California voters reacted to bad news about tainted drinking water by strongly approving Tuesday a tough new law against toxic polluters, but they soundly rejected an AIDS control measure promoted by political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.
Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure, is regarded by sponsors and foes alike as a harbinger of a new movement in support of hard-nosed laws to guard against spoilage of the environment.
It passed in all areas of the state, including the agricultural Central Valley. Both sides have predicted that similar state laws might now begin to sweep the country in the same populist fashion as the property-tax revolt that grew out of California in 1978.
"I think it will have national repercussions, no doubt about it," said Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), whose political group, Campaign California, was the biggest financial contributor to the Yes on 65 effort. "It will now set the standard for toxic initiatives in the country."
However, the campaign manager for the business and oil interests that opposed the measure predicted such laws will face a tough fight in other states. "The fact . . . that we have pointed out its flaws (means that) the measures they will introduce in other states will bear no resemblance to what they did in California," said Michael Gagan.
The LaRouche-inspired AIDS measure, Proposition 64, was defeated by a 2-1 margin on the strength of a massive show of opposition by medical experts on AIDS. They said the LaRouche plan to force state officials to collect the names of AIDS carriers and patients and remove them from some jobs would devastate efforts to slow the spread of the fatal disease.
"It's a victory for public health in California," state health Director Kenneth Kizer said at the No on 64 celebration at the Hollywood Palladium. "It's a triumph, very simply, for good over evil."
Victory for Gays
Gays argued strongly for defeat of the measure, which was viewed by some as a veiled attack on equal rights for homosexuals. Campaign strategist David Mixner, a gay activist who has lost many friends to AIDS, said he hopes the resounding defeat will bring an end to such measures.
"To those good and decent people of California, we say thank you," Mixner said. "I want every politician across the land to hear this message."
Khushro Ghandhi, the LaRouche follower who sponsored the initiative, said the extremist's forces will remain active, but he would not give details. "We're always full of surprises," he said.
Voters also delivered a strong message by passing Proposition 63, which declares English as the official language of California, in a largely symbolic reaction to the spread of Spanish and other foreign languages in the state.
Former GOP Sen. S.I. Hayakawa, a leading sponsor, said that "the importance (of Proposition 63) is to prevent the adoption of a second official language some time in the future." He added that the victory would offer a lift to efforts to pass a federal constitutional amendment declaring English the nation's official language.
Pay Limit Defeated
In voting on another major initiative, voters up and down the state rejected Proposition 61, which would have slashed the pay of top government officials--both elected and professional.
Public officials, many of whom had threatened to retire if the measure passed, said they were gratified. But sponsor Paul Gann blamed the loss on a controversial projection that passage of Proposition 61 could cost taxpayers $7 billion in a one-time pay-out of vacation and sick pay.
"We will rewrite it, of course," Gann said. "We'll be back."
The other measures on the state ballot were all headed to victory:
- Proposition 53, which would authorize $800 million in bonds for new schools and campus expansion.
- Proposition 54, which would authorize $500 million in prison construction bonds.
- Proposition 55, which would authorize $100 million in bonds to help water districts clean up water supplies.
- Proposition 56, which would authorize $400 million in bonds for university and college construction.
- Proposition 57, which would limit pension increases for 18 former state officials.
- Proposition 58, which would allow parents to transfer their residence to children without a reassessment for tax purposes.
- Proposition 59, which would make it a constitutional requirement that district attorneys be elected.
- Proposition 60, which would give a property tax break to senior citizens who move.
- Proposition 62, written by the late Howard Jarvis, which would add new restrictions, including a majority vote of the people, before local government could raise business, utility and other local taxes.