2020 California Ballot Initiatives

14 – Stem Cell Research Funding – Shall California issue $5.5 billion of general obligation bonds, to be repaid from the state’s General Fund, to support everything from research to facilities to administration.  $1.5 billion reserved for brain-related diseases.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You are a research scientist specializing in life sciences, you have a clear understanding of the entire state budget and how these funds would be allocated.
    • You have little idea about either life sciences or the state budget, but think voters just have to do legislators’ jobs for them.
    • You just want to stick it to religious fundamentalists and panicky luddites.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You believe that you are paying your elected representative to allocate the state budget and decide what is worth issuing public debt for.
    • You believe that there is plenty of private investment capital available for biotech research, and Federal money now funds this research, too.
    • You have some idea of the state budget deficit California is headed for, and what it will mean for schools.
  • For More Information:  Cal Matters, Fullerton Observer, National Institutes of Health

15 – End Prop 13 Property Tax Protections for Commercial Real Estate – Shall California allow commercial real estate to be taxed at current market value, instead of by the formula established by California’s 1978 ballot initiative, Proposition 13? Residential real estate would still be taxed according to Proposition 13.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Vote YES if:
    • You are against all “rent control for real estate owners,” and this is a big first step to ending it.
    • Whatever you think about residential real estate and Proposition 13, you think commercial real estate never should have received Proposition 13’s property tax protections.
    • You are sick and tired of seeing amateurish local businesses occupying all the local storefronts, and would kill for a few more Olive Gardens.
  • Vote NO if:
    • Whatever you think about commercial real estate, you worry that ending any part of Proposition 13’s tax protections will eventually mean that your home will be taxed according to its current market value.
    • You don’t want to see any tax increases in California, for any reason.
    • You saw a school teacher driving a better car than you have, and it has to end here.
  • For More Information:  Los Angeles Times, Edsource

16 – Reverse Prop 209 to Allow Consideration of Race, Gender, Sex, Color and National Origin in Decisions About Employment and School Admissions – Shall California let government decision-making policies allow consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, thereby repealing a constitutional provision prohibiting such consideration?

  • Recommend: No
  • Vote YES if:
    • It broke your heart to see how enrollment of black and brown people fell in the wake of Proposition 209’s passing.
    • You believe that 2020’s summer of unrest is proof that we must redistribute resources and privileges more broadly, and now.
    • Your children are about to apply to college, and you’re pretty sure one of your grandparents was from Ecuador.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You believe that quotas beget prejudice.
    • You believe that reinstituting racial preferences will only make it easier to ignore the way California ignores school quality in black and brown neighborhoods.
    • You are of Asian descent, and the deck is stacked against your kids too much already.

17 – Restore Right to Vote After Prison – Shall California’s state constitution be amended restore voting rights, immediately upon release from prison, to individuals convicted of felonies.  

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Vote YES if:
    • You believe that a felony should not strip someone’s voting rights permanently
    • Prejudice and unequal access to legal resources leave you unwilling to link voting rights to felony convictions.
    • It’s all about Dems vs Republicans, and you believe that your political party will be well served by the ex-convict vote.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You are willing to restore voting rights, but only after individuals have completed both prison term and parole.
    • You believe that a prison term is really just a down-payment on punishment for serious crime
    • You don’t believe that hooey about justice only being for the pale and the rich.
    • It’s all about Dems vs Republicans, and you believe your political party might be weakened by the ex-convict vote.

18 – Let 17-Year-Olds Vote in Primaries – Shall California’s state constitution be amended to let 17-year-olds vote in political primaries if they will be eligible to vote by current rules in the next general election?

  • Recommend:  No
    • Vote YES if:
    • You think we’ve proven that age and experience don’t make good voters anyway, so let the kids have a try.
    • You are concerned that your children’s teachers aren’t doing enough political lobbying in the classroom yet.
  • Vote No if:
    • You would rather not change a state constitution for a largely symbolic gesture.
    • You think the voting age should really be whatever your age is now, maybe older.
    • You fear what this might do for dinner conversations with your high schooler.

19 – Changes Calculation of Property Tax Basis in Various Ways – Shall California’s state constitution be amended to reduce tax protections for some inheritors of real estate, and to extend tax protections to homeowners over 55 years old who move to new homes?

