Yes on 57

I’ve been avoiding Proposition 57 because, without having read the text of the law yet, I assumed it would require cross-referencing with the penal code, and I wanted to set time aside to do that.

I was wrong; it does not require such cross-referencing, because it’s actually very, very simple.

Prop. 57 does three things:

[a] anyone in prison for a nonviolent felony is eligible for parole *consideration* after completing the full term for their primary offense.

[b] The Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“Corrections”) can award good behavior credits.

[c] When kids between the ages of 14-18 commit crimes, instead of being automatically transferred to adult court if the prosecutor follows the procedure needed to do it, will only be transferred to adult court *if a juvenile court agrees to the transfer* after considering the behavioral patterns and social history of the minor.

Prop. 57 is on the ballot at the behest of our Governor, who put it there as part of an attempt to change criminal procedure in the s tate, partly for the purposes of finding a way to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding. There’s a good argument that the proposition violates the California Constitution, which requires that initiative propositions be confined to a single subject; the parole-related provisions were tacked on to the juvenile justice change after the initiative was initially submitted, and they don’t really address the same issue. Still, the California Supreme Court said it didn’t violate the single subject rule, and so it’s on the ballot. 🙂

In order to understand the effects of these changes, it’s helpful to look at what happens now. 🙂

===How do criminal sentences and parole currently work?===

Currently, California has two different sentencing schems: “indeterminate sentencing”, in which convicts are sentenced to a variable-length term with a defined minimum and no defined maximum (eg, “25 years to life”), and “determinate sentencing”, in which people are convicted to a fixed term. Prior to the late 1970s, California *only* had indeterminate sentencing, but the stte adopted a determinate sentencing scheme for most offenses during the late 1970s.

For people sentenced to indeterminate sentences, after the *minimum* term is served, the parole board conducts a hearing and considers whether to let the guy out or not. Some people get out; some people don’t get out. The people who don’t get out have another hearing in a couple of years (the length depends on various things). Some people (notoriously Charles Manson and his friends) go to hearing after hearing after hearing and never get out.

For people sentenced to determinate sentences, there is no parole hearing; they automatically get out when their term ends. Furthermore, many non-violent felons serving determinate sentences are currently released at *half* of their prison sentence due to the implementation of a federal court order requiring California to reduce criminal overcrowding.

Some people are sentenced to multiple consecutive sentences because they commit multiple crimes. Consider, for example, someone who was arrested for possessing heroin with intent to sell, but who also had in his possession an amount of cocaine sufficient for personal use. If convicted of *both* offenses, he would be sentenced to two consecutive sentences: one for the heroin, one for the cocaine. As both would be determinate sentences, he would not be eligible for release until he’d served all of both.

=== What does Prop. 57 do to parole? ===

Under the terms of Prop. 57, nonviolent criminals who are sentenced to multiple consecutive sentences because they have been convicted of multiple crimes will be eligible for parole as soon as they have served the time required for their *primary* offense. So, in the example above, the guy would get out when he w as done serving t he time for possessing heroin with i ntent to sell.

=== What are the arguments for and against this part of the proposition? ====

The primary argument *for* this is: the state is under federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding. We’re *not* going to do that by building new prisons (because there’s no money and insufficient political support), and this is one of the lowest-impact ways we can come up with to reduce prison populations: let nonviolent criminals who are in for a long time out earlier.

The primary arguments *against* this are: this will let dangerous criminals loose on the streets of California, and this *in effect* means the criminal isn’t being punished *at all* for his lesser crimes – by punishing him only for the primary crime, the state is allowing him to get away with the other crimes.

The official argument against claims the proposition will reduce sentences for people convicted of raping an unconscious victim, human sex trafficing, lewd acts against a fourteen year old, and other terrible crimes. This is true, but *only* because *existing law* defines these crimes as nonviolent – the initiative doesn’t define nonviolent, it uses the existing definition under state law. That definition can be changed by the legislature at any time.

=== How do early release credits work today? ===

Under state law, inmate sentences can be reduced by a certain amount (it differs among category of crime) for prison labor, participation in education programs, and good behavior. Some prisoners are not eligible due to the nature of their crime.

=== What does Prop. 57 change? ===

Prop. 57 changes the Constitution to allow good behavior credits (which are currently authorized by statute). This will have the effect of increasing the number of people who are able to get them, as it allows Corrections to determine eligibility by regulation (instead of eligibility being spelled out in statute).

