Wait, What Am I Voting For?

Hint: Not Just For President

By Rachael Moore


We’re used to turmoil in politics, but it’s no secret that the 2016 presidential election is taking politics to a whole new level. Regardless of political preference, this year’s candidates are polarizing in ways young voters haven’t seen before. But with all of the attention on who will become our next president, the rest of the 2016 ballot has gotten lost in the shuffle. There are a whopping 17 propositions you’ll be voting YES or NO on when you get to the polls on November 8th. Here’s the down-low on some of the things that could affect you in the California general election.

Proposition 51: School Bonds: Funding for K-12 and Community College Facilities

Essentially, this proposition authorizes $9 billion in what’s called “general obligation bonds” for the education facilities of K-12 and community colleges. According to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, general obligation bonds are issued by state or local governments, and are secured by the government’s pledge to repay the bondholders using their general funds, oftentimes tax revenues. A “Yes” vote on Prop 51 would mean money for public schools and community colleges to fix and upgrade their campus buildings and classrooms; however, these bonds would put an already debt-ridden California into even further debt. Control over these funds would lie with state officials, not local parties who have more insight on where the money would help most in their district. Supporters include Californians for Equality in Schools, while the CA Taxpayer’s Action Network opposes the bond.

Proposition 56: Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement

This proposition increases the cigarette tax by $2 per pack, providing an additional billion dollars in net state revenue from 2017-2018. The revenue would be used to augment health care spending for low-income brackets. This sounds all well and good for the nonsmokers of the state, but the arguments against the proposition are worth considering. Only 13% of the additional revenue is allocated towards the treatment of smokers and youth smoking prevention. Supporters of a “No” vote also argue that the anticipated tax revenue by the increase should really address other pressing issues within the state, such as education. Another thing worth noting: the organizations listed as opposing the proposition are Philip Morris USA, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company–their business is selling the very products that Prop 56 wants to tax.

Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization

It wouldn’t be a California ballot without marijuana on the table. A “Yes” for Prop 64 would legalize the growing, possessing, and use of recreational marijuana by those over the age of 21. Regulations and standards would be put in place, and with additional tax revenues and money saved from criminal justice costs involving marijuana misdemeanors there could be a potential $1 billion for California. Imagine what that could do for our statewide debt. But for every pro there’s a con: of the strongest arguments from opposers, impaired driving and an increase in black market and drug cartel activity have high risk factors with legalization. Check out ballotpedia.org for a fuller picture; the pros and cons complete with statistics and past history of marijuana voting give great perspective.

City of Berkeley Measures BB and CC: Minimum Wage

Thought you just had to sift through the state measures? You’ll also need to do your reading on the twelve City of Berkeley measures. Topics range from low-income housing to infrastructure bonds, but it’s the measures regarding minimum wage changes that you may want to pay special attention to. Voting in support of Measure BB increases the city’s minimum wage incrementally over the next three years, ending at $15 per hour by October 2019. Voting in support of measure CC increases minimum wage to $15 in October 2017. But, a consensus ordinance agreed-upon by stakeholders on both measures was reached on August 31st, according to voter information documents on the City of Berkeley’s website. Support of the ordinance was unanimous–it will raise the minimum wage to $15 in October of 2018 , as well as increasing the amount of paid sick leave. This ordinance passed after the deadline to remove BB and CC from the ballot, so the City Council and supporters of the original measures are encouraging ‘No’ votes on November 8th, so that Berkeley can move forward with the agreed-upon ordinance that supports the interests of both parties and benefits the city’s workforce.

Do yourself a favor and read up on the other 14 propositions before you find yourself staring at the ballot on November 8th. You can find all of the information about the California General Election in a complete guide from the CA Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, on voterguide.sos.ca.gov (don’t let the mammoth 224 pages overwhelm you, everything is broken down for us non-politicians). REMEMBER: the deadline to register to vote is October 24th.


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