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A communist’s guide to California’s 2020 ballot propositions

King of the Hill

The general election is coming up quickly, and in addition to casting our vote for the president, Californians will also have to decide on a number of propositions regarding state policy. These propositions don’t get nearly as much coverage in the media as the presidential election, so it can be overwhelming to open your ballot on election day, having only the complex and obfuscating proposition descriptions to guide you. Besides getting blasted with ads from corporations asking you to vote NO on propositions that will tax them more, most Millsies are probably in the dark about these upcoming bills. Every citizen, however, deserves to know what they’re voting for, so below are the 12 propositions on the ballot, as well as my suggestions for how you should vote. 

Prop 14: Vote NO on Prop 14

If it passes, Prop 14 would funnel taxpayer money in the form of bonds into stem cell research, specifically for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). This is not the first proposition of its kind; since 2004, the CIRM has received billions of dollars, but with their funds depleted, they are asking for loans from California residents. Prop 14 also allows further confusing restructuring of the CIRM oversight process and employee regulations — any new amendment would require a 70% vote of support, effectively insulating the California stem cell industry from any democratic change and dodging further legislative oversight. The supporters of this bill also raise suspicions: it was put on the ballot by real estate tycoon Robert Klein II, even without the approval of the CIRM board. 

Prop 15: Vote YES on Prop 15

The goal of this bill is to close tax loopholes that give billions of dollars to wealthy investors and property owners and divert the funds to local public schools, community colleges and local public service programs like parks, libraries, homeless services, health clinics and public transit. Currently, property taxes are calculated using the property’s purchase price. If this bill passes, property taxes would be calculated for commercial properties worth over $3 million using the market value instead. This would help local infrastructure and important public services like schools and libraries that are funded by property taxes. This bill would make sure that the wealthy can’t skirt paying their fair share for the resources we all use. 

Prop 16: Vote YES on Prop 16

Prop 16 would repeal Proposition 209 from 1996 which banned any form of affirmative action in the public sector, calling it discrimination based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. A YES vote on Prop 16 would open the gates for public institutions, like public colleges and government offices, to enact actively anti-racist practices in their hiring and admissions. 

Prop 17: Vote YES on Prop 17

Simply put, Prop 17 restores the voting rights of felons who are on parole. Currently, the laws regarding felony enfranchisement differ from state-to-state, with some states disallowing it completely, some requiring petitions, and others still only allowing it only after parole is completed. We cannot honestly call ourselves a democracy without complete and universal suffrage, and while there are still plenty of swaths of the population left unenfranchised, a YES vote on Prop 17 is a step in the right direction. 

Prop 18: Vote YES on Prop 18

Another voting rights bill, Prop 18, if passed, would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in the primaries. It is fundamental to our democracy that every citizen be able to vote, and for the youngest generation who is left to bear the burden of our country’s inaction on issues from capitalism to climate change, a YES vote on Prop 18 is even more essential.

Prop 19: Vote NO on Prop 19

Prop 19 would put intense tax penalties on adult inheritors of homes, which is particularly harmful to residents of gentrifying neighborhoods where buying a new home is nigh impossible. The bill would also allow California residents over 55 to have lower property taxes when buying a new home. Prop 19 is confusing and compounded with a variety of policy changes surrounding inheritance. And it’s meant to be confusing because realtors really want you to vote for it. Realtors have been trying to pass a bill like this for years after a similar one was soundly rejected by voters in 2018, and this year they’ve spent $41,710,785 trying to trick you into increasing their profits. 

Prop 20: Vote NO on Prop 20

Prop 20 is funded by prison guards and police unions because it gives them more money and more power to crowd people into prisons, during a pandemic no less. Prop 20 would undo previous policies meant to reduce California’s prison population by changing certain felonies to misdemeanors by allowing misdemeanor charges to be changed to felony charges at a judge’s discretion. Judges do not need more tools to inject racism, classism and authoritarianism into our justice system. Prop 20 would also give police incredible power over DNA and other personal data collection which, being cops, they are sure to misuse. Furthermore, Prop 20 would reverse the Prop 57 rule that requires judges, rather than prosecutors, to decide whether to charge juveniles as children or adults, allowing prosecutors to do what they do best: freely assign black youth serious adult charges for mild misdemeanors. 

Prop 21: Vote YES on Prop 21

Prop 21 would reverse a prior rule that says rent control policies cannot be applied to any building built after 1996. Preventing rising rent is key to solving California’s housing crisis, and a YES vote on Prop 21 is a vote to keep the abusive powers of landlords in check. 

Prop 22: Vote NO on Prop 22

Prop 22 is a labor rights violation in a ballot bill form — it would allow tech giants like Uber, Lyft and Postmates to abuse their employees by recategorizing them as independent contractors in the name of “flexibility.” Without the employee title, workers for rideshare companies are unable to access the important labor rights associated with it: minimum wage, sick leave, overtime pay and safety regulations. Uber and Lyft have spent millions trying to convince you to vote YES; we’ve all seen the ad about the poor driver who just really, really wants to be categorized as an independent contractor and stripped of his labor rights so he can have a flexible schedule. But in the midst of a pandemic where services from Postmates and Doordash have been invaluable to all of us, the least we can do for these workers is vote NO on Prop 22 and make sure they have their hard-won rights.

Prop 23: Vote YES on Prop 23

Prop 23 would require that private kidney dialysis centers, which serve largely POC communities, are subject to the same levels of oversight as other healthcare providers. If the bill passes, a licensed physician or nurse practitioner will be required to be on site. Private kidney dialysis providers like DaVita Inc or Fresenius Medical Care have spent millions influencing the California senate and assembly in order to go on functioning unregulated so they can make as much money as possible while risking the health and safety of their patients, with Assemblymember Mike Gipson having “received over $18,800 from dialysis companies in just this election cycle! His district, AD 64, is over 95% BIPOC,” as reported in the DSA-LA Voter Guide. According to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), “ We must vote YES on Prop 23 to stop allowing corporations to keep POC communities sick by providing them inadequate care.” 

Prop 24: Vote NO on Prop 24

The bill is the pet project of Alastair Mactaggart and his wife, Celine, but has no backing from boarding consumer rights coalitions. The bill would go into effect before the already existing California Consumer Privacy Act takes full effect. While Prop 24 is full of loopholes, it is also incredibly strict, making it more difficult to change privacy laws and increase consumer protections later. Organizations like the ACLU and labor leaders like Dolores Huerta have expressed concern about Prop 24, explaining that it opens the door for companies to charge you more if you don’t sell them your data and prevent consumers from seeing what data is actually collected on them. 

Prop 25: Vote NO on Prop 25

Similarly to Prop 20, this bill will increase the power of police and expand the influence of the prison-industrial complex in our state. Prop 25 will give judges unchecked power and increase funding for probation departments. Most importantly, Prop 25 would replace the cash bail system with an “automated risk assessment.” While the cash bail system is racist and classist, an automated risk assessment is no better; it would automate who is allowed bail through equally racist risk assessment programs. We must not pass Prop 25, which would use algorithmic racial profiling to decide whether or not to grant people bail.