San Diego County voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether to approve new taxes on tourists to finance a downtown football stadium, increase the sales tax for a new trolley line, and join other Californians in deciding whether to legalize marijuana. Those are the most notable ballot measures in a year with so many that special ballot printings were required.
Here’s a list, in the order you will find state, county and local measures on your ballot:
Proposition 51 — School Bonds
Prop 51 authorizes the state to issue $9 billion in bonds to build facilities for schools from kindergarten through community college. It’s backed by the California State PTA and other education organizations, but opposed by several taxpayer groups.
Proposition 52 — Medi-Cal Hospital Fees
Medi-Cal provides healthcare benefits to over 13 million Californians. It’s partly funded through fees paid by hospitals and then matched by the federal government. The fees are set to expire in 2018, but Prop 52 would make them permanent. The proposition is backed by over 400 of the state’s hospitals, but opposed by the SEIU United Healthcare Workers union.
Proposition 53 — Revenue Bond Approval by Voters
This measure requires voter approval before the state or a local government could issue more than $2 billion in revenue bonds for a project. The state constitution requires voters to approve general-obligation bonds, which are paid off with tax revenue. But revenue bonds, which are paid off with fees, such as bridge tolls, do not require voter approval. The $2 billion threshold means only the largest projects, such as the California bullet train or a major water project, would be affected. The iconic Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is a supporter of Prop 53, but the California Chamber of Commerce opposes it.
Proposition 54 — Legislative Procedures
Prop 54 requires audiovisual recordings of most proceedings by the state Legislature and the online posting of legislation at least 72 hours before a vote. Opponents say this is just more red tape, but the measure is backed by the League of Women Voters and the California Chamber of Commerce.
Proposition 55 — Tax Increase Extension
In 2012 Gov. Jerry Brown sought and received voter approval of an emergency tax increase on high-income taxpayers to fund education. This proposition extends the increase for 12 years. Most of the increased funding goes for education, but some of it can be earmarked for Medi-Cal, the health care program for low-income Californians. The storied Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposes Prop 55, but the California State PTA and state Controller Betty Yee support it.
Proposition 56 — Cigarette Taxes
This proposition increases the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack, and levies equivalent taxes on other tobacco products and the new electronic cigarettes. It would raise state revenue by $1.4 billion annually in the first year, and help fund both anti-smoking programs and the Medi-Cal healthcare system for low-income Californians. Proponents say higher prices will encourage people stop smoking, but there are many skeptics of this argument. Prop 56 is opposed by cigarette companies and some anti-tax voices.
Proposition 57 — Parole and Juvenile Court Changes
Prop 57 would allow earlier parole for non-violent felons and make it harder to try juveniles as adults in an effort to reduce California’s burgeoning prison population. The changes would affect 30,000 of the 128,000 people currently in California prisons. It’s supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and probation officers, but opposed by the sheriff of Orange County and various law enforcement organizations.
Proposition 58 — English Teaching
This would allow school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for students who don’t speak English. A proposition back in 1998 limited such programs. Proponents of Prop 58 say teachers need flexibility in how they teach English to students who are not natives, while opponents want only teaching in English. The California State PTA supports the proposition, while Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego is a notable opponent.
Proposition 59 — Advisory on Citizens United
This is an advisory measure only. Approval would require the state Legislature to try to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling, which ended restrictions on political spending by corporations. It’s not clear that California can do much; the only way to repeal Citizens United may be via a federal Constitution amendment.
Proposition 60 — Condoms in Adult Films
The San Fernando Valley is the center of the adult film industry, and this proposition would target it by requiring performers to wear condoms. It’s already required, but Prop 60 would allow any state resident to enforce the law, potentially creating a legal minefield. The legislative analyst predicts a loss of several million dollars a year in tax revenue because the industry would likely move out of California. Both the Democratic and Republican parties oppose the measure.
Proposition 61 — Prescription Drug Pricing
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has campaigned for this measure, which would require state agencies to pay no more for prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the Veterans Administration. The idea is to cut drug prices for all, but manufacturers might raise prices or decline to sell certain drugs. The California AARP is a supporter of Prop 61, but most of the state’s medical, veterans and business organizations oppose the measure, as do drug companies.
Propositions 62 and 66 — Death Penalty
Prop 62 isn’t complicated; it simply ends the death penalty in California. The maximum sentence would then be life in prison without parole. This would save an estimated $150 million annually in state legal costs. But there’s another death penalty proposition on the ballot, Prop 66, which seeks to streamline the process and make it easier to execute convicted criminals. Law enforcement organizations are generally against 62 and for 66.
If you want to end the death penalty in Golden State, vote “yes” on 62 and “no” on 66.
Proposition 63 — Firearms and Ammunition
This proposition requires background checks before an individual in California can purchase ammunition, restricts the sale of large-capacity magazines — 10 bullets or more — and imposes certain restrictions on the ownership of firearms. The National Rifle Association and many law-enforcement groups oppose Prop 63, seeing it as another attack on the Second Amendment, but it has the support of numerous Democratic elected officials.
Proposition 64 — Legalize Marijuana
This is the most anticipated state proposition of the election. If California voters legalize marijuana, businesses see a new, multi-billion dollar state industry, law enforcement worries about a spike in drugged driving accidents and some cities see a tax windfall. Prop 64 has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles Times and a long list of other government officials and newspapers, but almost all law-enforcement officials and organizations are against it. One complication is that the drug would still illegal at the federal level.
