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.

Yes on 62

Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. It would require that those sentenced to life without parole work while in prison, and increase the percentage of their wages which could be spent on victim restitution.

It absolutely conflicts with another measure on the ballot, Proposition 66 (which streamlines the death penalty process). If both pass, the one which gets more ‘yes’ votes will go into effect. Accordingly, if you are voting in favor of Proposition 66, you should *under no circumstances* vote in favor of Proposition 62.

I know that I cannot be even-handed on this one, so I’m not even going to bother trying,

It is immoral for me to kill a man who does not present an active, current threat to me or the people I love, no matter how angry I am at him, and no matter how much he may have hurt me or those I love in the past.

It is immoral for me and a bunch of my friends to kill a man who does not present an active, current threat to us or the people we love, no matter how angry we are at him, and no matter how much he may have hurt us or those we love in the past.

It is immoral for me and the thirty million residents of the state of California to kill a man who does not present an active, current threat to us or the people we love, no matter how angry we are at him, and no matter how much he may have hurt us or those we love in the past.

For me, the only moral vote on this measure is a ‘Yes’ vote.

Criminals sentenced to live in prison without the possibility of parole do not present an active, current threat to anyone other than their fellow criminals and their jailers.

Thus, the death penalty is profoundly immoral: it is the taking of a life motivated not by the desire to protect from an imminent threat, but rather from the desire to carry out *vengeance*.

I understand that I am in the minority on this issue, and I know that polls say this measure is going to fail. That’s a shame; it’s a moral indictment of the people of my state, and it makes every citizen complicit in a moral crime. But it’s a clear issue: if the moral offense is not clear to you, I do not know how to persuade you.

All I can do is vote Yes, and encourage you to join me.

No on 66

Proposition 66 makes a set of changes to the *government code* and to the *penal code*. Broadly speaking, these changes are intended to streamline the appeals process for someone who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to death.

Proposition 66 inherently conflicts with another measure on the ballot, Proposition 62, which repeals the death penalty. If both propositions pass, the proposition which gets the larger number of Yes votes will take effect. Accordingly, if you are voting for Proposition 62, you should *under no circumstances* vote for Proposition 66.

—The changes Proposition 66 would make—

* Proposition 66 would explicitly state that *victims of a crime* have a right “to have judgments of death carried out within a reasonable time”, thereby giving victims of crime a recognizable, legal interest in the execution of the person convicted for the crime.

* It would require that all executions be carried out within five years of conviction, and require the state court system to adjust its procedures to make sure this happens

* It would allow the state, the sentenced criminal, or the victims of the crime to sue to enforce the time limit if, for some reason, the appeals process is taking too long. (It’s not clear as a practical matter what the remedy would be when a victim sues to force appeals to move faster).

* It would require that all executions be carried out within 30-60 days of the conclusion of the appeals process

* It would require the Supreme Court to appoint random attorneys to handle appeals for indigent death penalty convicts

* It would change the rules so that any petition for habeas corpus (essentially, an attack on conviction or sentence) be heard *by the court which heard the original case*

* It would require that any habeas petition be brought within one year, unless a court finds that a preponderance of the evidence (whether or not admissible at trial) shows either actual innocence or ineligibility for the death penalty

* It would prohibit a stay of execution for consideration of a habeas petition brought outside the one year, unless a court finds that there is a “substantial claim” of actual innocence o r ineligibility.

* It would require trial courts to resolve habeas petitions within two years of filing

* It would limit issues on appeal to issues raised at trial, except for ineffective assistance of trial claims

* It abolishes special housing for death row inmates and distrubutes them across the general population

* It requires death row inmates to perform prison labor, and directs that 70% of their wages be spent on restitution fines or orders

* It exempts rules and procedures adopted pursuant to Prop. 66 from the Administrative Procedures Act

* It says that *only* the original court can hear claims that the method of execution is unconstitutional

* If a federal court finds a method of execution unconstitutional, it requires that Corrections adopt a new, constitutional method, within 90 days.

