California’s Extraordinary Amount of Statewide Ballot Initiatives

California’s Extraordinary Amount of Statewide Ballot Initiatives


S. E. Williams

As inland residents focus more intently on the multiple issues and various candidate choices that will fill this year’s General Election Ballot, most are mindful the choices they make may help shape municipalities, the state, and the nation for years to come. 

In the coming weeks, The Voice/Black Voice News will highlight some of the key issues and candidates Riverside and San Bernardino County voters will be asked to consider as the nation edges ever closer to the November 8 General Election. 

To begin, here are some key dates to remember. Early voting, absentee voting and vote by mail begins October 10; the last day to return voter registration documents by mail or to register to vote in person is October 24; the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is November 1; and the last day to return an absentee ballot by mail is November 8. 

California has garnered national attention for the unprecedented number of statewide, voter initiatives on this year’s ballot. Election experts believe corporations and advocacy groups could spend in excess of $100 million advertising for and/or against them. Following is a brief summary of each of the 17 ballot measures in numerical order:

Proposition 51 – School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities 

This proposition authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds to be allocated as follows: $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of K–12 public school facilities; $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities; and $2 billion for Community College facilities. It bars any amendment to existing State Allocation Board authority to levy developer fees as a way to fund school facilities, until new construction bond proceeds are spent or December 31, 2020—whichever comes first. It also bars amendments to the existing State Allocation Board process for the distribution of school construction funds related to these bonds and appropriates money from the General Fund to pay off bonds.

Proposition 52 – Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program 

This proposition will extend indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to obtain federal matching funds. The fees are used to fund Medi-Cal healthcare services, care for uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage. In the future, the measure will require voter approval to change how the fees/funds are used. It permits other amendments or a repeal by the state legislature with a two-thirds majority vote. Finally, it declares that proceeds from this measure do not count as revenue toward the state spending limit or Proposition 98’s funding requirement (a minimum funding requirement for schools and community colleges).

Proposition 53 – Revenue Bonds 

This proposition will establish a requirement for statewide voter approval before any revenue bonds can be issued or sold by the state for certain projects whenever the bond amount exceeds two billion dollars. It will apply to any projects that are financed, owned, operated, or managed by the state; or by a joint agency formed between the state and a federal government agency, another state, and/or a local government. It also prohibits the division of projects into multiple separate projects in an attempt to avoid the statewide voter approval requirement.

Proposition 54 – Legislature, Legislation and Proceedings 

Proposition 54 will prohibit the legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and published on the Internet for at least 72 hours before the vote—except in cases of public emergency. It requires the legislature to make audiovisual recordings of all its proceedings, except closed session proceedings, and post them on the Internet. The measure gives any person authority to record legislative proceedings by audio or video means—with the exception of closed sessions. Finally, it allows recordings of legislative proceedings to be used for any legitimate purpose, without payment of any fee to the State. 

Proposition 55 – Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare 

Proposition 55 will extend for twelve years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000 for single filers; over $500,000 for joint filers; and over $340,000 for heads of household. The tax revenues are allocated as follows: 89 percent to K–12 schools and 11 percent to California Community Colleges. It allocates up to $2 billion per year in certain years for healthcare programs. The proposition bars the use of these education revenues for administrative costs. It also gives local school boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how the revenues are to be spent. 

Proposition 56 – Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research and Law Enforcement 

This proposition will increase the tax on cigarettes by two dollars per pack and include an equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine. Revenue from this tax will primarily be used to increase funding for existing healthcare programs; tobacco use prevention and control programs; tobacco-related disease research; law enforcement; University of California physician training; dental disease prevention programs; and administration. Like Proposition 52, this measure excludes proceeds from Proposition 98 education funding calculation requirements (a minimum funding requirement for schools and community colleges). It requires an audit every two years. 