Propositions 65 and 67 — Plastic Bags
Even more confusing that the two death penalty propositions are the two plastic bag measures. Both are backed by the plastic bag industry, which apparently hopes confused voters will simply reject both. Prop 65 would require stores that offer carryout bags for 10 cents in lieu of free plastic bags to pay what amounts to a 100 percent tax on the proceeds. That money would be earmarked for an environmental fund. Prop 67, on the other hand, is a referendum on a 2014 state law that phases in a complete ban on single-use plastic bags in California.
So, if you want to ban plastic bags once and for all, vote “yes” on Prop 67. If you like the convenience of plastic bags, and think the environmental issues are overblown, vote “no” on Prop 67. Prop 65 is a sideshow that probably deserves a “no” vote in any case.
Measure A — Road & Transit Improvements
This San Diego County measure would add a half-cent sales tax for 40 years to raise an estimated $18 billion to improve freeways, fix local roads and build a trolley line between San Ysidro and Kearny Mesa. It’s supported by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the watchdog San Diego County Taxpayers Association, but opposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and many other local mayors. Supporters say the regional planning agency SANDAG makes efficient use of tax money and can leverage it with federal grants, while critics argue not enough will be spent on roads compared to transit.
Measure B — Lilac Hills Ranch
The entire county is voting on whether to allow development of 1,700 homes north of Escondido. The decade-old Lilac Hills Ranch project is another example of how our rapidly growing metropolitan area with its major housing shortage is putting development pressure on both established neighborhoods and outlying rural areas. Supporters say the project represents responsible development, while opponents want to preserve a rural enclave minutes from Interstate 15.
Measure C — Downtown Football Stadium
This measure is easily the most anticipated and controversial on the local ballot. Should tourists be taxed to build a new downtown football stadium for the San Diego Chargers? Specifically, the measure would increase the transient occupancy tax paid by hotel guests from 10.5 percent to 16.5 percent. Proceeds would be coupled with $650 million from the National Football League to build a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center annex.
The business community is divided, but proponents argue that tourists won’t notice the increase, and a new stadium and convention annex will spark a boom in the East Village similar to what happened more than a decade ago with Petco Park. Opponents say the NFL and Spanos family don’t need — and may not deserve — public help.
The Chargers wanted to move to Los Angeles, and have an option to do so, but the league required them to make one more attempt to build a stadium in San Diego. So rejecting Measure C will probably mean the Chargers leave.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown San Diego Partnership all support the measure, but the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and many Republican elected officials oppose it.
Measure D — Citizens Plan
Advocacy lawyer Cory Brigg’s Citizens Plan is often discussed in the same breath as the Measure C because it would also raise taxes on tourists — but not for a football stadium. In fact, it specifically prohibits spending public money on a stadium without a public vote. However, it would change downtown zoning to permit a new stadium in the East Village. It isn’t an alternative to the Chargers-sponsored Measure C, but a way to use the same tourist tax for other city purposes, such as parks and roads. And it includes a grab bag of other provisions, including an end to tax-funded tourism marketing and the sale of the Qualcomm Stadium site to one or more local universities.
So, if you want to keep the Chargers and don’t mind taxing tourists to build a football stadium, vote “yes” on C and “no” on D. If you want to send the Chargers a message, but not completely rule out a downtown stadium, vote “no” on C and “yes” on D.
Measures E, F, G, H — Charter Amendments
These four measures make non-controversial changes to the City Charter. The most significant clarifies the process for removal or resignation of elected officials and grew out of the case of disgraced Mayor Bob Filner. The other measures clarify the hiring and firing of deputy city attorneys, the activities of the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices, and city contracting procedures.
Measure I — San Diego High School
This measure allows San Diego High School to continue to occupy 55 acres of what was once Balboa Park land. The school began operating on the site more than a century ago, and the city formalized a lease in 1974 that expires in 2024. This measure would authorize the city to negotiate a new lease.
Measure J — Mission Bay Park Lease Revenue
This non-controversial measure would increase the allocation of lease revenue from Mission Bay Park that is earmarked for other city parks.
Measure K — Runoff Elections
In June, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilmen Chris Ward, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman received over 50 percent of the primary vote and were elected outright, without a November runoff. This measure would require a runoff in such cases. Proponents, who include City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, argue that more voters turn out for a general election, so the result could be different. Faulconer and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce oppose this measure, citing election costs and the practice in other California cites.
Measure L — Ballot Measures
Should local ballot measures only be decided in a general election, when voter turnout is highest? That’s what this measure would do. It’s backed by the same elected officials behind Measure K, and like that measure is opposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Measure M — Affordable Housing
This non-controversial measure would increase the number of affordable housing units that public agencies can help develop. The current limit is 10,500, and measure M would increase that to 38,680.
Measure N — Recreational Marijuana Tax
The final local measure is connected with state Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana. It imposes local taxes on sales of recreational marijuana, starting at 5 percent and increasing to 15 percent by 2019. Medical marijuana would be exempt. It’s similar to alcohol taxes that have been imposed for centuries. Opponents say the tax will indirectly facilitate drug use, and cite Colorado’s disappointing tax revenue from marijuana. But most large California cities are readying similar taxes in case marijuana is legalized.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: