell research and funding

How I’ll be voting: I never vote on new spending, particularly if the words “General Fund” are involved. Because California cannot approve new taxes without the permission of voters, props like this one depend on loans (never, ever, ever forget that BOND means LOAN) and then the loans are paid off through the General Fund. The General Fund houses some important revenue that, in turn, is drained and thus promotes the raising of taxes already on the books to help pay for the loans taken out by measures like this one. It’s a workaround, just more spending and in the end, it adds to the burden of the General Fund which has become the “cover” under which the state can add new taxes without asking the voters. This one is a NO from me.

Proposition 15: Increases funding sources for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property. Initiative constitutional amendment.

What it does: Rolls back Prop 13 and amends the California constitution to allow Sacramento to increase property taxes

What it costs: conservative estimates project costs of up $12.5 billion borne directly by California property owners

What your YES vote means: YES, I approve amending Prop 13 in order to raise property taxes without the consent of voters

What your NO vote means: NO, I do not approve of amending Prop 13 in order to raise property taxes without the consent of the voters

How I’ll be voting: Come on…do you even need to ask? I don’t own any property in California and I was not a resident when Prop 13 was passed but it is the only thing that stands between unchecked property taxes and the property-owning residents of California. This would, in effect, repeal Prop 13 and fundamentally change the trajectory of property ownership in the state for good. No, no, 1000 times no. No. It is interesting to note that the president of the California state conference of the NAACP, Alice Huffman, opposes this measure. It will surely affect poor minorities the most and discourage minority property ownership.

Proposition 16: Allows diversity as a factor in public employment education and contracting decisions. Constitutional amendment

What it does: Repeals discrimination laws in the California constitution and allows the state to make hiring and policy decisions based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

What it costs: No measurable financial burden to the state

What your YES vote means: YES, I approve of amending the constitution to roll back discrimination protections in order to allow the state to discriminate based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin when making hiring and policy decisions.

What your NO vote means: No, I do not approve of amending the constitution to roll back discrimination protections.

How I’ll be voting: I had to look at this one twice and then a third time. I really could not believe my eyes. You read my descriptions right, and these are not partisan descriptions. Prop 16 will repeal the state constitutional protections against discrimination and racism. The idea is to allow the state to discriminate IN FAVOR of minorities, but in order to do that, we have to change the equal protection laws in the constitution. If you’ve not put too much thought into it, I guess it sounds like a neat thing to do. But I’m voting NO — this is extremely, extremely dangerous to minorities. Some of you who have watched the dramatic political shift of California radio personality and civil rights lawyer Leo Terrell may be interested to know that he opposes this measure. We may not always be in the position we are in now and changing this protection could very well put us back into the Jim Crow era one day if history decides to repeat itself. I’ll leave you with this quote to back up my NO vote:

“So true is it that men close their eyes on encroachments committed by that party to which they are attached, in the delusive hope that power, in such hands, will always be wielded against their adversaries, never against themselves.” Chief Justice John Marshall

Proposition 17: Restores the right to vote after completion of prison term. Legislative constitutional amendment

What it does: Restores voting rights to felons upon completion of their prison term

What it costs: No measurable costs outside of updating voter rolls

What your YES vote means: Yes, I would like voting rights restored to ex-felons and people on parole once they have served their prison sentences.

What your NO vote means: No, I do not want voting rights restored to those who have served time in prison for a felony, including those on parole.

How I’ll be voting: I have always thought it a strange thing that if you commit a crime but serve your due time in prison and pay your debt to society, you still forfeit your right to vote for the rest of your life. It doesn’t seem just. I would like to restore voting rights to those who have done their time, but this prop is a bit deceptive. It would allow those on parole to vote, which flies in the face of the idea that if a person serves his/her time he/she should be able to participate fully in society. Parole is still a part of a sentence. If you’re on parole, you haven’t finished out your sentence. It’s an odd thing to float a prop like this that would include parolees. I don’t know why they wrote it that way, but I don’t like it. There’s also the issue of how many convictions are too many convictions? How often do the voter rolls need to be updated? If a man serves time for theft, serves a light sentence, and then commits another crime and is convicted months later, is he still on the voter rolls? Is there a limit to how often you can commit a crime before you permanently forfeit your right to vote? There are so many unanswered questions here. I don’t feel comfortable voting for this measure. It hasn’t been very well thought out. I’ll be voting NO on 17.

