Our positions on California propositions

Here are recommendations by the Redlands Community News editorial board for the 12 statewide propositions on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Proposition 14. Stem cell research bonds. No. Under this proposition, a massive $5.5 billion bond issue would finance stem cell research in California. With an estimated $2.3 billion in interest payments, payments on the bonds that would extend for many years.

This measure follows a similar $3 billion proposition that was approved by voters in 2004 when no federal money was available for stem cell research. However, now the federal National Institutes of Health is spending more than $2 billion a year on stem cell research. We see no reason for California taxpayers to take such a leading role in this research when a robust federal effort is underway.

Proposition 15. Commercial Property Tax (split roll). No. This measure is a huge property tax hike that would affect all of us — not just commercial property owners. Since Proposition 13 was passed by voters in 1978, residential and commercial property has been assessed for taxation following the same rules. Property is assessed at market value at the time of a transfer of ownership and following assessments can rise no more than two percent a year. The measure also mandates a tax rate of one percent.

Over time, this resulted in huge differences in assessed value for similar properties even though everyone was operating under the same rules. And a common perception was that business came out ahead because business property was sold less often than residential property. Studies have differed on the truth of that perception. Some critics also charged that businesses found ways to stop the reassessments.

Under Prop. 15, commercial property would be reassessed to market value every three years resulting in billions of dollars of new tax revenue for government. Many property owners would pay more and would pass much of those increases to their customers or to their tenants, who would pass the increases on to their customers — meaning us.

We urge you to vote no on this massive tax grab. And if some businesses use questionable measures to avoid reassessment, the Legislature should enact laws to stop these practices.

Proposition 16. Equal treatment under the law. No. Prop. 16 would allow government to use diversity as a factor in employment, education and contracting decisions. In other words, no longer would government be required to treat everyone equally. This is not a good idea. The state of California must continue to treat all its residents equally and with justice.

Proposition 17. Voting rights for parolees. Yes. In California, felons cannot vote while in prison and on parole. Restricting prisoners’ voting rights seems correct to us, but parolees live in our communities and have the opportunity to be good citizens and that should include voting.

Proposition 18. Limited voting rights for 17-year-olds. No. This measure would extend voting rights to 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before the next general election, allowing them to vote in primaries and special elections. We can imagine the registration problems that would follow. There has to be a clean cutoff somewhere, and 18 seems reasonable.

Proposition 19. Expanding tax-free transfers of property assessments. No. California has already inequitably allowed some generational transfers of property assessments to avoid Prop 13 reassessment. This measure expands that concept even more. Let’s keep it the way it is.

Proposition 20. Criminal sentencing and parole. No. This is a complicated measure that changes the status of certain crimes as felonies, misdemeanors and wobblers (crimes that could be either). It would amend several laws that were passed between 2011 and 2016 that generally downgraded the seriousness of many crimes. Prop. 20 would restore many of the earlier changes. This seems like a measure that should be considered by the Legislature on a crime-by-crime basis, not by the initiative process that leaves us with only a yes-or-no alternative to a package.

Proposition 21. Rent control policies. No. This proposition would allow cities to include almost all rental housing in rent control measures. A similar measure was defeated by voters in 2018. Opponents say the measure would further restrict incentives for builders to build new housing. We don’t need this in light of the state’s housing crisis.

Proposition 22.  App-based drivers and services. Yes. Prop 22 would allow app-based businesses such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to classify their drivers as independent contractors. It would also require minimum pay, benefits and other benefits for the drivers. The situation was caused by the ill-advised passage by the Legislature of Assembly Bill 5 in 2019, which virtually eliminated the gig economy in California. The Legislature has been granting exceptions to many of the AB 5 provisions, and these drivers should have been included. Vote yes on this proposition.

Proposition 23. New rules for kidney dialysis clinics. No. This is a repeat of a similar 2018 measure that was turned down by voters. It should be denied again. It would only increase the cost of dialysis without delivering significant improvement in the quality of care.

Proposition 24. Expanded consumer privacy laws. No. A new state agency and the California Department of Justice would share oversight and enforcement of expanded state consumer privacy laws. Opponents argue Prop 24 would actually reduce privacy rights. We urge a no vote.

Proposition 25. California’s bail system. Yes, with reservations. This proposition upholds the Legislature’s replacement of the long-standing cash bail system with a “risk assessment” system in 2018. Implementation of the bill has been on hold because of this ballot measure. New York, New Jersey and Alaska have also enacted such a system, which requires judges to assess the risk of a defendant not showing up for court and to require supervision appropriate to the risk instead of jail or payment of bail.

It does seem wrong that people arrested but not convicted on charges for low-level crimes should be in jail because they do not have the money to be bailed out, while others with money are released before trial. However, this risk assessment system seems Pollyannaish to us, and judges already have the authority to alter release decisions. We urge a yes vote, which would confirm California’s new law, but also urge that experience under the new law be examined in a couple years to determine if the law is effective in getting defendants to return to court for their trials.