=== What are the arguments for and against this part of the proposition? ===

There are two arguments for: (a) we need to reduce prison overcrowding, and (b) rewarding inmates for good behavior, participating in education and training programs, and working *encourages them to do these things*, which both improves management of the prisons AND increases their rehabilitative effect.

The arguments against are: (a) it will let dangerous criminals out on the street, and (b) by extending eligibility to people convicted of various horrible crimes, it reduces the punishment for those crimes, and that’s unfair to their victims and dangerous to the public.

=== How do juvenile justice transfers currently work? ===

Under current law, children aged between 14 and 18, who are accused of cimmitting crimes after they turned 14, are automatically transferred to adult court if they are accused of committing murder or sex offenses with special circumstances, are automatically transferred if a prosecutor alleges that they have a significant criminal history or if they are accused of particular crimes, or they can be transferred via a hearing in front of a juvenile court judge. In 2015, according to the LAO’s analysis, less than 100 juveniles were transferred to adult court via a judicial hearing, and between 500 and 600 juveniles were sent to adult court total.

=== What does Prop. 57 do? ===

Prop. 57 eliminates *all* automatic transfers to adult court and only allows transfers after a hearing in front of a juvenile court judge.

=== What are the arguments for and against this part of the proposition? ===

The arguments for is that allowing a prosecutor to make the decision on their own doesn’t provide sufficient procedural protection to determine whether a juvenile is competent to be tried as an adult.

The argument *against* is that this will allow vicious children to continue to be prosecuted by the juvenile system, which will coddle them and prevent them from learning the lessons needed to keep them from becoming vicious adult criminals.


For me, the case for the third part is compelling: allowing *prosecutors*, on their own without judicial oversight, to decide that children should be tried as adults is a terrible process. It vests the power to decide someone’s *competence* in the hands of a person whose job it is to *prove their guilt*; it creates an inherent conflict of interest and undermines the integrity of the process.

I’m neutral on the first and second part. I’m not screaming for this reform the way I am screaming for other reforms, *and* I’m not opposed to itt; we really do need to reduce our prison population, and reducing sentences for nonviolent offenders, while providing an incentive for both good behavior and participation in rehabilitative programs seems like it’s a great way to do that.

I’m voting yes.

(probably) No on 61

I’ve been ignoring Prop. 61 because i’m uncertain what to do about it.

—What does Prop. 61 do?—-

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, and insofar as may be permissible under federal law, neither the State of California, nor any state administrative agency … shall enter into any agreement with the manufacturer of any drug for the purchase of a prescribed drug unless the net cost of the drug, inclusive of cash discounts, free goods, vlume discounts, rebates, or any other discounts or credits, as determined by the State Department of Health Care Services, is the same as or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.”

In other words: the state and its agencies cannot contract with drug manufacturers to purchase drugs at a price higher than that paid by the VA.

There are a couple of obvious problems with this as stated: how do we know how much is paid by the VA, and what do we do if we can’t tell? How do we know how much we’re paying, given the complexity of discounts, free goods, rebates, etc? What’s the point in prohibiting purchases *from the manufacturer* but not prohibiting purchases from some intermediary retailer?

That last point, in particular, is telling — this only effects purchases from the manufacturer, and there are ways to get around that using shell intermediaries, so it’s not clear that it will even have any effect.

But put that aside for a moment, because it doesn’t really address my key conflict on the issue.

—Why am I conflicted?—

This is a high-stakes negotiating tactic.

One of the key things in negotiation is that when you come to a table with a price you’d prefer, you claim that you can’t budge from it. The *credibility* of that claim effects your negotiating partner’s behavior – if he thinks your claim isn’t credible and that you’d prefer a higher price to no deal, he’ll push for a higher price. If, on the other hand, he believes that you would prefer no deal to a higher price, then he has to ask if *he* would prefer no deal to this price.

So if you can increase the credibility of your negotiating position, you increase the likelihood that you’ll get what you’re asking for.

In this case, the proponents of the initiative are trying to create a situation where the state *must* take ‘no deal’ over a deal with a higher price. This is the ultimate in credibility: we are legally prohibited from taking a higher price.

That’s great! It greatly increases the likelihood of California getting the price it wants *if the people we are negotiating with would prefer that price to no deal*.

