2016 California Ballot Initiatives

Welcome, and thank you for doing research before casting your vote.  We hope that this site will help you decide, with just a spoonful of fun to keep you reading.

We try to give you our opinions along with credible opposing arguments.  We respect you if you disagree with us, and hope you will tell us where you’re sure we are wrong.

Good luck!  And if you’re a San Franciscan be sure to check out our coverage of San Francisco’s 2016 ballot initiatives.

51 – $9 Billion Bond Issue for Education and Schools – Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for build new schools and improve existing ones.  Schools can be K-12 public schools, charter schools, vocational schools and community colleges.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that California needs new and improved schools facilities, and that state elected representatives can’t or won’t support them.  You believe poor school districts can’t raise funds to improve their schools, so a state initiative is the only way to maintain fair access to quality schools.  
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe Jerry Brown’s statement that Prop 51 would  “promote sprawl and squander money.”  You think that California’s legislators have better information than voters do for making these decisions, and they should do their jobs.  You realize there is no free lunch – California legislators will have to raise taxes to pay for these bonds, or they will have to pull money out of unidentified other programs, or they will continue increasing California’s debt.
  • More info: The San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, The Sacramento Bee says vote No, a good collection of information from the Ocean Beach Rag (sorry, yes).


52 – Voter Approval of Medical Fee Diversion – Makes permanent a state-imposed fee on hospitals necessary for obtaining Federal Medi-Cal subsidies, and isolates these fees from the State budget.  Would require a 2/3  legislative vote or ballot initiative to make further changes to this program.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes: You like that California hospitals get nearly $2 back from Medi-Cal for every $1 in fees they pay to this program.  You agree that these hospital fees should no longer be diverted to California’s general budget, and you want to make it more difficult for legislators to make other changes to this program.  You want to keep Federal dollars coming to provide health care to uninsured Californians.  You believe these fees were never intended to be counted as state revenue.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe legislators must be able to allocate all state revenues to manage the budget, even revenues raised for restricted purposes. You are concerned that Medi-Cal funds will be diverted to hospital executives or otherwise wasted.  You object to government subsidy of health care.  You do not believe in restricted revenues at all.
  • More info: Sacramento Bee recommends yes.  Tried to find a sane-sounding ‘no’ recommendation, but they were all like YouTube comments.


53 – Voter Approval for Revenue Bonds Over $2 Billion – Would require voter approval before the state could issue more than $2 billion of public infrastructure bonds that would require an increase in taxes or fees to repay them.  This would become part of California’s state constitution.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that legislators will design revenue bonds badly to get around the difficulty of raising taxes in California. You want to force all spending through a single state budget, the way you keep planning to run your household budget.  You have concluded that elected officials can’t or won’t slow state spending growth on their own, so any measure to restrict this spending is good.  You believe user fees are taxes by another name.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that user fees aren’t taxes.  You believe elected officials must have the authority to raise money to solve our infrastructure problems.  You are more concerned about infrastructure decay than you are about higher taxes or budget deficits. You do not want voters throughout the state to be able to veto local projects.
  • More info: Los Angeles Times says vote No, VoteCircle says vote Yes.


54 – Public Display of Legislative Bills Prior to Vote Proposition – Would prohibit the Legislature from passing any bill unless it had been in print and published on the Internet for at least 72 hours prior to the vote, except in cases of public emergency.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes: You believe that legislators should have adequate time to read and understand what they are voting on.  You believe the public should have time to express its concerns about final drafts of pending legislation.  You believe lobbyists have had weeks or months to build the legislation, and the public should at least see it briefly before it becomes hard to undo.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe lobbyists will use the 72-hour period to stop courageous legislators from passing thoughtful, principled legislation.  You really don’t like Charles Munger and want to vote against anything he contributes to.  You don’t think anyone can understand the language in a bill, so it’s no use reading it before voting on it anyway.
  • More info: San Jose Mercury News says vote Yes.  Lobbyists say vote No (sorry – couldn’t find a more neutral source).


55 – Personal Income Tax Increase for Incomes Over $250,000 – Extends by 12 years the temporary personal income tax increases, enacted by Prop 30 in 2012, on earnings over $250,000 for individuals ($500,000 for joint filers, and $340,000 for heads of households).

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that letting these supplemental taxes expire would cost schools California schools $4 billion per year.  You understand that people can easily afford to pay an extra 1.5% in state income taxes on earnings over $250,000 per year.  You are more concerned about state institutions and infrastructure than you are about letting high earners keep more of their earnings.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You remember that the supplemental tax was promised as a temporary measure to patch state budgets after the 2008 economic downturn.  Income taxes from high earners are unreliable, and unpredictable revenues will eventually damage state institutions  You want to force legislators to address persistent budget deficits, especially deferred deficits like unfunded pension liabilities.  You are worried that California’s economy has grown at 2-4% over the past 9 years, while the state’s budget has grown at over 6.1% annually.
  • More info: California Budget and Policy Center says vote Yes.  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No.