Proposition 18: Amends California Constitution to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will turn 18 by the next general election

What it does: Pretty much in the title, but I’ll break it down a bit more. My son turned 18 in April. He can vote in the general election this November but was unable to vote in the primary elections because they occurred before his birthday. If Prop 18 were law he could have voted in the primaries since he would be 18 by the time November rolls around.

What it costs: negligible cost outside of updating voter rolls and providing registrations

What your YES vote means: YES, I think 17-year-olds should be eligible to vote in primaries and special elections as long as they’re going to be 18 by the time the general elections roll around.

What your NO vote means: No, I don’t think 17-year-olds should be eligible to vote. Leave the system as it stands.

How I’ll be voting: WHY???? What is the purpose of this? If a 17-year-old can vote because they’re almost 18, why can’t a 16-year-old if they’re almost 17? Then why can’t a 15-year-old vote because they’re almost 16? In a state that is coming last on nearly every educational measurement available we’re trying to lower the voting age? Here is a prop that makes me go look at who is supporting it to understand more about it. There are two lonely assemblymen supporting this prop. The voter guide gives some great rebuttals to the measure and I highly recommend reading but at the end of the day (on top of all the great arguments they make) this just seems stupid. You vote at 18. That’s that. We have rules. You don’t get to go drink at the bar as a 20-year-old on July 1st just because your birthday is on July 3rd. You get to sit at the bar when you turn 21. THAT’S IT. Again…why??? No, absolutely not. I have no intention of voting for this empty, pointless prop.

Proposition 19: Changes property tax rules

What it does: The language is a bit complicated but in a nutshell, this requires a tax reassessment on homes transferred from parent to child. Under Prop 58 (passed in 1986) parents can transfer a home of up to $1 million dollars in value to their children without an increase in property taxes. Prop 19 basically repeals prop 58 without having to go to all the trouble of repealing Prop 58.

What it costs: The state stands to gain tens of millions of dollars a year; homeowners stand to lose tens of millions of dollars a year.

What your YES vote means:  Yes, the state should be allowed to reassess the value of an inherited piece of property upon transfer to a family member and they should be allowed to raise those property taxes once the property has been transferred from the original owner.

What your NO vote means: No, the state should not be allowed to interfere with the transfer of inherited property from parents to children, property taxes should remain static.

How I’ll be voting: Do not let the language in this bill fool you. They’ve floated this measure about 3 times already in the dozen years I’ve been living in California. They keep gumming up the language to make it sound as if this is something nice for people 55 and over. It’s just a version of a death tax. The government should not be allowed to tax or seize anything you choose to give your children and that includes your property. As long as taxes are being paid, it is none of the government’s business whether or not it is the child paying the taxes or the parent paying the taxes. This is intrusive, deceptive, and straight-up thievery. They throw in things like “establishes fire protection services” so that people will think this is a bill to raise funds for safety services. It has nothing to do with that except in the tangental respect that when you raise taxes, sometimes that money goes to city services. In Sacramento, no bad idea ever dies. It just gets repackaged and reheated. Throw this one out where it belongs. Again. I’m voting NO on this, and I’m not even a homeowner. I just know this is jacked.

Proposition 20: Restricts parole for certain offenses

What it does: Limits the scope of parole opportunities and reinforces jail sentences, limiting the state’s ability to parole convicts early in order to lower the prison population; rolls back some of the Prop 57 “early-release” programs; reinstates certain violent crimes as felonies instead of misdemeanors as allotted under Prop 57

What it costs: unknown fiscal effects

What your YES vote means: Yes, I want to make sure violent offenders serve out their full sentences and for certain violent offenses to be reinstated as felonies rather than misdemeanors. I want stricter standards on who is eligible for parole.

What your NO vote means: No, I do not wish there to be any changes to Prop 57 or early release programs and I want the state to continue to classify certain violent offenses as misdemeanors rather than felonies.

How I’ll be voting: This was a petition prop…that means citizens fought to get this on the ballot. Prop 57 has been devastating to the safety of Californians. People who don’t live here wouldn’t believe the convoluted mess it has caused. Here’s a good snippet from the voter guide:

Under California law, assault with a deadly weapon is classified a “nonviolent” offense – along with date rape, selling children for sex and 19 other clearly violent crimes. All are “nonviolent” under the law. Prop 20 fixes this.

Yes, I am voting for this. And today, we received a very helpful confirmation from Lorena Gonzalez, the “genius” behind AB5. If Lorena says vote against it, that definitely means you should vote for it.

Proposition 21: Rent control

What it does: Allows the state to enact rent control on properties 15 years or older

What it costs: (straight from the voter guide) Overall, a potential reduction in state and local revenues in the high tens of millions of dollars per year over time.

What your YES vote means: Yes, I approve of rent control

What your NO vote means: No, I do not want rent control.

How I’m voting: I was astounded to read that even the government’s own analysis concluded that such a measure would literally reduce state and local revenue. Usually, they just lie about that or list the cost as “unknown.” So, even as we have multiple props on the ballot for spending increases, we are including this one that would reduce tax revenue. If even the inept government of California knows it’s a bad idea, it’s really a bad idea. Rent control is stupid anyway. Economics 101…rent control causes rent prices to skyrocket and restricts available housing. I’ll be voting NO on this, just like I always do every time this terrible idea comes around.

Proposition 22: THE UBER/LYFT PROP

What it does: This is the big one…this prop exempts Uber/Lyft from the disastrous AB5 bill that was aimed at forcing Uber/Lyft to classify contractors as employees.

What it costs: (straight from the voter guide) Minor increase in state income taxes paid by rideshare and delivery company drivers and investors.

What your YES vote means: Yes, I think Uber/Lyft should be exempt from AB5 and should be allowed to continue to operate their business the way they see fit.

What your NO vote means: No, I don’t believe Uber/Lyft should be exempt from AB5 and they should be forced by the state to kill freelancer jobs.

How I’m voting: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what my feelings about AB5 are. This bill came for Uber/Lyft and instead got every other independent contractor (IC) in the state, making our jobs illegal overnight. It killed the gig economy to the tune of nearly 1 million full or part-time jobs. The PROact is the national version of this bill and has already passed the House. Some ICs are voting against Prop 22 because they believe we should except nothing but a full repeal of AB5. I was on the fence, but after fighting the horror show that is Sacramento since January, I now realize that the only hope we have of getting this bill repealed is stripping the big players out. The only reason it was passed was to get at the rideshare companies. If they are exempt, it will be up to politicians like the bill’s author — Lorena Gonzalez — to make their case to the workers of California as to why they should continue to solely bear the burden of a bill that was never meant for them in the first place and now no longer has a main target. I’m voting YES on 22 in the hopes that the grossly unjust AB5 will finally be repealed. YES ON 22!

Proposition 23: Establishes state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics

What it does: Forces dialysis clinics to have a physician administrator on-site at all times, even though they do not care for patients.

What it costs: Increases dialysis cost by millions per year

What your YES vote means: YES, I want dialysis clinics to be forced to pay for additional administrators.

What your NO vote means: NO, I don’t want dialysis clinics to be forced to pay for additional administrators. The system is fine as is.

How I’ll be voting: Honestly, why in the hell does this measure keep coming up time and time again? This is at least the third time I’ve seen it on a California ballot. We reject it every time. It makes no sense and has no inherent value. No one is really asking for it and yet it just appears every year. I’m voting NO…again. This is ridiculous and frankly, it seems obvious that there is something nefarious in this bill if they keep pushing so hard for a bill no one is asking for and no one seems to understand.

Proposition 24: Amends consumer privacy laws

What it does: Changes existing consumer data privacy requirements and creates a new state enforcement agency — the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA)

What it costs: Increased costs for a new state agency

What your YES vote means: YES, I want the state to create a new agency to monitor privacy protection

What your NO vote means: NO, I don’t want the state involved in amending consumer privacy protections at this time

How I’m voting: A new state agency? No, thank you. The voter guide also has some ominous things to say about the “fine print” of this bill, claiming that the bill actually creates a “pay for privacy” scheme. Both the ACLU and Color of Change oppose this bill and that’s saying something. It’ll be a NO from me.

Proposition 25: Referendum on No-Bail law

What it does: Makes our “zero-bail” law permanent

What it costs: Possibly increases state costs while possibly decreasing jail costs

What your YES vote means: YES, I want to end bail in California permanently

What your NO vote means: NO, I do not want to end bail in California permanently. We need a bail bonds system.

How I’m voting: Zero bail has been a disaster. One need only look to New York City to see the horrific results. NO on 25. Zero bail is a tragically terrible idea. Never on 25.