Election 2012: Voters Split on California Propositions

In order of appearance: Harry Gundersen, Charlie Lambropoulos and Karen Smith.

 It’s decision day for a host of California propositions, including some significant ballot measures that could affect residents for years to come. With so many propositions on the ballot, making sense of them all can be difficult.

Voters Tuesday were divided on the ballot measures. Some like Santa Monica residents Linda and Craig Werwa supported a “yes” vote on Proposition 37, the genetically modified food labeling measure.

“It’s extremely important that people understand what they’re eating,” said Linda Werwa. The couple believes if California passes the initiative—which calls for a mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food—other states will follow suit. 

In Venice, voter Karen Smith said she’s “sick” of ballot measures. “I wish there were a proposition to end all proposition balloting.” But she was selective in voting on the proposals, turning a thumbs down on propositions related to unions, food and insurance.

Irwin Feinberg waited outside a Pacific Palisades recreation center for his son Lyle, who was also voting for the first time. Irwin said his biggest concern is Proposition 30, one of two California education funding initiatives on the ballot.

“I’m involved in education and realize how important it is that we fund education,” he said.

Here are descriptions of all the current propositions. Read up before casting your vote.

Proposition 30:

Two initiatives, Propositions 30 and 38, would affect California schools. Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would temporarily raise the sales tax by a quarter cent while increasing personal taxes over a seven-year period for Californians making more than $250,000. The money raised would be used primarily to fund education programs in California. If the proposition fails to pass, it would result in trigger cuts adding up to a loss of nearly $5.4 billion to K-14 programs.

“It’s critical to vote yes on Proposition 30,” said Mike Myslinski, spokesman for the California Teachers Association. “Our public schools are facing dire cuts if Prop. 30 fails.”

Proposition 31:

Proposition 31 is designed to establish a two-year state budget process and allow local governments to decide how state-funded programs are administered and create plans for providing services to the public, according to the Voter Information Guide. This initiative would also restrict when the state Legislature can pass bills and its ability to decrease or increase state revenue.

Proposition 32:

Proposition 32 would make big changes to the state’s campaign finance rules. It would ban unions from using money deducted from paychecks for political purposes. It would also prevent government contractors and corporations from directly contributing to political candidates or their committees. The measure would ban government contractors from making financial contributions to “elected officers or their committees” as well, according to the Voter Information Guide.

Proposition 33:

Proposition 33 is designed to allow consumers who have been with a car insurance company for five years to switch insurance companies while keeping “loyalty discounts.” Supporters say it will save consumers money while its opponents contend it would only benefit Mercury Insurance, saying its chairman, George Joseph, has personally invested more than $16 million in an effort to pass the proposition.

Proposition 34:

The debate over Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty, has been heating up. The proposition would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Supporters say it would save the state money and get rid of a system that is no longer working.  

“Proposition 34 ensures we never make a fatal mistake and execute the wrong person,” said San Francisco-based Natasha Minsker, Proposition 34’s campaign manager.  

It also would ensure those inmates are put to work and would set aside some of the money for a victim’s compensation fund, according to Minsker.

“Death row inmates sit in private cells and less than one percent have jobs in the prison system,” she said.

Those who oppose Proposition 34 argue it’s misleading and could be a dangerous proposition in the long run if it were to pass.

“Californians should be very concerned about being misled on an initiative that will weaken public safety,” said No on 34 campaign spokesman Peter DeMarco. “The campaign to abolish the death penalty has been conducted with misleading arguments claiming cost savings when the reality is none of the cost savings have been validated by a credible source.”

He also emphasized the large number of law enforcement agencies across the state who are against Proposition 34, including the Police Officers Research Association of California, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Association of Highway Patrolmen.

“Without the potential sentencing of the death penalty, criminals will not think twice about pulling the trigger,” DeMarco said.

Proposition 35:

Proposition 35 would increase fines and prison time for those convicted of human trafficking. If this measure passes, those who have been convicted of human trafficking would also have to register as sex offenders, and all registered sex offenders would have to disclose their Internet identities and any activities on the Internet.

Proposition 36:

Proposition 36 would change California’s three strikes law. It would change the law so that a life sentence would only be required in cases of violent or serious crimes. Some of those convicted who have two prior serious convictions and are currently serving time for lesser crimes would be allowed to possibly have shorter prison terms under the initiative.

Proposition 37:

Proposition 37 would call for a mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food. Supporters say it would add up to companies simply having to add “a few words to their labels,” said Stacy Malkan of the Yes on 37 campaign. However, Sacramento-based Kathy Fairbanks of the No on 37 campaign, disagreed.

“It’s not just a simple labeling measure,” Fairbanks said. “Proposition 37 also adds to the state taxpayers costs and the state debt. Proposition 37 adds about $1 million a year onto the cost of our state budget.”

Fairbanks said Californians would also face higher grocery bills, adding up to at least $350 a year per household on average.

“Restaurant food gets a blanket exemption,” Fairbanks said. “It sets up an inconsistent policy.”

Malkan said those who oppose the initiative are simply trying to confuse voters.

“We hear a lot of confusing details about the proposition, but the opposition is trying to make it confusing when it’s actually very simple,” Malkan said. “It’s just a label that gives us the right to know what’s in our food and decide for ourselves what we want to feed our families.”

Proposition 38:

Proposition 38, which has been primarily financed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, aims to increase taxes on earnings by using a sliding scale for a total of 12 years. The revenue from the increase in state taxes, about $10 billion, would be used to fund school programs.

Proposition 39:

Proposition 39 would force companies who do business to pay an income tax based on sales made in the state of California. The increase in revenue would be used to fund statewide clean energy projects. The measure would repeal the current law which allows multistate businesses to choose “a tax liability formula that provides favorable treatment for businesses with property and payroll” outside of the state, according to the Voter Information Guide.

Proposition 40:

Proposition 40 is a referendum on the California State Senate redistricting plan approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. If the new State Senate districts are rejected, state officials supervised by the California Supreme Court would decide the district boundary lines.