56 – Tobacco Tax Increase – Increases the tax on tobacco products, with cigarette taxes rising by $2/pack.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You’re in favor of anything that stops people from using tobacco.  Billions of dollars in legal judgments aren’t enough – you want all tobacco companies and their investors bankrupt and run out of town.  Anything that increases money available for public health care has to be good.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that people should be free to do things that can be harmful to their health, and understand that cigarette tax revenues already more than pay for the public cost of all tobacco use.  Marlboros are expensive enough, for Pete’s sake!
  • More info. Los Angeles Times says vote Yes.  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No.


57 – Parole for Non-Violent Criminals, Juvenile Court Trial Requirements – Would increase parole chances for felons convicted of non-violent crimes, and would let judges, not prosecutors, decide whether to try some juveniles as adults.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to reduce California’s prison crowding, starting with kicking out the less violent inmates.  You don’t like seeing kids tried as adults.  You believe we are locking people up for too long, and spending too much to do it.  You believe state legislators are too worried about political appearances to solve this kind of problem.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that criminals are let off too easily, and this initiative will only crime.  You believe this is a tricky problem, and our elected representatives should solve it.
  • More info: VoteCircle says vote Yes, San Jose Mercury News says vote No.


58 – Allow Non-English Languages in Public Education – Repeals most of 1998’s Proposition 227, which required that public school teachers teach using English only to students in English-only programs, and required English learners to take a year of intensive English instruction before moving to English-only classes.  School districts could elect to teach in other languages, and parents would be able to select English-only programs or non-English programs for their children.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that local public school districts will do a better job than state legislators at choosing how to teach their students.  You believe that public schools should be able to offer non-English based curriculums to English language language learners, and parents should be able to choose these programs for their children.  You believe that schools should reflect California’s multilingual cultures.  You have always disliked English as a ridiculously inconsistent and difficult to teach language, and you secretly hated your 2nd-grade English teacher.
  • Reasons to vote no: You see English as the world’s common language today, and want all children to be proficient in it as soon as possible.  You believe that social cohesion depends in part on a common language, and that public schools should be training all children to be able to speak with each other as soon as possible.  You don’t like paying extra for multilingual teachers.  You get suspicious when you can’t understand what everyone is saying around you.
  • More info.:  VoteCircle says vote Yes, CityWatchLA says vote No.


59 – California to Seek Turn Back Citizen’s United Campaign Finance Decision – Asks that California’s legislators use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the US Constitution that would allow legal limits on political spending by corporations and unions

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that campaign contributions have too much influence over legislative decisions.  You believe that the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision as a mistake that needs correction.  Whether or not you believe that California’s legislators would be influenced by Proposition 59, you have to give it a try.  You like sweets, and sugar costs way too much
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that the Citizens United decision was correct, and only massive amounts of public money can offset the natural advantages of political incumbents.  You can’t stand toothless  ‘statement-of-position’ initiatives  You believe it should be one dollar, one vote, not one person, one vote.  
  • More info. Los Angeles Times says vote No, VoteCircle says vote Yes.


60 – Require Condoms in Pornographic Films – Would require that actors in pornographic films use condoms and take other protective measures, and would require porn film producers to pay for health care and checkups

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  Finally, a ballot issue we can all understand – better take advantage of it.  You believe, somehow, that the porn film business is California’s largest export (it isn’t), and you want to keep the money flowing.  You believe in that state ballots are perfect for micro-managing industries.  You have always wanted to help someone put on a condom.
  • Reasons to vote no:  If we can understand the issue, maybe your elected representative can grok this one, too – let’s see if they can make the easy play  You want to send a message to someone to make sure you never have to vote on this kind of stuff again  You’ve always hated seeing latex in the close-ups.
  • More info:  Internet philosopher says vote No, VoteCircle says vote Yes.


61 – Prescription Drug Price Standards for State Agencies – Prohibits state agencies from paying prescription drug prices higher than those paid by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe California’s state agencies aren’t negotiating hard enough on drug prices, and they need this legislation to force prices down.  You know that drug companies haven’t stopped selling to Canada, the VA or other large customers that demand low prices, and believe that the world’s 6th-largest economy should be able to negotiate better pricing without violating free-market principles.  You have this rash…
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that drug companies would just refuse to sell to California at VA prices, denying Californians access to important medicines.  You believe that state agencies are competent and should be left to do their jobs.  You believe that setting prices at VA levels would make drug companies raise VA prices, hurting veterans and doing nothing to help the 15% of Californians covered by this measure.  You have never had a sick day in your life.
  • More info. VoteCircle says vote Yes, Santa Cruz Sentinel says vote No.


62 – Repeal the Death Penalty – would repeal the death penalty in California, leaving life without parole as the maximum punishment for any crime.  

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You do not believe the State should be able to sentence people to death.  You believe in the death penalty in theory, but don’t believe that the justice system is reliable enough, or fair enough, to sentence people to death.  You understand that it costs more to execute someone than to keep them imprisoned for life, and you want to save $150 million per year. Life without parole means we’re safe enough from them anyway.  You believe that people crazy enough to commit savage crimes don’t think of consequences, so a death penalty won’t deter them.  You’re a vegan.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that the justice system is reliable and fair, and some crimes should be punished by killing the people who commit them.  You believe that the threat of death is a real deterrent, so a death penalty makes us safer.  Death penalty opponents say the death penalty doesn’t work, but with only 13 people executed out of the 930 people sentenced to death in California since 1978, you argue it hasn’t even been tried.  You really want to watch.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Diego Press Democrat says vote Yes.


63 – Restrictions on Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Magazines – Requires a background check to purchase ammunition, and prohibits possession of large-capacity magazines.  Sets requirements to report ammunition sales to the Department of Justice, and report stolen guns to law enforcement.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are happy to pay $50 every four years for a permit to buy ammunition.  You agree that stealing even a $20 gun should be classified as a felony, not a misdemeanor.  You worry that if we vote no on this legislators may never have the courage to enact more intelligent gun management laws.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand it will cost the state tens of millions of dollars per year, and you agree with various law enforcement group that this will create a lot of work for law enforcement without keeping ammunition or guns out of the hands of criminals.  You believe the state should not interfere with individual gun rights.  If we pass this, next thing you know they’ll try and take the RPG buried in your back yard.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, VoteCircle says vote No


64 – Legalize Marijuana – Would legalize marijuana for recreational use, and would establish taxes on farming and selling marijuana.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to smoke marijuana, but you don’t want to pay $50 for the card and create a public record that you smoke.  You believe anyone 21 and older should be able to decide for themselves about whether to smoke marijuana.  You want to reduce that paranoia you sometimes get when high.
  • Reasons to vote no:  Alcohol and nicotine are bad enough – you don’t want to legalize yet another mind-altering bad habit.  You don’t know what you’ll say to your child when she sees her first Bubba Kush ad during Monday Night Football.  You think Proposition 64’s $9.25/ounce tax on buds, and 15% tax on retail sales, are way too high, and you’re holding out for a better deal.  You want to preserve margins.
  • More info: Denver Post says Colorado’s legalization results still hazy, Washington Post says Colorado teens doing fine after legalization, Bakersfield.com says Vote no, VoteCircle says vote Yes.


65 – Direct Revenues from Disposable Bag Sales to Wildlife Fund – Would direct money collected from the sale of carry-out bags from grocery stores and other retailers to a fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like California to spend the tens of millions of bag tax dollars raised each year on cleaning up parks, beaches and drinking water.  You don’t want retailers to be able to keep the money they raise from selling carry-out bags.  If you had your way the entire state budget would be determined by ballot initiatives.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You realize that retailers are losing money on bag sales already, and forcing them to turn over all those nickels and dimes is just silly.  You think ballot initiatives have already restricted too much of California’s budget.  You can’t stand setting up yet another small bureaucracy to waste tax money.  
  • More info:  League of Women Voters says vote No, VoteCircle says vote Yes.


66 – Revisions to Death Penalty Procedures – Would speed up implementation of the death penalty by limiting time for direct appeals and habeas corpus petitions.  Would change court authorities and attorney resources used in the process of completing appeals and executions.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like to see California able to carry out death penalties without appeals lasting for decades and costing millions of dollars.  You believe it is possible to have a more efficient death penalty process without executing more innocent people.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that limiting appeals will mean more innocent people executed.  You are against the death penalty completely.
  • More info: Los Angeles Times says vote No, The Bakersfield Californian says vote Yes.


67 – Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum – Would ban retailers from providing their customers with single-use plastic or paper bags at checkout.  Would set a 10-cents-per-bag fee for the recycled paper bags and reusable plastic bags still permitted.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to see less environmental waste, and you are willing to tell your neighbors what kinds of bags they’re allowed to use.  You’re voting yes on Proposition 65, and you want to increase the amount of money going to that wildlife fund.  You’re voting against Proposition 65, and you want retailers to use the money for fancier bags.  You have so much money you just don’t care what a bag costs.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You think it’s a fine law, but worry that if you keep passing these initiatives our state legislators will have nothing to do but pass silly resolutions.  You still take the Hummer to go grocery shopping – bags are really not the issue.  You think local governments are handling this issue just fine.  You know all the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, and especially like “…the land of the free…”

More info: Surfrider Foundation says vote Yes, Santa Rosa Press Democrat says vote No.

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