* It prohibits any medical licensing board from revoking the license of a doctor who assists the department in carrying out executions

* It makes some hyper-technical changes to the operational rules for the state’s habeas resource center (which provides assistance to indigent criminals).

— There are a bunch of changes there, and mentally, I broadly classify them as follows:

* Some of the changes are directed at streamlining the process and making it run faster (carrying out executions within five years, carrying out executions within 30-60 days of the end of appeals, requiring habeas petitions to be brought within a year and resolved within two years, and requiring speedy adoption of new processes if an execution protocol is deemed unconstitutional).

* Some of the changes are directed at ensuring that only the original trial court is hearing new cases, which presumably both makes things faster (the original trial has the context and already understands the situation and thus doesn’t have to be brought up to speed) and reduces variability in outcomes which might arise as a result of things being heard in different courts

* Some of the changes are directed at making life harder for the death-sentenced, by abolishing death row and requiring the convicts to work

* Some of the changes are directed at increasing victim involvement in the process

* One of the changes cannot be understood without understanding a wide swath of California legal procedure and is included in the measure for reasons I don’t understand.

— Streamlining the process nad making it run faster —

This is the main goal of Proposition 66, and it’s the thing which gets the most discussion in the campaign. *If we are going to streamline the process*, these provisions generally make sense, although one of them is actually impossible to carry out and has a very “Knut commanding the waves to stop” feel about it. (There’s simply no way that a federal court, having ruled the existing execution protocol invalid, will confirm that a new protocol is valid within the ninety day limit set by this proposition – the federal courts don’t work that fast, and the proposition can’t command a federal court to act within a specified period of time. Accordingly, it’s impossible for Corrections to comply with this requirement).

Whether or not you think we should streamline the death penalty really depends on beliefs you bring to the conversation that are not grounded in this proposition per se. If you’re opposed to the death penalty, of course, you should be opposed to streamlining. If you think that criminals have too many rights and are too protected by the state, streamlining makes sense.

For me, on this question, the issue is: can streamlining be carried out in a way that does not decrease the likelihood thatactual innocence will be uncovered? Executing an innocent man, for whatever reason, is a travesty and a stain on the honor of the state; we should go to great lengths to avoid it.

It’s hard to tell. The measure does allow actual claims of innocence to be brought at any time – but by requiring the execution within a short period after the end of appeals and making it harder to get a stay of execution for such claims, it reduces the amount of time for evidence of innocence to be found (which is a real issue in cases that are based on, for example, lying informants). That said, it’s *already* the case that death-sentenced convicts have the best chance to get their claims of innocence heard and analyzed, because there’s a vast army of volunteers interested in helping, and that’s unlikely to change.

The other issue is whether the time limits are realistic. Which is to say: one to two years to hear a case may simply *not be enough time* given the speed at which our system normally operates, and commanding it to operate faster without ensuring that more resources are made available does not seem likely to be successful.

— Requiring only the original trial court to hear new cases —

From what I can tell, these provisions exist under the theory that having the original trial court hear any new cases will result in those cases taking less time because the original trial court is already familiar with the evidence.

But that’s a double-edged sword, because if the claim is *actual innocence*, then the original trial court is way less likely to approach the new evidence with an open mind; the court’s familiarity will incline it to prejudge the new evidence – not through any venality of the court, but through standard human psychology.

— Making life harder on the death-sentenced —

Proposition 66 would abolish death row and send the death-sentenced to the general population. The idea behind this, on some level, is that death row is too *easy* on the death-sentenced.

There may be something to that.

And yet … putting the already death-sentenced in the general population is a *terrible idea*. It’s a terrible idea *for the other inmates* because the death-sentenced have no incentive to behave reasonably in the general population. They’re *already sentenced to die*; what more can the state do to them? What leverage do the wardens have, either carrots or sticks, to motivate good behavior?

It’s a bad idea; it’s guaranteed to lead to problems with prison security.

— Increasing victim involvement in the process —

I don’t understand what the practical effect of these changes is. I mean, say an appeal runs past five years, and the victim’s family sues; what’s the remedy? An order from one court to another court telling it to go faster? How is that enforced?

One answer to this is that the court hearing an appeal could be ordered *to dismiss the appeal* in furtherance of the rights of the victim. But it’s hard to imagine that happening, because that would clearly violate the appellant’s due process rights *under the federal constitution*.

So this set of provisions strike me as being rhetorical sugar whose practical effect is unclear but likely close to nonexistent.

— Stepping outside the Administrative Procedures Act —

The Administrative Procedures Act is a piece of legislation which enforces rules for how state agencies are supposed to operate *procedurally*. It includes rules that have to be followedd when new procedures or regulations are adopted; I do not know the specifics of California procedure law, so I don’t know what the rules are.

Proposition 66 exempts from the APA any regulation or procedure adopted pursuant to Proposition 66.

It’s not clear to me *why*. I assume there are elements of the APA which are perceived as slowing down the process, and so the authors of the initiative want to prevent those parts of the APA from operating, and it’s probably easier to just prvent the entire thing frmo operating than it is to try to piece out which parts to keep and which parts not to.

This strikes me as being a bad idea, both because there’s no good way for anyone voting on it to know what it does *and* because it sets a precedent which will later be used to exempt other things from the APA, too.

— A summary —

There are some things in this measure which, in my mind, should give a strong supporter of the death penalty pause. It moves death-sentenced convicts into the general prison population. It involves victims in the process in a way which is unlikely to have any actual effect but which is going to harm them by increasing their involvement and then disappoiinting them in the outcome. It exempts large parts of the death penalty process from the Administrative Procedures Act, setting a bad precedent.

That *should* be enough, in my opinion, for death penalty supporters to send this measure back and ask for a new one.

I will be voting ‘No’.

Yes on 56

Proposition 56 is a combined constitutional amendment and statute. The statute imposes a new tax on cigarettes and tobacco products, extends the current tobacco tax to cover electronic cigarettes, and directs the money raised from the new tax to cover specific programs; the constitutional amendment exempts the statute from two constitutional provisions (the state’s overall spending cap and the prop 98 guarantee).

—The Constitutional Changes—

* The state Constitution has a cap on spending, passed by the voters as part of the late 1970s tax revolt: the state may not spend more than a certain amount, indexed for inflation and population growth. The last time the voters passed a tobacco tax, they directed the revenue from the tax to specific health-related programs, and they changed the state constitution to exempt the tobacco tax money from the spending cap: the state can spend the amount under the spending cap, *plus* the amount raised by that tobacco tax. Proposition 56 would do the same thing for the tobacco tax revenue it raises.

* The state Constitution requires that, roughly speaking, half of the state’s revenues be spent on schools. Proposition 56 would exempt the new tobacco tax revenue from the school spending requirement, allowing all of its revenue to be spent on health programs.

—The new tax—

Proposition 56 imposes a new $2/pack tax on cigarettes (the existing state tobacco tax is $.87/pack; the federal tax is $1.01/pack), with an equivalent new tax on other tobacco products (the current tax is $1.37, and the new tax would be $2 more).

—The tax extension—

For some reason, the existing tobacco tax does not cover electronic cigarettes or vape pens — probably because they didn’t exist when the law was written, and the la was written in terms of the things which existed at the time.

Proposition 56 extends the *existing* tax to cover electronic cigarettes and vape pens, and of course imposes the new tax on them, as well.

—The spending provisions—

Proposition 56 would direct almost all of its money to health programs, with 5% allocated to administrative costs and an undefined amount directed to replace revenue from the original tax which will be lost if people reduce their tobacco purchases in reaction to the new tax. (This latter provision, while it makes sense economically, makes it hard to tell precisely how much money is going to be sent to which programs.

$48 million would be spent on law enforcement; $40 million on physician training; $30 million on dental disease; and $400,000 on auditing.

82% of the rest would be directed to Medi-cal for general health care services to the poor; that money is in theory allowed only as a *supplement*, not as a *replacement for existing spending*. (To the extent that this is enforceablr, it would seem to lock in Medical spending at at least the current level).

11% of the rest would be directed specifically to tobacco prevention and control programs.

5% of the rest would be directed to medical research into cancer, cardiovascular and lung disease, and other tobacco-related diseases.

2% of the remaining funds would be directed to school programs.

—A word about the official argument against—

The official argument against is a masterwork of cognitive dissonance, in t hat it attempts to simultaneously make the following two arguments:

* Proposition 56 is bad because not all of its money goes to tobacco-related diseases

* Proposition 56 is bad because it cheats schools of their just money.

These views seem difficult to reconcile, at best.

—A word on externalities—

I’m generally opposed to ballot propositions which place particular spending outside the control of the legislature; this strikes me as being a bad idea in that it confines the legislature’s ability to act and makes budgeting much more difficult, and it is problematic because the voters are always looking at *specificic programs* rather than trying to balance *the needs of multiple programs against one another*. I almost always vote against such things.

That said, there is one place where it’s reasonable: when the spending is attached to a tax, and the purpose of the tax is to remedy an externality.

An externality is the side effect of behavior whose cost is not borne by the person engaging in the behavior. The paradigm example of this is water pollution: a tannery which dumps foul liquid in a stream is not bearing the *cost* of its waste disposal, that cost is being borne by the downstream farmers and townies. This is inefficient, and it causes the producer of tannery waste to produce more waste than he would if he had to bear the cost – and makes the people drinking fouled water pay a price which it is not just to ask them to pay.

One of the most economically effective ways to deal with this is via a tax: tax the thing creating the externality, and use the money to pay for helping undo the harm caused by the externality. This forces the creator to internalize the cost and helps protect the innocent from paying the cost.

Smoking produces externalities of this sort: it produces second-hand smoke, and it produces a need for expensive treatment, much of which ends up being subsidized by (or paid for outright), by the state.

So *in principle* a tobacco tax, with the money directed to remedy the harm caused by smoking, is a reasonable thing *even if it ties the hands of the legislature*, as long as the spending lock-in is limited to the income raised by the tax, and as long as the revenue is directed to help remedy the harm caused by the externality.

—Is this tax’s revenue directed to reducing the harm of tobacco smoking?—

This is astonishingly hard to tell.

Some of it clearly is — 11% is directed specifically to tobacco prevention and control, and 5% is directed to medical research into tobacco-related programs. But 82% of the money is directed to Medi-cal in general.

That doesn’t *look like* it’s directed enough to be externality remediation, and that apearance is enough for the authors of the official argument against, who focus much of their argument on this point. But that may be too formalistic; it’s possible that the money will end up being spent largely, or at least predominantly, to address the costs of tobacco consumption.

Medi-cal currently spends on the order of $93 billion *a year*. Proposition 56 is expected to raise between $1 billion and $1.4 billion, and at most 1 billion can be directed to Medi-cal.

So, the question for me is: is 1/93 of Medi-cal’s spending spent on the primary and secondary effects of tobacco consumption?

It seems *overwhelmingly* likely that this is true.

For me, that’s enough. The tax is targeted at an externality-producing activity; the money is allocated in a way which makes it increase the amount of money available for paying for the costs of the externality; and the money which isn’t going to be spent directly on such costs will be spent on things that are delivered to the public the same way that the externality remediation would be.

I can understand, though, that this may not be certain enough for those who need more certainty; this is a place where reasonable people can disagree.

Reasonable disagreement or no, though, I will be voting yes.