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You believe that inherited property should be taxed at current market value unless it is a farm or it will become the primary residence of the person inheriting it.
    • You want to limit any additional tax burdens on people forced to move because of disability or natural disaster.
    • You’re pretty sure this might benefit firefighters, even if you don’t know whether this amendment will generate additional revenues.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You think property owners have enough tax exemptions already.
    • You don’t care at all about the thousands forced from their homes due to disabilities and recent wildfires.
    • You suspect that there aren’t enough “East Coast Investors” to warrant such a constitutional amendment.
  • For More Information:  Cal Matters, Daily Breeze, The Mercury News, Reason

20 – Restricts Parole Opportunity for People Convicted of Specific Crimes – Shall we make people convicted of specific offenses serve their full prison sentences instead of offering earlier release and parole?  Also, shall we require law enforcement to collect DNA samples from adults convicted of certain misdemeanors?  

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You believe that parole boards should not decide when a prisoner is safe to release.
    • You think your DNA is collected when you give a regular blood test, so why should any criminal worry about giving a sample to the police?
    • You understand that California reduced its prison population by 18% in 2020, and don’t want remaining prisoners to get lonely.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You agree that parole boards are better suited than voters to making parole decisions.
    • You would rather focus on what crimes to imprison people for than on keeping more people imprisoned for longer.
    • DNA anonymity is the only thing keeping you out of prison.

21 – Expending Local Government Authority to Enact Residential Rent Control.  Shall California allow local governments to establish rent control on properties over 15 years old?

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if: 
    • You believe we have already accepted the concept of rent control, and now it is time to eliminate the loopholes.
    • You understand that we will have to change California’s rent control regulations sometime, or the proportion of rent-controlled housing will keep diminishing as new housing is built.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You understand that a rolling 15-year exemption would reduce investment in new housing, diminishing housing availability for your children and new arrivals.
    • You are opposed to rent control in any form.
    • Your landlord raised your Mill Valley rent by 25% this year.
  • For More Information:  San Francisco Chronicle, Reason Foundation

22 – Exempt Uber, Lyft and Delivery Companies from Having to Classify Drivers as Employees – Shall companies providing app-based taxi and delivery services be able to classify their drivers as independent contractors?

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Vote YES if:
    • You believe that adults should be able to decide how to do business with each other.
    • The Uber drivers you’ve met have seemed able to take care of themselves, and none of them has slipped you a note saying “Please help me!”
    • You just want cheap rides and food delivery.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You believe that California AB5 is good legislation, and the First Appellate District court in San Francisco was right to enforce it.
    • You don’t believe that Uber and Lyft would ever leave their home markets and you want to call their bluffs.
    • Even if you don’t have any clear evidence that it’s true, you keep reading about how the gig economy is wrecking things for everyone and feel compelled to do something. 
  • For More Information:  The Verge, NPR, Ride Share Guy

23 – Regulates Kidney Dialysis Clinics, Requiring Doctors During Treatment Hours – Shall dialysis clinics be required to keep a doctor on-site during treatment hours, and shall these clinics be required to report infections and accept more forms of insurance coverage?

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You believe that dialysis clinics have been providing poor quality care and failing to serve poorer patients, and you believe that putting a doctor in each one will at least improve treatment quality.
    • You believe that dialysis clinics are highly profitable, and you would like to make them invest more in their operations and keep more of them in poorer neighborhoods.
    • You understand that DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care have become an oligopoly, and this is a sensible next step in regulating them.
    • You believe that most of the media coverage of this has been bought by dialysis providers.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You suspect that this proposition is not focused on patient safety or equity, but is really a labor union’s attempt to secure more compensation for its members.
    • You understand that having a doctor on site is unlikely to reduce infections or the other major risks faced by dialysis patients.
    • You are swayed by the fact that few newspapers have advocated for this ballot measure.
  • For More Information:  Cal Matters, KQED, San Francisco Chronicle

24 – Amends Consumer Privacy Laws – Shall California allow consumers to prevent businesses from sharing personal information; correct inaccurate personal information held by businesses; and limit business’ use of certain types of “sensitive” personal information?

  • Recommend:  No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You are offended that, under the current law, “sharing” data OK, even while selling it can be prohibited
    • You tend to trust the ACLU, and the original sponsor of the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act, on matters of data privacy.
    • You don’t think Californians will get a better opportunity if this bill fails.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You supported the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act, and you want “opt out” to remain the default for businesses collecting personal information about Californians.
    • You are concerned that Common Sense Media opposes Prop. 24, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is neutral
    • You trust that Alastair Mactaggart will come back with a better version if Proposition 24 fails. 
  • For More Information:  Cal Matters, New York Times

25 – Referendum on Law Replacing Money Bail With Assessment of Public Safety and Flight Risk – Shall California cease to use money bail as a condition for persons accused of crimes being released from jail before their trial?

  • Recommend: No
  • Vote YES if:
    • You are most concerned about innocent people being incarcerated, sometimes for longer than they would be for being convicted of the charges against them, just because they lack funds to pay bail.
    • You believe that a money bail system will always discriminate against the poor.
    • You worry that prosecutors abuse pre-trial detention to obtain guilty pleas or harsher plea bargains. 
    • You miss your sugar.
  • Vote NO if:
    • You watched New York’s no-bail experiment with horror, want to see that work before we try it in California.
    • You believe that an opaque set of standards for pre-trial release will wind up keeping just as many innocent people behind bars, reducing recourse for many.
    • You didn’t read about why New York tried the no-bail system, after stories of teens locked up for over 18 months, awaiting trial for crimes as serious as stealing a $30 backpack.
    • You know money bail is unjust, but would like to see it changed, not erased.

For More Information:  The Marshall Project, Cal Matters

2016 San Francisco Ballot Initiatives

This is a big ballot, with 25 local issues for San Franciscans to vote on, and another 16 state ballot initiatives as well.

There are good reasons to vote for and against each of these initiatives. We have tried to give you our opinions and also responsible opinions from those who disagree with our recommendations.  In some cases it is difficult to find credible recommendations on one side or another, and we don’t want to resort to showing you campaign websites, so some arguments will be missing.

Thank you for caring enough to do your research this year and vote.  Good luck!

A – School Bonds – Should San Francisco issue $744 million in bonds to repair San Francisco Unified School District facilities and improve information technology and food preparation systems?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have seen the dilapidated condition of San Francisco’s public schools and District offices, and agree they need more money to fix them.  You are more than happy to let your landlord pay for this.  You feel so lucky to be a homeowner in this city that you are willing to pay a little more to fix the schools.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You know the School District’s history of wasting bond money and don’t want it to continue without more significant reform.  You think the City should be able to fit this into a $9.6 billion budget.
  • More Info:  Background by SF Public Press, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


B – City College Parcel Tax –  Shall San Francisco raise the $79/year parcel tax on property units to $99/year, and extend this tax for 15 years to support City College of San Francisco?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to help CCSF maintain its accreditation and keep serving its 60,000+ students. You want CCSF teachers, who earn $60-90k/year, to get long-delayed raises.
  • Reasons to vote no:  The original parcel tax was supposed to bail out CCSF, and you really don’t like tax creep.  You don’t want to keep supporting an inefficient and sprawling group of 11 campuses across the City.  You don’t recognize schools other than Stanford, your alma mater.
  • More info.  Wikipedia on CCSF, The San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


C – Loans for Affordable Housing – Shall San Francisco issue $260.7 million in general obligation bonds to purchase and improve buildings in need of safety upgrades in order to convert them into affordable housing?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You understand that a city is safer if all of its police and firefighters don’t have 90-minute commutes to work, and your children might learn more if their teachers didn’t have to take BART from Concord each morning.  You would like your children to be able to live here, too.  You believe that San Francisco’s government has shown a real knack for managing its finances well.  A few more Hyundais in Whole Foods parking lot might let your Range Rover stand out better.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe private developers will do a better job of building affordable housing if the City just uses its zoning laws and building permit process more intelligently.  You don’t want to use public funds to buy real estate at the top of the market.  You don’t like the part of the initiative that actually reduces developer requirements to build more affordable housing – isn’t this a shift of money from the public to wealthy developers?  $260 million would buy a lot of commuter buses.
  • More info.  San Francisco Chronicle (recommends a Yes vote), Governor Brown’s perspective, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


