California voters will see six statewide propositions on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election. Here’s what these proposed laws would do, and who supports them.
Prop. 1 — The Water Bond
This proposition, which is strongly backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, authorizes the state to borrow $7.5 billion to make comprehensive improvements in the water storage and water supply. It represents the state’s first major investment in water infrastructure in decades, and has taken on new urgency with the drought. Perhaps because of the drought, opposition has been muted. Some environmentalists criticize the plan for building more dams, and the Republicans faulted the governor for not proposing more spending. The San Diego County supervisors and water authority board both voted unanimously to support the proposition.
Prop. 2 — The Rainy Day Fund
This is technically known as the “budget stabilization account.” It would transfer a small percentage of the state’s general fund revenue to a special account to pay down the California’s debt and create a fund to draw on during recessions. Like the water bond, it has strong backing from Brown, who has emerged as something of a fiscal conservative in his second stint as governor. Opposition has come from some education groups, which argue that putting money in the fund will shortchange local schools. However, the president of the California Board of Education endorsed the fund as ultimately benefiting schools.
Prop. 45 — Health Insurance Rates
This proposition and Prop. 46 have been the focus of tens of millions of dollars in advertising, reflecting strong opposition from the healthcare industry. Prop 45 would give the State Insurance Commissioner, who is elected, authority to approve or reject changes to health insurance rates, though this will not apply to public and large group plans. The measure only applies to 16 percent of the population, those with individual or small-employer plans. The insurance commissioner already reviews rates for automobile and homeowner’s insurance. The state Democratic Party supports this proposition, while the Republicans oppose it.
Prop. 46 — Drug Testing of Doctors and Malpractice Lawsuits
This proposition, backed by trial lawyers, isn’t really about drug testing but about raising the cap on pain and suffering awards, which are in addition to economic damages, in medical malpractice lawsuits. The current cap is $250,000, set in 1975. The proposition would raise the cap to $1.1 million. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says “raising the cap on noneconomic damages would likely increase overall health care spending California.” Proponents have focused their arguments on the potential benefits of random drug testing of doctors and say little about the impact of higher malpractice awards.
Prop. 47 — Reduced Penalties for Drug, Property Crimes
The proposition reduces the penalty for certain drug possession and property crimes to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. This would cut California’s prison population by up to 10,000 over a number of years. Savings at both the state and local levels would total several hundred million dollars annually. William Lansdowne, the former police chief of San Diego, is a high-profile supporter, but his successor, Shelley Zimmerman, is opposed.
Prop. 48 — Indian Gaming Compacts
This proposition applies to two tribes in two areas of the state, but all California voters are being asked to approve the gaming agreements, or compacts. The Wiyot Tribe outside Eureka would be prohibited from building a casino near the environmentally sensitive Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In return, the tribe would receive gaming revenue from a new casino to be built by the North Fork Rancheria of the Mono Indians outside Madera in the Central Valley. The proposition is supported by Brown, who argues it will create thousands of local jobs. However, the North Fork tribe’s casino would be located off the reservation, and that has drawn local opposition in Fresno and Madera counties.