Would they?

Who knows.

That’s why this is a gamble. It’s high reward if it pays off, but it’s high risk if it fails – because if it fails then California may simply not be able to buy certain drugs.

I’m generally pretty risk averse when it comes to this sort of thing, so the high risk worries me way more than the high reward does, which causes me to lean against.

But at the same time … if *anyone* can get away with this, California can.

So maybe it’s worthwhile?

At the end of the day I’ll probably vote against, because of a combination of my risk aversion and a sense that this *really* is not the sort of thing the voters should be deciding. I get that it’s a ballot measure because the legislature is to some degree bought by the drug industry via campaign contributions and so the legislature could never pass something like this on its own; and yet at the same time, a vote of the people doesn’t strike me as being the best way to decide whether or not to proceed with a high stakes negotiating gamble.

No on 63

I’ve been ignoring Prop. 63 because somewhere along the line I became something of an absolutist. If the second amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, then I should view rules governing arms with the same skepticism that I’d view rules governing speech. If I think that a rule prohibiting me from posting on the internet until I’ve passed a background check is an infringement on my right to freedom of the press, then I should also think that a rule prohibiting me from buying a gun until I’ve passed a background check is an infringement on my right to bear arms. The rules for what is or isn’t a *reasonable* infringement are different – because retrictions on weapons in the name of public safety raise different ‘reasonableness’ concerns than restrictions on speech in the name of public safety, and are easier to justify as reasonable – but in the context of a federal constitutional rule *prohibiting infringement of the right*, if I think it’s infringed, then reasonableness doesn’t enter into the picture.

So Prop. 63 has the *appearance* of being a law I don’t even need to think about before rejecting; if it infringes the right to bear arms, then it’s unconstitutional, and I’m not going to vote for it, *even if it’s a policy that I would think was good absent the constitutional prohibition*.

Still, nothing is absolute, and the path of wisdom is to read and consider before rejecting.

—What does Prop. 63 do?—

(a) requires that people who lose their firearms, or whose firearms are stolen, report it to local law enforcement within five days of “the time he or she knew or reasonably should have known that the firearm had been stolen or lost”.

Note: “Reasonably should have known” means that someone can be punished under this rule *even if they didn’t know that the gun had been lost or stolen*, if a jury decides that a reaosnable person would have known. I think this rule is good policy (making it easier to track lost or stolen firearms has strong public safety benefits) and is constitutional (i don’t see how it infringes your right to bear arms, to require you to report when your arms have gone missing), and i’m not sure i’m comfortable with the reasonably-should-have-known language. It’s pretty standard, to be sure, and yet, it runs the risk of punishing people for conduct outside of their control.

(b) it makes it illegal (an infraction or misdemeanor) to possess a “large-capacit magazine”. This enhances a provision adopted last year (which made it illegal to import, manufacture, or sell, such, but allowed people who already had them to keep them).

“large-capacity magazine” is defined as “any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds”. This ban is probably good policy, in that it makes it more difficult for people to use guns to commit mass attacks, AND it strikes me as being unconstitutional.

(c) it requires that any ammunition sale (eg, between two random people) be processed through a licensed dealer.

what? i can’t sell ammunition to my best friend without the intervention of a licensed dealer? that seems *massively* intrusive.

(d) it prohibits, as of July 1, 2019, a licensed ammunition vendor from selling or transferring ammunition to anyone who isn’t on the “centralized list of authorized ammunition purchasers”.

Under this plan, persons 18 years or older can apply for an authorization (which lasts four years), which shall be revoked for a variety of reasons. Applicants can be charged a $50 fee. Approval is subject to a background check.

So … to obtain ammunition you’d have to apply in advance and pay the state $50. The equivalent for the first amendment is horrifying.

(e) it requires that anyone who is convicted of certain offenses must relinquish their firearms by transferring either to local law enforcement or a third party who is allowed to possess firearms.

I’m kinda shocked that’s not already the law.

— Let’s make this more complicated —

California adopted a bunch of new firearm regulation rules during this last legislative session, including a rule requiring a license to sell ammunition, and a rule required licensed sellers to check to see if you are on a “cannot buy” list before selling to you. That latter rule seems much better than the rule in the proposition, in that it’s a “sell unless forbidden” rule rather than a “sell only if allowed” rule. These new rules were adopted *after* the proposition qualified for the ballot.