D – Rules for Vacancy Appointments – People the mayor appoints as temporary replacements to elected members of city government could serve a maximum of 5 months in their positions before the city conducts a special election to fill their position, and the temporary replacements would not be able to run in this election.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like to reduce the power of San Francisco’s Mayor. You believe there should be no compromises on giving voters the power to decide who fills elected positions.  You really, really like special elections, and don’t mind spending hundreds of thousands of dollars extra each year to make them happen.  You remember a certain mayor who said he would serve temporarily and not run again.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand that most people can’t name all the people running for mayor or their local supervisor, making special elections for school board members a total waste of time.  Was that mayor who promised not to run really so much worse than the others who wanted the job?
  • More info. San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


E – Who Must Maintain Street Trees and Sidewalks – Shall the city spend about $19 million per year to take over responsibility for maintaining trees and sidewalks?  Private property owners are currently responsible for this maintenance.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are a private property owner and you want to save money.  You don’t think it’s right for the city to make individuals pay for maintaining public trees when they aren’t allowed to choose or replace these trees, or to make them pay for sidewalks damaged by trees they are not allowed to remove.  You think voters should micromanage the city’s budget to keep elected officials from making even moderately difficult decisions.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You know that private property owners are doing just fine in San Francisco, and would like them to share some of their winnings with the rest of us.  You have seen the job San Francisco has done with maintaining its streets, and believe property owners will do a better job with the trees and the sidewalks.  You’ve seen the city’s projected budget deficit.
  • More info.  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco Examiner says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


F – Youth Voting in Local Elections – Shall San Francisco lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years old?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes: You want to get people involved in democratic politics as early as possible.  You believe today’s 16-year-old is much more mature than the average 18-year-old of only a couple of decades ago.  If 13-year-olds can carry Kalashnikovs in Zaire, why can’t 16-year-olds vote in San Francisco?
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that voting is a serious matter that requires more experience and responsibility than most 16-year-olds have.  You remember that San Francisco voters have rejected this twice, and for good reasons.  You think voting is an exclusive club and you just don’t want to admit new members before you have to.  If the Board of Supervisors is for it, you’re against it.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


G – Police Oversight – Would rename the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) as the Department of Police Accountability (DPA), and would give this agency access to specific records and documents to let them review San Francisco’s use-of-force incidents and policies.  Would shift agency’s budget authority from the Police Commission to the Mayor.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the police have too much power to hide or block investigations into their mistakes and any bad officers on the force.  You believe that independent oversight must be truly independent, and letting the police commission set the budget for an oversight agency is a bad idea.  You got a speeding ticket once, so anything that makes a cop’s job tougher is fine with you.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You think San Francisco’s police are doing a fine job, so why mess with a winning formula?  You don’t like the provocative name of this agency.  You believe that police should be able to handle their own discipline, with a minimum of civilian oversight.  You believe that current OCC members are unprofessional and poorly trained, and don’t want to give them more power until they fix this.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, Background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


H – New Office of the Public Advocate – SHall the city create a new elected public office, Public Advocate, with a support staff of 25 employees, to review city programs and citizen complaints?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the mayor’s office does not already fill this function, or that creating a slightly different version of the mayor’s job will make San Francisco’s government work better.  Finally, a ballot issue that falls outside of the responsibilities of our elected officials.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that the city has 820,000 critics already, and they all work for free – why pay 26 people to be critics without either the responsibility or authority to fix problems?  You believe the mayor and the supervisors have enough problem getting things done, and more people won’t make their work any easier.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote NO, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


I – Funding for Adults with Disabilities – Should San Francisco allocate at least $38 million per year from the general fund – with scheduled increases – to pay for services for seniors and adults with disabilities?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have some idea about how difficult it is to be disabled or old, and you want us all to offer as much help as you can.  You believe that our elected officials are incapable of making even routine decisions like this one.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You don’t want voters to micromanage the city’s budget when they don’t have enough information to make individual funding decisions.  You understand that today’s $38 million budget is tomorrow’s $380 million disaster.  You have seen the results of San Francisco’s spending over $240 million annually on the homeless.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, Freedom Socialist Party says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


