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Hodge-Podge: No on 105

October 23, 1988

Some ballot propositions stupefy by their complexity. Proposition 105 bewilders by its variety. Loosely tied together in this "Disclosures to Consumers, Voters, Investors" Initiative Statute are five distinct issues. They are linked only to the extent that for each, disclosure of certain information would be required. Is this rather thin unifying thread strong enough so that Proposition 105 meets the constitutional requirement that ballot measures deal only with a single subject? We don't think so.

In its separate parts Proposition 105 seeks to deal with various consumer concerns, some of which the Legislature has failed to address under the pressure of special-interest lobbying. This is what the proposition would require:

Any business that spends more than $50,000 a year in the state advertising toxic household products would have to warn consumers not to discard them in the trash or pour them down drains. Warnings would have to be placed on product labels or in newspaper ads, and would have to list a toll-free number where consumers could get more information about proper disposal methods.

Companies that sell senior-citizen health insurance--"medigap coverage"--must disclose in their advertising that the benefits they provide may duplicate other already-held policies. Another toll-free number would be set up for further information.

Nursing homes would have to disclose in both their advertising and on their admission contracts that further information about them is available at the state ombudsman's office. Those 25% of nursing homes that have the most serious records of violating state Department of Health Services regulations would have to disclose on their contracts and in their advertising that a record of their citations is posted at the nursing home.

Both sponsors and opponents of ballot initiatives would have to disclose in their advertising the identities of major financial contributors, whether individuals, groups or corporations.

Finally, any corporation that sells stocks or securities in California would have to disclose through a filing with the secretary of state whether it does business with any person or group located in South Africa.

We have no quarrel with Proposition 105's overall aim of providing the public with more information. But the measure seems to us to try to do too much in some respects and not enough in others. As an example of the latter, is the public really served by having only the 25% of nursing homes with the most serious records of health violations let people know that those records are available for inspection? Surely it makes more sense to require all nursing facilities to post on-site a list of the citations they have received, and to let prospective clients know such a list can be consulted.

The biggest legal problem with this omnibus measure is that it seeks to address too many distinct concerns with a single statute. Legislative Counsel Bion M. Gregory is one of those who believes that Propositon 105 would almost certainly fail the single-subject test set by the Constitution, and so be voided in its entirety. Badly drawn and easily overturned law aimed at beneficial purposes can hardly be considered preferable to no law. For these reasons we recommend a no vote on Proposition 105.

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