The complicating factor is that the legislature passed rules which *change the effect of the proposition* if the proposition passes. Those changes override the “only if allowed” rule to make it an “unless disallowed” rule, and allows the state to charge a $1 fee per transaction for checking to see if your name is on the list.


I don’t understand the need for this legislation, and I think it’s unconstitutional — the ammunition licensing provisions, and the inability to sell to your friends without going through a licensed dealer, are a gross intrusion on the right to bear arms. I’m not convinced they’re *reasonable*, and I’m fairly certain they’re not constitutional.

I will vote against.

Yes on 67; No on 65

Time is running out, for which I apologize.

Proposition 67 is the one true referendum on the ballot this year, and Proposition 65 is a strange measure which interacts with it.

—What do I mean when I say Proposition 67 is the one true referendum?—

In California law, there is a distinction between an *initiative* and a *referendum*.

An *initiative* is a new law proposed by the voters. It is placed on the ballot after a member of the community drafts a law, pays a fee to the Attorney General to prepare petitions, and gets enough signatures via those petitions. A ‘yes’ vote on an initiative adopts the new law; a ‘no’ vote keeps the status quo.

A *referendum* is a *voter objection to a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor*. The legislature passes a law, the governor signs it, and then displeased voters take out a petition to force the law to (a) be suspended until the next election and (b) only go into effect if the voters approve it. A ‘yes’ vote on a referendum *keeps the law as written by the legislature*; a ‘no’ vote *overrules the legislature and returns the law to the way it was before the legislature acted*.

Proposition 67 is the only actual *referendum* on the ballot this year: it’s a law passed by the legislature in 2014 and immediately suspended by voter outrage.

—-What does Prop 67 do?—-

* it prohibits covered grocery stores from providing single-use carryout bags to customers for free, but allows the sale of reusable bags and the sale of recycled paper bags for at least $.10/bag.

* it requires stores to provide recycled paper bags or reusable bags for free to people using a payment card or voucher issued by the supplemental food program for WIC

* it allows stores to give away compostable bags for free, if the local jurisdiction allows it

The policy reasons causing the legislature to vote to this were that single-use bags generate a lot of waste, at least some of which ends up in storm drains and therefore in the ocean; restricting them will reduce waste and pollution.

The policy reasons stoking the referendum were that this is in effect a hidden tax and an inconvenience. The argument in the ballot handbook portrays it as opposition to a giant corporate giveaway (because the evil grocery stores keep the money), but that’s not the reason the referendum was circulated; the referendum was circulated because people object to being forced to pay for grocery bags.

This is a bit bizarre for me, as I live in SF, and before that lived in Palo Alto; much of my time is spent in jurisdictions which already have a variant on this rule, and it’s … fine. So I’m really confused by the opposition.

It’s a regressive tax, to be sure, AND at the same time, it’s a de minimis tax, and you pay it once (buying the reusable bags) and then are done; it strikes me as being a reaosnable way of achieving a cultural behavioral shift – not by banning something, but by taxing it *just enough* to induce the change.

—-What does Prop. 65 do?—-

Prop 65 says that if Prop. 67 passes, or if the state or a local jurisdiction ever pass a rule similar to Prop. 65, the grocery stores are not allowed to keep the money they charge for the bag. (It’s not clear if that just refers to the $.10 charge or if it refers to, say, the entire cost of a reusable bag; I can summon arguments both ways and suspect a court will decide). Instead, it directs the money to the state, where it gets dropped in a fund for environmental protection including drought mitigation, clean drinking water, parks, beach cleanup, and wildlife habitat restoration.

The argument for this is that the fee for grocery bags amounts to a raiding of the public for the benefit of kleptocratic grocery stores, and that it’s better to use the money for environmental preservation purposes. This seems unlikely to me; grocery stores run on razor-thin margins, and they’re hardly kleptocratic profit centers.

The argument against is that it amounts to theft from the grocery stores because bags cost money; but this rings hollow for me because *the stores were giving the bags away for free before* and they’re no more expensive now than they were then.

—-How am I going to vote?—-

I’m voting yes on 67; I think it’s a reasonable way to enact a policy of this sort – a small fee that shifts behavior and has a large positive result.

I’m voting no on 65; I don’t see any reason to confiscate this money from the stores, and I resent the anti-big-grocery rhetoric of the argument for.

