November Props Pros & Cons

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Unusual alliances... pointed and sometimes personal arguments... and independent analysis -- all can be found in the newly released draft documents for this November statewide ballot guide.

Photo: Getty Images

Voters are facing a pretty sizable fall ballot -- ten measures in all (nine if a certain legislative proposition is pushed to 2012, as many in Sacramento want it to be).

You can view the draft documents for yourself online, which were released this morning by Secretary of State Debra Bowen. The documents are on public display through August 9, and could be altered or deleted by the courts if challenged.

We'll skip a blow-by-blow of every single proposition, but a few do stand out as curious at this point...

Proposition 19

On the measure to legalize marijuana, the nonpartisan review by the Legislative Analyst's Office raises some interesting questions about a core argument in support -- that pot will be taxed to the fullest extent to help ease government budget woes. The LAO, though, says that because not all taxation plans for pot are actually required, it's unclear how much revenue will actually be collected. "For example," says the LAO, "it is unknown how many local governments would choose to license establishments that would grow or sell marijuana or impose an excise tax on such sales."

Proposition 20

When it comes to the measure to add the drawing of congressional districts to the work of the soon-to-be-formed Citizens Redistricting Commission (itself a creation of a 2008 initiative), notable on the list of critics signing the argument against the measure is Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club.

So does the Sierra Club oppose independent redistricting? Pope says the organization hasn't yet taken a position (and for now he's speaking on his own behalf). In a phone interview, he said his opposition to Prop 20 is due to his belief that the measure's language would not favor the election of environmentalists to Congress. And he points, in part, to the section of Prop 20 which I asked Munger about back when he filed it in 2009: its new formal definition of a redistricting term called "communities of interest," a term that seeks to keep people with some kind of shared interest from being split into separate political districts. Pope says he believes that communities with strong support of environmental protections would be lumped into districts with communities that don't share those feelings, a phenomenon he doesn't believe would hold true when it comes to representatives in the statehouse.

"It plays out differently for the Congress and the Legislature," said Pope.

The opposition argument in the voter guide also hones in on the big financial backer of the Prop 20 initiative: Charles T. Munger, Jr., whose father is the longtime financial partner of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Snipes the final sentence of the opposition argument: "Our democratic Republic is not a toy to be played with for the self-aggrandizement of the idle second-generation rich."

Proposition 24

The debate over tax breaks included in the 2009 budget deficit deal will make for a lively campaign surrounding Proposition 24, the proposal to repeal those business tax breaks. And as the opponents of Prop 24 make clear in the voter guide (remember, they support the tax breaks), they're going to frame this as a debate over the broader concept of taxes. In particular, Prop 24 opponents are calling the measure a "tax increase." Certainly a corporation that's expecting to have a lower tax burden thanks to the 2009 law would have to pay more taxes if Prop 24 passes... but is that actually a tax increase, or rather a tax status quo?

These and other questions, coming to a mailbox... or TV screen... near you.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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