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A Primer on the Propositions

November 04, 1990

VOTER BEWARE: Here are the ballot measures that conflict or overlap. In general, when two conflicting propositions pass, the one with more votes takes effect . ENVIRONMENT-- Propositions 128, 130, 135 and 138 would change the state's environmental laws. Propositions 128 and 130, written by environmentalists, conflict with 135 and 138, drafted by the chemical and timber industries. Proposition 135 seeks to nullify the pesticide regulations in Proposition 128. Proposition 138 seeks to cancel all of Proposition 130 and the forestry provisions of Proposition 128. In addition, passage of Proposition 136, with its two-thirds vote requirement for new taxes, could wipe out--depending on court rulings--Proposition 128's section on oil-spill recovery. ALCOHOL TAXES-- Proposition 134, placed on the ballot by a coalition of health and law enforcement groups, would sharply increase alcohol taxes. Industry-backed Proposition 126, calling for a milder tax increase, seeks the defeat of 134. So does Proposition 136, also with alcohol-industry backing. CRIME--Propositions 129 and 133 propose spending more tax money to fight crime. Both could go into effect without conflict. But both initiatives could be nullified unless they pass by two-thirds margins if Proposition 136 is approved. TERM LIMITS--Proposition 131 would limit legislators to 12 years in office and the governor and other statewide officials to eight years in office. Proposition 140 would go further, limiting Assembly members to six years in office, state senators to eight years and statewide officials to eight years. Proposition 131 would also introduce taxpayer financing of election campaigns; Proposition 140 would cut the legislative budget and eliminate pensions for lawmakers. Where the measures conflict over term limits, the one getting the more votes prevails. WHO SPONSORS THEM, WHO OPPOSES THEM AND WHAT THEY WOULD DO PROP.: 124 TOPIC: Local Hospital Districts EFFECT: Would authorize local hospital districts to acquire stock in corporations engaging in health care-related businesses. The state Constitution now prohibits state, county and local governments, including local hospital districts, from buying stock in private corporations. ARGUMENTS FOR: Proponents, including the Assn. of California Hospital Districts, argue they need this power to compete effectively with nonprofit and private hospitals. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, such as Libertarian Party officials, charge that the ballot proposition could result in government control of businesses that affect people's health and well-being. PROP.: 125 TOPIC: Fuels Tax, Rail Funding EFFECT: Would allow the use of existing state gasoline tax revenues for the purchase of commuter rail coaches and equipment, pending voter approval in the area where the trains would run. ARGUMENTS FOR: Proponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the state Transportation Commission and the Planning and Conservation League, argue that local transportation networks need more rail lines to help clean air and relieve traffic congestion. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, led by Libertarian Party officials, argue that funds from necessary highway construction and maintenance would be diverted, leading to higher fuel taxes to make up the shortfall. PROP.: 126 TOPIC: Alcohol Taxes EFFECT: Would increase taxes on beer from 4 to 20 cents per gallon, on certain wines from 1 to 20 cents per gallon and on distilled spirits from $2 to $3.30 per gallon. Revenue would go into the state's general fund. ARGUMENTS FOR: Proponents, led by the alcoholic beverage industry and several education groups including the California Teachers Assn., contend that this tax is more "fiscally sound" than Proposition 134, another alcohol tax measure on the ballot that specifies how revenues must be spent. They argue that Proposition 126 revenues would go into the state's general treasury to be spent at the Legislature's discretion. The exception would be that at least 40% would go to public education. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents--a number of public health, social service and law enforcement organizations--say the measure was put on the ballot only to defeat Proposition 134, which proposes higher alcoholic beverage taxes. PROP.: 127 TOPIC: Earthquake Safety EFFECT: Would prohibit buildings retrofitted with seismic safety improvements from being subject to significant property tax increases. ARGUMENTS FOR: The chairman of the state Seismic Safety Commission and other supporters say the measure would act as an incentive to building owners to earthquake-proof their properties. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: No negative votes were cast against the proposed constitutional amendment on the floor of the Senate and Assembly and no opposition arguments were filed with the secretary of state's office. PROP.: 128 TOPIC: Environment and Public Health EFFECT: Known by its backers as "Big Green," it would ban the use of at least 25 cancer-causing pesticides; require the state to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by as much as 40% by the year 2010; ban clear-cutting of redwoods and authorize a $300-million bond for purchase of ancient redwood forests. Would require developers to plant a tree for every 500 square feet of construction; accelerate the timetable for eliminating use of ozone-depleting chemicals; write into state law an existing ban on new offshore oil drilling in state waters; tax oil companies to pay for future offshore oil spills; curb discharge of toxic waste into bay and coastal waters; create the post of environmental advocate to enforce environmental laws. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supported by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters; Assemblymen Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and Lloyd Connelly (D-Sacramento); Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp; scientist Carl Sagan; many members of the entertainment industry, and others. Supporters say Proposition 128 is necessary to protect the food supply from cancer-causing chemicals and to save the coast, the air, drinking water and ancient redwoods. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opposed by the chemical industry, oil companies, the agriculture industry, the timber industry, water districts, the California Chamber of Commerce, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and others. They say the measure, which they call "The Hayden Initiative," tries to do too much and would be too costly. The agriculture industry advocates passage of Proposition 135, which would negate the pesticide provisions. The timber industry is pushing for passage of Proposition 138, which would override the redwood protection provisions. PROP.: 129 TOPIC: Crime Reduction and Drug Control EFFECT: Would allocate $1.9 billion in general tax funds for a "superfund" for state and local programs for drug enforcement, treatment and education over an eight-year period; would authorize $740 million in general obligation bonds for regional jails and prisons for drug offenders on federal surplus land in the desert; would amend Proposition 115, the criminal justice reform initiative passed last June, to specifically ensure that new limits on the rights of defendants do not infringe on privacy rights that might affect the legality of abortion. ARGUMENTS FOR: The measure, similar in several respects to Proposition 133, is sponsored by Van de Kamp and backed by several law enforcement, labor and abortion-rights groups. Supporters say it would put more than 2,000 more police on the beat and provide treatment for thousands of youths and pregnant women now using drugs. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, who include anti-tax activist Richard Gann and Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, say the measure would squander revenues and unwisely earmark tax dollars for specific programs without regard to need, and represents only a leftover issue from Van de Kamp's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. PROP.: 130 TOPIC: Forest Acquisition, Timber Harvesting EFFECT: Known as "Forests Forever," would ban clear-cutting in all forests; authorize a $742-million bond for the purchase of redwood forests and retraining of loggers for other jobs; require selective logging in all forests; restrict the timber harvest to 60% of the total tree volume; would seek to protect air quality by restricting burning of debris from logging; restrict use of tractors in logging on steep slopes; restrict export of California logs; reconstitute the state Board of Forestry and require appointment of environmentalists. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supported by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the National Audubon Society, as well as by the California State Park Rangers Assn., the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Assn. and others. Much of its financial backing has come from investor Hal Arbit. Supporters say Proposition 130 is needed to save the last of the ancient redwoods, reduce logging in other forests and help prevent global warming. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opposed by the timber industry, including such companies as Louisiana-Pacific Corp., Pacific Lumber Co. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. Also opposed by organizations of firefighters, businesses and foresters, including such groups as the California Taxpayers Assn. and the California Licensed Foresters Assn. Opponents say the measure would force some timber companies out of business, drive up consumer prices, cost too much and lead to more wildfires. Opponents are pushing for passage of Proposition 138, which would negate Proposition 130. PROP.: 131 TOPIC: Term Limits, Campaign Financing EFFECT: Would limit terms to 12 years for state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization members; eight years for governor and other statewide officers; officeholders reaching the limits could run again after sitting out at least one term. Would set up partial public financing of political campaigns by creating a taxpayer-supported fund; fund would provide $3 for every $1 a candidate collected from individual contributors residing in the candidate's district; would ban off-year fund raising and place limits on contributions and expenditures; special prosecutor's office would pursue political corruption. Measure competes with Proposition 140, another term-limit initiative on the ballot. ARGUMENTS FOR: Backers, including Van de Kamp, California Common Cause, the Sierra Club, Voter Revolt and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, say the measure aims at breaking the dependence of elected officials on special interests. Term limits, they say, would ensure a regular infusion of new participants in state politics; public financing of campaigns would emphasize small contributions from home districts in place of money from special interests. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, who include gubernatorial candidates Dianne Feinstein and Pete Wilson, cite varied objections. Some argue that both term limits and spending limits are undemocratic, increasing the ability of entrenched special interests to maintain control of the Legislature. Others object to using tax money to pay for political campaigns or doubt if the measure's voluntary income-tax checkoff procedure for funding campaigns would raise sufficient money. PROP.: 132 TOPIC: Marine Resources EFFECT: Starting January, 1994, would ban fishermen from using monofilament gill nets within three miles of the Southern California coast from Point Conception to the Mexican border, and within a mile of the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. Would raise sport-fishing license fees by $3 to help compensate commercial fishermen forced out of business. ARGUMENTS FOR: Proponents--mainly Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and sport fishermen--say the highly efficient gill nets have depleted populations of fish along the coast and inadvertently trapped dozens of marine mammals such as sea lions. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents are the politically powerful commercial fishing industry, based primarily in San Pedro and San Diego. They argue the ban would drive small commercial boat operators out of business, driving up the cost of fresh seafood in markets and restaurants. The industry says reports of sea mammal deaths in Southern California are exaggerated. PROP.: 133 TOPIC: Drug Enforcement and Prevention EFFECT: Would increase the sales tax rate by one-half cent to create a $7.5-billion fund for drug enforcement, treatment and education programs over a four-year period. Would prohibit the early release of criminals convicted twice of murder, manslaughter, rape or drug offenses. ARGUMENTS FOR: The measure, in some ways similar to Proposition 129, is sponsored by Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and backed by several law enforcement, business, medical and employee groups, along with Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig. Backers say the initiative would provide thousands more police officers along with more prosecutors and courts to combat the drug problem; new and expanded treatment and education programs would deal with drugs and gang-related problems. Proponents say requiring repeat offenders to serve full terms would keep dangerous criminals off the street. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, including anti-tax advocate Richard Gann and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Marian Bergeson, say the measure merely serves as a campaign device for McCarthy and would end up increasing an average family's taxes by $500. PROP.: 134 TOPIC: Alcohol Surtax EFFECT: The so-called "nickel-a-drink" tax increase would raise alcohol taxes from 4 cents to 57 cents on a gallon of beer, from 1 cent to $1.29 a gallon on most wines and from $2 to $8.40 on a gallon of liquor. Revenue would be earmarked for an array of drug- and alcohol-treatment and prevention programs and law enforcement. ARGUMENTS FOR: The proponents, a variety of public interest, public health and law enforcement organizations, contend that the initiative, in effect, would place a "user fee" on heavy drinkers to help defray the more than $13 billion in annual alcohol-related costs in California; would provide $760 million annually to address alcohol problems; would contain a "safety clause" preventing lawmakers from using passage of the initiative as an excuse for reducing other funding now directed to these programs. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, mainly the alcohol industry and an organization it finances, Taxpayers for Common Sense, charge that the initiative would shackle the state by prohibiting spending cuts for a host of health, mental health, law enforcement and drug and alcohol programs, then would require increases to cover inflation and population growth. Opponents say the measure would risk deficits and lead to higher taxes. PROP.: 135 TOPIC: Pesticide Regulation EFFECT: Would increase state testing of produce for pesticide residues and eliminate fees now charged to agriculture industry for such tests; require the state at its expense to collect and dispose of chemicals that are prohibited; create a scientific panel to advise state on safe levels of pesticides; commit $5 million a year to pesticide research; prohibit trucks used to transport pesticides from carrying food. Also specifies that it would invalidate the pesticide provisions of Proposition 128 if this measure receives more votes. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supported by the agriculture industry, including the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Western Growers Assn., the California Grocers Assn., food manufacturers and others. Supporters say it is a reasonable approach to providing for safe pesticide use without harming the state's economy. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opposed by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council, individual farmers and others. Opponents say it would do little to protect the public from pesticides while invalidating the tougher pesticide provisions of Proposition 128. PROP.: 136 TOPIC: State, Local Taxation EFFECT: Would impose tougher requirements on local government agencies seeking to raise taxes and on voter initiatives to raise special taxes; contains a "ballot virus" provision that could nullify votes on at least three other measures on the ballot: Proposition 134, the nickel-a-drink alcohol tax; Proposition 133, an anti-crime measure, and Proposition 129, a drug enforcement and $740-million bond measure. Would limit tax increases to 1% of value on such things as alcoholic beverages. Would require a favorable vote by two-thirds of the electorate to pass a special local tax, or a special tax increase by initiative. Would require cities with charters, such as Los Angeles, to get majority vote on any new general tax increases. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supporters, including groups linked to the late anti-tax crusaders Paul Gann and Howard Jarvis, call the measure a follow-up to Proposition 13 in 1978 and say it is necessary to halt dramatic increases in new special taxes on local level and use of initiatives to raise other taxes on the state level. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, including the California Parent-Teacher Assn. and the League of Women Voters, contend that the two-thirds majority requirement is undemocratic and would make it impossible to raise taxes. They also say that the measure is a back-door effort by the alcoholic beverage industry to defeat Proposition 134, the nickel-a-drink tax measure, pointing to more than $2 million in contributions that liquor, beer, wine and bottlers have contributed to competing Proposition 136. PROP.: 137 TOPIC: Initiative and Referendum Process EFFECT: Would require that any proposal to revise the initiative or referendum processes be submitted to the voters for their approval. ARGUMENTS FOR: Proponents such as the heads of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and Paul Gann's Citizen Committee argue that the initiative process is the "people's law" and that only the voters should be permitted to change it. They charge that the Legislature wants to make the initiative process more difficult to use. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: The opponents, such as the former chairmen of the Constitutional Revision and Fair Political Practices commissions, reply that special-interest groups have used the initiative process to further their own agendas at the expense of the public and this measure would delay the Legislature from making needed reforms. PROP.: 138 TOPIC: Timber Harvesting EFFECT: Seeks to ban clear-cutting in ancient redwood forests and reduce clear-cutting in other forests, but has loopholes allowing timber companies to continue clear-cutting; would restrict state purchase of redwood forests by requiring approval of the landowner; would require additional wildlife review before logging; would authorize $300-million bond for reforestation, including $120 million to plant trees that later could be logged. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supported by the timber industry, including such companies as Louisiana-Pacific Corp., Pacific Lumber Co. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. Also supported by organizations of firefighters, businesses and foresters, including such groups as the California Taxpayers Assn. and the California Licensed Foresters Assn. Supporters say the measure would reduce logging of redwoods but leave control of logging in the hands of professional foresters. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opposed by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others that favor Proposition 130. Opponents of Proposition 138 argue that it was designed by the timber industry to invalidate Proposition 130, does not bar clear-cutting and would allow logging companies to continue harvesting California forests. PROP.: 139 TOPIC: Prison Inmate Labor EFFECT: Would repeal the constitutional prohibition against use of convict labor by private employers and authorize businesses to contract with state prison and county jail administrators for an inmate work force. ARGUMENTS FOR: Supporters, led by Gov. George Deukmejian, say that income from such employment would help defray the costs of housing and feeding prisoners and require offenders to pay restitution to crime victims. They say that convicts would be prepared for employment when they are freed and that private employers would benefit by the tax break they would get for participating. ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Opponents, mainly the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO, argue that prisoners would displace workers and aggravate the high unemployment rate among minority youth. Further, they argue that the tax breaks for participating private firms constitute "giveaways" to profitable corporations at the expense of the taxpayer. PROP.: 140 TOPIC: Term Limits, Legislators' Retirement , Legislative Operating Costs

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