San Francisco propositions

Quick thoughts on SF ballot measures, in the hopes of sparking outrage and discussion:

[A] – local school bond. i don’t have kids in the public schools, so i don’t have a good handle on what the need is, AND in general bonds are the right way to pay for renovation and construction, so I’m voting yes.

[B] – parcel tax increase (of $20/year) and extension (of 11 years) for CCSF. CCSF is in crisis (it’s accreditation was almost revoked) and desperately needs the money. I don’t like temporary taxes because I think they’re a scam, AND the case for this tax is compelling even so. I’m voting yes.

[C] – redirects $261 million in unspent money from a $350 million 1992 bond issue to allow it to be used to acquire and rehabilitate affordable housing. The city desperately needs more affordable housing, so this is a really good redirection, and I’m voting yes. (That said: how the hell did 2/3 of a seismic retrofit bond not get spent? Is anyone investigating that?)

[D] – sets a deadline on when a replacement local official must be appointed if one resigns or dies (good), requires an election at the earliest reasonable opportunity (good), and prohibits the person appointed from running in that election (bad). It’s bad because it guarantees that whoever is in the job will be a short-term caretaker with no incentive to be accountable to the public. I’m voting no.

[E] – transfers responsibility for maintaining trees on sidewalks from property owners to the city. This is totally the right thing to do. If it’s on the sidewalk, it should be the city’s responsibility. I’m voting yes.

[F] – allows 16 and 17 year olds to vote in city elections. I’m fine with 16 year olds voting, but I’m really concerned about the logistics of implementing two different voter rolls (one for city elections and one for state elections). I’m voting no.

[G] – changes the name of the office of citizen complaints, requires that certain records be made available to it, and gives it a seperate budget outside the SFPD. I could give a shit about the name, but the other two provisions are good. I’m voting yes.

[H] – creates the elected office of public advocate (with a staff of 25), whose job seems to be to handle public complaints (including whistleblower complaints) and review the administration of city programs. I’m confused by this one and don’t know how I’m voting; it seems like it’s a huge office and I don’t understand the problem it’s trying to solve, AND it seems like in theory it might improve accountability. I don’t know where I fall.

[I] – sets aside $38 million a year for programs and services to assist seniors and adults with disabilities. It’s a good cause, AND in general I oppose ballot measures which require general fund money to be spent in particular ways (as distinct from taxes that are directed at specific purposes, like measure B); doing so restricts the ability of the legislature to do its job and makes budgeting, and political negotiation in general, more difficult. I am voting no.

[J] – sets aside $50 million a year for homelessness and $101 million a year for transportation. I’m having a hard time with this; homelessness and housing are THE BIGGEST PROBLEM facing the city, and money to help deal with homelessness is critical. And at the same time, this restricts the choices of the legislature in a way that strikes me as being structurally wrong. Plus: the legislature voted 8-3 to put this before us; why couldn’t they just vote to spend the money this way? I am probably voting no, but I’m more open to voting yes than I was with I.

[K] – increases the city’s sales tax by .5% (plus extending .25% which is about to expire) to the maximum allowed by the state. I HATE sales taxes because they’re regressive, AND they’re basically the only way the city is allowed to increase its revenue due to fucked-up state law. I’m voting yes.

[L] – changes the rules for appointing the muni board so that half of the board is approved by the board rather than the mayor, and makes it easier for the board to reject muni’s budget. I don’t have a strong feeling on this one way or the other AND I don’t know why the voters are getting asked to take sides in a fight between the mayor and the board. I’m tempted to abstain.

[M] – replaces the office of economic and workforce development and the office of housing and community development with two new departments with the same name, and places them under the control of a newly created Housing and Development Commission. Again, I’m not sure why I should take sides in a power struggle between the mayor and the board. Plus, the argument in favor seems to be about how it will make development more responsive to community input and add additional review of major development projects, which is a recipe for smaller projects that take longer to get off the ground – eg, slower construction of fewer new units. Since supply is the biggest problem with housing in the entire bay area and this seems certain to make increasing supply harder, I’m voting no.

[N] – allows non-citizen permanent residents to vote in school board elections, but only if they have kids in the schools. I get the point; parental involvement in school governance is important, and anyone with kids in the schools really has more right to be involved than I do. AND at the same time, I have the same issue with maintaining two voter rolls that I did with measure F, but this one is even way more complicated administratively. (Example: a noncitizen permanent resident has a kid in the public schools and is voting, but the kid graduates. What’s the process for then revoking their voting rights?) As a logistical matter I see this as a massive headache; I’m voting no.