Proposition 57 – Criminal Sentences, Parole, Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing 

This proposition authorizes parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies, upon completion of the prison term for their primary offense as defined. It authorizes the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) to award sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, or educational achievements. The measure calls for the DCR to adopt regulations to implement new parole and sentence credit provisions and certify they enhance public safety. It empowers juvenile court judges to determine, upon prosecutor motion, whether juveniles, 14 years of age and older, should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults for specified offenses. 

Proposition 58 – English Proficiency, Multilingual Education 

Proposition 58 maintains the requirement that public schools ensure students become proficient in English. It also requires school districts to solicit parent and community input in develop language acquisition programs to help ensure English language skills are acquired as rapidly and effectively as possible. School districts will be required to provide students whose proficiency in English is limited, the option to be taught English nearly all in English. Districts will also have authority to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers. Finally, it will authorize parents or legal guardians to select an available language acquisition program that best suits their child. 

Proposition 59 – Corporations, Political Spending, Federal Constitutional Protections 

Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution that would overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending by corporations and unions were unconstitutional. The purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment would be to clarify that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.

Proposition 60 – Adult Films, Condoms, Health Requirements 

Proposition 60 would require performers in adult films to use condoms during the filming of sexual intercourse. The producers of adult films would be required to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations related to sexually transmitted infections. They would also be required to obtain a state health license and to post condom requirements at film locations. The proposition would impose liability for violations on producers, certain distributors, performers (if they have a financial interest in the film involved) and on talent agents who knowingly refer performers to noncomplying producers. It would authorize the state, performers and/or any state resident to enforce violations.

Proposition 61 – State Prescription Drug Purchases, Pricing Standards 

Proposition 61 will prohibit state agencies from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs—except as required by federal law. The law will apply to any program where a state agency is the ultimate payer for a prescription drug—even if the state agency does not buy the drug itself. Proposition 61 will exempt purchases of prescription drugs under managed care programs funded through Medi-Cal.

Proposition 62 – Death Penalty 

This proposition repeals the death penalty as a maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It will apply retroactively to persons already sentenced to death. The law states that persons found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole must work while in prison as prescribed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The measure increases the portion of a life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

Proposition 63- Firearms, Ammunition Sales 

Requires individuals to pass a background check and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. It prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and requires their disposal, as specified. It will require most ammunition sales be made through licensed ammunition vendors and reported to the Department of Justice. Under the law, lost or stolen firearms and ammunition must be reported to law enforcement. In addition, under the law, anyone convicted of stealing a firearm will be prohibited from owning firearms. The proposition will also establish new procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession. Finally, it will call upon the Department of Justice to provide information about prohibited persons to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Proposition 64 – Marijuana Legalization 

Proposition 64 legalizes marijuana under state law for [recreational] use by adults 21 years if age or older. It designates state agencies to license and regulate the marijuana industry and imposes a state excise tax of 15 percent on the retail sale of marijuana as well as state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. It will exempt medical marijuana from some taxation. It establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products. The measure will prohibit marketing and advertising marijuana directly to minors. The measure empowers local municipalities the ability to regulate and tax marijuana. Finally, the law it authorizes the resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.

Proposition 65 – Carryout Bags, Charges 

Require funds collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through the sale of carryout bags be deposited into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specific environmental projects. The proposition calls upon the Wildlife Conservation Board to develop regulations relative to the law’s implementation. 

Proposition 66 – Death Penalty, Procedures 

Proposition 66 will change the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences. It designates the superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. It establishes a time frame for state court death penalty review. In addition, the law will require appointed attorneys who take non capital [case] appeals to also accept death penalty appeals. It exempts prison officials from the existing regulation process for developing execution methods. It provides flexibility for death row inmate transfers among California prisons and increases the portion of condemned inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution. It includes a caveat that other voter approved measures related to the death penalty are void if this measure receives more affirmative votes.

Proposition – 67 Ban On Single-Use Plastic Bags 

This referendum will prohibit grocery and certain other retail stores from providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. It does, however, permit the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags to customers, at a minimum price of 10 cents per bag. 

To review these propositions in depth, including their summaries, analysis, arguments in favor and rebuttals visit

About The Author

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