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California voters not in the mood for major changes

Five ballot measures are rejected, including one to legalize marijuana. But three are adopted to reduce the power of the state's politicians as well as one to try to end the annual budget impasse.

November 04, 2010|By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times

California voters decided election day was not the time for major changes, rejecting five initiatives on the ballot, including one to make the state the first to legalize marijuana and another to undo its ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But they made exceptions when it came to dealing with the state's politicians, adopting three measures to reduce their power and another to try to end embarrassing annual budget impasses.

In a decision that could transform the state's 53-member U.S. House delegation, voters embraced Proposition 20 to allow an independent commission to redraw congressional districts next year. They turned down Proposition 27, which would have eliminated the panel.

The commission will now oversee the once-in-a-decade process — not state lawmakers, who have historically drawn districts to protect incumbents from challengers.

"This will be an earthquake for the congressional delegation," said Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government and an expert in redistricting. "They have been living for 10 years in their nice, protected, safe districts. Now the districts will be focused on communities, and they will now be competitive."

The three other measures approved Tuesday will affect how the Legislature deals with the state's budget. One bars lawmakers from borrowing money from local governments and another requires a two-thirds vote to raise some fees. But the change voters will notice the most is the one they approved in Proposition 25, which allows passage of the state budget on a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds, vote.

That hurdle has led to annual delays as the Democrats who control the Legislature seek to cut deals to win a few Republican votes. This year, lawmakers set a new record, passing the budget 100 days after the fiscal year began.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission is still being formed. By the end of the year, 14 members will be chosen. They will redraw state Senate, state Assembly and state Board of Equalization districts, using population counts from the 2010 census. With Tuesday's vote, they also will create new congressional districts.

Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said the commission's priority will be to create districts that reflect the state.

"The ultimate goal is to make sure that communities are drawn into districts that reasonably represent them and that voters have a chance to elect representatives of their choice," she said.

Here's how Californians voted on the nine measures:

Proposition 19 – Marijuana legalization

This initiative would have allowed adults 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana, but it also would have taken a step toward legalization by giving cities and counties the power to authorize commercial cultivation and retail sales. Failed: 54%-46%

Proposition 20 — Congressional districts

This proposition transfers the power to draw congressional districts from the Legislature to an independent commission. The commission will include five Democrats, five Republicans and four members registered with neither party. Passed: 61%-39%

Proposition 21 – Fees for state parks

Californians would have paid an annual $18 fee for each car they registered under this measure. The money would have been spent on state parks and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the fee would have been admitted for free to all state parks. Failed: 58%-42%

Proposition 22 — Local government funds

This measure will bar the state from taking funds from local governments and agencies, including regional transportation improvement projects. It also will prevent the state from delaying the payout of tax revenue owed to local governments. Passed: 61%-39%

Proposition 23 — Global warming

This proposal would have suspended the state's landmark global warming law until unemployment in California dropped to 5.5% or below for a full year. Failed: 61%-39%

Proposition 24 — Corporate tax breaks

Under this initiative, about $1.3 billion in annual corporate tax breaks that begin to take effect this year would have been rolled back. Failed: 58%-42%

Proposition 25 — State budgets

This proposition will allow the Legislature to pass state budgets with a majority vote rather than the two-thirds vote that was required. It does not apply to tax increases, which still require a two-thirds majority. Under the proposition, state lawmakers will forfeit salaries and expenses for every day they fail to pass a budget after June 15. Passed: 55%-45%

Proposition 26 — State government fees

This measure requires a two-thirds vote, rather than the current simple majority for the Legislature to pass or raise certain fees for government programs. It also bars local governments from raising some taxes without two-thirds voter approval. Passed: 53%-47%

Proposition 27 — Legislative districts

The measure would have eliminated the commission voters authorized to redraw state legislative boundaries and returned that authority to the Legislature. Failed: 59%-41%

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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