[O] – exempt candlestick park from a limit on new office space construction. the project involves 5.15 million square feet of office space and 10,500 homes. I want the 10,500 homes; if the office space is the price to be paid for that, so be it. I’m voting yes.

[P] – prohibits the city from proceding with affordable housing projects on city-owned property unless at least three bids were received when the city put the project out to bid. the idea is that right now developers are getting sweetheart deals because only one bid is being submitted. this doesn’t provide any path to getting more bids; it just ties the city’s hands if the bids don’t come in — which is terrible if you want more affordable housing to be built. I’m voting no.

[Q]- makes it illegal to place tents on public sidewalks without permits, and allows the city to remove them if (a) there is 24-hour notice , (b) there is shelter provided for the people being evicted, and (c) stores their property for 90 days.

This requires more than just a short thought, because it’s a tough issue.

On the one hand, the tent encampments are a blight on the city, particularly because there’s no real place for people living in them to go to the bathroom, and some of them feel actively unsafe for me (a healthy and reasonably-in-shape 40 year old man) to walk through — so they’re carving out parts of the city and making them unsafe for the public, which is terrible.

On the other hand, the opponents of the measure are right: the measure as written would allow tents to be removed and the ‘offer of shelter’ to be for one night only, and there isn’t sufficient shelter space for long-term occupancy.

I HATE THIS, and in the end I have to come down as a ‘No’ vote. Unless it’s accompanied by a program to build space for the homeless to live long-term, it’s a theatrical band-aid designed to make it easier to hide the city’s problems and not fix them; it makes it look like homelessness is less of a problem … at the cost of the homeless people who are already suffering.

[R] – requires the police department, whenever it has at least the charter-required minimum number of police officers, to assign no less than 3% of those officers to a ‘neighborhood crime unit’ which will use foot patrols and other tactics to focus on quality of life and neighborhood safety crimes. This is probably being driven by the recent upswing in burglaries and auto smash-and-grabs.

I’m torn on this. There’s a real public safety issue in certain neighborhoods (there are signs telling tourists not to leave stuff in their cars in residential neighborhoods), and overall SF feels substantially less safe than NYC did to me. At the same time, I don’t think the voters should be micromanaging police department policy. I’m inclined to vote No on those grounds.

[S] – directs that money from the hotel tax be spent on moscone center, on arts programs, and on homeless services. This is like measures I and J: it redirects money from the general fund to specific programs, which I’m generally against. It also spends half of the money on Moscone Center, which seems like it’s a terrible use of city resources. I’m voting no.

[T] – prohibits lobbyists from making campaign contributions to city officials that they lobby. Seems like this is just basic common sense. I’m voting yes.

[U] – changes the rules for affordable housing eligibility. currently you qualify for ‘affordable housing’ if you make 55% of the median income; this would change the rules so that you qualify for ‘affordable housing’ if you make 110% of median income.

That’s a great plan for people that get added, it’s a terrible plan for the people who already qualify – it means way more competition for the limited affordable housing stock, making it that much more a luck-of-the-draw lottery ticket if you manage to get it.

I’m voting no.

[V] – 1 cent per ounce tax on distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages and the powders and syrups used in compounding them. This is a libertarian paternalism (instead of banning it, just tax it to encourage people to do what we want while leaving them the freedom to choose otherwise) aimed at remedying an externality; it’s also hellishly regressive (both because it’s a flat tax and because demographic/cultural shifts mean that poorer people are way more likely to be buying the things covered by it).

It’s been relentlessly portrayed as a grocery tax by the mountain of junk mail I’ve received on it, which pisses me the fuck off because it’s NOT A GENERAL TAX ON GROCERIES. The campaign against it makes me want to vote ‘yes’ out of spite; but it’s a seriously regressive tax, so I’m voting no.

[W] – increases the transfer tax on properties over $5 million, and directs the money to the general fund. I’m not convinced the threshold isn’t too low, and i’m worried that sales are patchy so it will create an inconsistent income stream, AND it feels on some level like a windfall protifs tax. I’m voting yes.

[X] – requires developers in the mission and soma to build replacement space if they remove production/distribution/repair facilities, institutional community facilities, or arts activities facilities. In other words: makes it harder to build in the mission and soma. I’m voting no.

No, No, No, Hell No on 60

Proposition 60 is an initiative statute which, broadly speaking, requires performers in adult films to use condoms during filming, and requires producers of adult films to (a) obtain a state license, and (b) pay for performers to get vaccinations, testing, and medical exams. It also imposes a financial liability for violations, and allows *any state resident* to bring suit to enforce the violations. The measure was placed on the ballot by citizen activists, and it is opposed by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, as well as by the only adult film performer organization in the state.


Proposition 60 changes the Labor Code in the following ways:

* it requires adult film producers to “maintain engineering controls and work practice controls sufficient to prrotect adult film performers from exposure to blood and any other potentially infectious material-sexually transmitted infections.”

* it requires adult film producers to require their performers to use condoms and condom-safe water-based or silicone-based lubricants

* it requires adult film producers to comply with any other reasonable work practice controls imposed by a newly created regulatory board

* it requires adult film producers to pay for STI prevention vaccinations, tests, and medical follow up for their performers

* it requires adult film producers to comply with HIPAA in regards to their performer’s health data

* it allows performers to sue for violations of the above, either in an individual suit or a class-action suit, and obtain damages of up to $50,000.

* while it does not require condoms to be *visible* in the films, it explicitly allows a jury to assume that if condom’s aren’t visible, they weren’t used (and puts the burden on the film producer to prove that they were).

In addition, it creates a reporting structure:

* within ten days after starting to film, a producer must notify the state (in writing) of (a) the address of the filming, (b) the dates of the filming, (c) the name and contact information of the producer, the custodian of records, and any talent agency who referred performers, and (d) a sworn statement saying the film complies with the rules

* the adult film producer must pay a fee of at least $100

* failure to provide this information on time is punishable by a $1000-$7000 fine

* lying when providing this information is subject to a $70000 fine

And it creates a licensing structure:

* within ten days after starting to film, a producer must apply for a license, with a fee of at least $100

* issuance of the license is a ministerial task which can only be suspended or denied upon a showing that the producer has violated the health and safety rules within the last 12 months

* making an adult film without a license is punishable by a $25/day fine, which increases to $50/day for producers who had previously violated the health and safety rules
And it allows anyone to sue:

“any person who violates any provision … shall be liable … bia a civil action brought by the division or its designee, a civil prosecutor, an adult film performer aggrieved by a violation of Section 6720, or an individual residing in the State of California.”


The proponents of the law are behind it for a simple reason: they believe it will protect performers from disease. “Thousands of cases of diseases — which can spread to the larger community — have been documented within the adult film industry in recent years”.

You’d think that performers would be in favor of that, but performer activist organizations aren’t. They, and the organized opposition to the measure, think that it will drive the adult film industry out of the state.


I will be voting against this measure. I think it’s well intentioned – requiring condom use and mandatory STD testing and vaccination in the adult film industry is *a good idea* – but this is a terrible vehicle for it.

One of my problems is its scope. It applies to “any perosn that makes, produces, finances, or directs one or more adult films filmed in California and that sells, offers to sell, or causes to be sold such adult film in exchange for [anything of value]” – which is to say, amateur films which are posted on advertising-supported websites probably qualify. This is an amazingly broad sweep; taken literally, a couple which produces a film of themselves having sex and trades it to a friend who has produced his own equivalent tape *is in violation of this law* if they didn’t obtain a license and notify the state within ten days of making the film.

This is insane.

Another problem is the enforcement scope. It allows *any person* who watches an adult film and doesn’t see the use of condoms to sue on behalf of the performers and force the producer to prove that condoms were used.

This is insane.

Another problem is the low liability limit. If a performer contracts HIV because this provision was violated, he can sue for at most $50,000, which is … nothing compared to the cost of his treatment. More galling still, the excessive cost of treating HIV is one of the things *specifically called out* in the argument for the measure … but the measure doesn’t sufficiently cover that case.


Prop. 60 is a terrible law written in a good cause. It allows harassment of adult film producers by any viewer, and it requires producers of amateur sex videos to register with the state.

It deserves to be defeated by the widest possible margin.

Yes on 58

Proposition 58 is a substantial revision to a previous proposition, Proposition 227 (passed in 1998), which would, in effect, nullify most of the previous proposition.

Disclaimer: I voted against Proposition 227.


Proposition 227 added a new Chapter to Part 1 of the Education Code, encompassing sections 300-340.

The new chapter included the following changes to state law:

* it required that the teaching of English be done primarily in English, rather than using a student’s primary language as a scaffolding for teaching English
* it required English learners to be taught using “sheltered English immersion” for at most a year, at the end of which time, they would be moved to regular English-language classes.
* it encouraged school districts to mix English learners of different primary languages in the same classrooms

The new chapter allowed the following exceptions, with annually-renewed written parental consent (but required that such consent could only be obtained after the parents *personally visited the school*):

* Children whose language skills were above average for their grade level could opt out of the immersion program
* Children over the age of 10 could opt out of mainstreaing
* Children with special needs who tried a regular English classroom for at least 30 days and the school principal and educational staff determined that due to special needs, mainstreaming would not work

(The full text of Proposition 227 is still available at

Proposition 227 passed by a 61-38 majority.


Proposition 58 effectively replaces the entire text of the chapter.

* school districts must provide all pupils with the ability to become proficient in English
* school districts must provide structured English immersion programs
* school districts are encouraged to make native English speaking students proficient in another language
* school districts must solicit input on, and provide to pupils, a variety of instructional methods including “language acquisition programs”
* “language acquisition programs” can include dual-language immersion or transitional programs which use a student’s native language to provide academic instruction, as well as structured english immersion programs

* parents may choose the language acquisition program of their choice (the mandatory visit, the written consent, and the limits on who can get a waiver are repealed)


As someone who doesn’t follow education industry politics, I have an obvious first question: why now? Proposition 227, which I opposed, was passed by a sizable majority; what’s happened in the ensuing eighteen years to cause this proposition to be placed on the ballot, and to cause it to be winning in a landslide according to recent polling data (

There’s some evidence that this is in part due to a lack of memory; the Field Poll, linked above, shows that the proposition leads 69-14 if you just read the ballot label, but that it *fails* if you mention Proposition 227 first and describe it as a repeal of Proposition 227.

But while lack of memory is enough to explain why people aren’t rallying to the angry defense of a proposition from two decades ago, it doesn’t explain what’s behind the push for the measure.

As usual, the VIG’s arguments for and against are unhelpful. The argument for says that this is needed to enable “up-to-date teaching methods” and thereby would make California’s population better able to handle the rapidly changing world brought about by modern technology.

The argument against denounces Proposition 58 as a dishonest trick and a scam, which is odd because the proposition seems quite straightforward in terms of what it’s trying to do.

Still, the argument against gives a hint as to what is going on. The argument against calls back to a memory of a time when limited english speakers were “forced into spanish-almost-only” classes which made it easy for Spanish-speaking students to skate and never learn English while incentivizing native speakers of other languages to learn Spanish rather than English. To the extent that that gloomy scenario was real, Proposition 58 threatens to *restore* it, and is only an idea the public can entertain because Proposition 227 succeeded in making the problem go away.

If it was a real thing and not a paranoid fear. I voted against in part because I thought it was more paranoid fear than reality, and in part because I believed that dual language immersion can sometimes be a better approach, and thought it was folly to prohibit the use of a better approach.


For people who voted in 1998, it seems to me that your vote should be controlled by how you voted then. Unless there is some new information you can point to which has changed your mind on the issue, if you voted ‘Yes’ on 227 you should vote ‘No’ on 58, and vice-versa, because Proposition 58 is in essence a repeal of Proposiition 227.

If you have new evidence that has caused you to change your mind, I’d like you to share it, because I’m too distant from the situation to have acquired such information.

If you didn’t vote in 1998 and therefore have never voted on this issue before, it seems to me that the fundamental questions are:

* do you believe that dual-language immersion and transitional native-language instruction is a useful tool that can help people learn English? If you do not, then you should vote no on this measure.

* do you believe that dual-language immersion and transitional native-language instruction can be used in the public schools in a way that doesn’t devolve into the “almost spanish-only instruction” nightmare scenario the official opponents envision? If you do not, then you should vote against this measure.

* do you believe that non-english instruction is per se problematic in a public school, even if it is useful and can be done in a way that avoids the parade of horribles? if so, then you should vote against this measure.

Otherwise, I think, you should vote for it.