J – Funding for Homelessness and Transportation – Would allocate an initial $50 million per year (increasing over 24 years), to homeless services and transportation.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You see a lot of homeless on the streets, and not enough MUNI buses, and you would like to make sure that San Francisco spends more to address both of these problems.  You are concerned that a No vote would cause city government to stop fixing MUNI and San Francisco streets.  You want to make sure that any new sales tax revenues from Proposition K go to address homelessness and transportation.
  • Reasons to vote no:  These are the kinds of issues you elect supervisors and mayors to solve, and you know that if voters do the budget allocation then you can never hold elected officials responsible for the results.  You are really tired of being asked to do the job you are paying your supervisor to do.  You don’t think of homelessness or public transportation as problems in San Francisco.
  • More info:  San Francisco League of Conservation Voters says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


K – Sales Tax Increase – Shall San Francisco’s sales tax be raised by 0.75% to make a new sales tax rate of 9.25%?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have seen the City’s projected budget deficit, and the city’s decrepit streets, and you’re happy to pay a higher sales tax to boost city tax revenues by $150 million per year.  You do all your shopping out of town, so this won’t affect you at all. Los Angeles’ sales tax is 9% – Beat LA!  Beat LA!
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that city government needs to control its spending, and passing a new tax won’t help.  You plan to buy a new Bentley next year, and you don’t want to have to pay an extra $2,500 for it.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


L – MTA Appointments and Budget – Increases the power of board of supervisors to appoint members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), and makes it easier for the board of supervisors to reject SFMTA members chosen by the mayor.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the SFMTA will function better if the board of supervisors have more power over it.  You have no idea how the SFMTA functions, and you don’t really care, but you like reading about political infighting and this could generate a lot of it.
  • Reasons to vote no: You think the supervisors have enough veto power to keep the mayor from packing SFMTA with incompetent cronies.  You think the supervisors would only make worse selections if given the chance.  You don’t like voting in changes to the city charter just to satisfy some obscure political power struggle.  Wasn’t the SFMTA formed to be outside of politics?
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, background from SF Examiner, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


M – New Housing and Development Commission – Would create a new Housing and Development Commission to oversee two new departments (Economic and Workforce Development, and Housing and Community Development)

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like to see housing and workforce issues analyzed by new, dedicated agencies.  You would like to see the mayor’s office distribute more of its power to the board of supervisors.  You would like to see the Mayor’s Office of Community and Housing Development abolished because you’ve never heard of it, or because you worked there.  San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission hasn’t been as entertaining as you expected it to be.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You have had contact with the Mayor’s Office of Community and Housing Development, and it seems to work well as it is.  You believe that having a lot of people in charge of something important means nobody is in charge.  You don’t understand this issue well enough to get dragged into a City Hall power struggle.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, Background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


N – Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections – Would let non-citizen parents and guardians of students enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District vote in school board elections.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that non-citizens with a direct stake in San Francisco’s public schools might vote on public school issues more carefully than the city’s overall population of voters, so they should be allowed to help pick the school board.  You are concerned enough about the current state of San Francisco’s public schools to bend a few traditional voting rules.
  • Reasons to vote no: You are concerned that the complexity of identifying and vetting these non-citizen voters would be a costly distraction for the city’s election process.  You don’t want to establish any precedent for letting non-citizens vote in American elections.  You already voted against this – twice – and haven’t seen anything that would change your mind.
  • More info: San Francisco Examiner says vote No,  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, Mission Promise says vote Yes (and claims that the Board of Education agrees), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


O – Office Development in Candlestick Point / Hunters Point – Would exempt office development projects in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the city’s annual limit of 950,000 square feet of new office space approvals.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are looking for smart ways to build economic opportunities in two lagging neighborhoods without using public money.  You want to reduce the cost of office space in San Francisco.  You own land in these neighborhoods and want to cash in.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You are concerned about gentrifying some of most affordable neighborhoods left in the city.  You believe that city agencies are in a better position than voters are to make these types of decisions.  You distrust Lennar so much that you will vote against anything that will benefit them.
  • More info: Background from SF Public Press, SPUR says vote Yes, San Francisco Tenants Union says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


P – Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing Projects – Would require three competing proposals be submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development for any affordable housing projects proposed for city-owned property.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are concerned that San Francisco will give away city property to cronies or incompetent developers.  You are willing to slow down the disposal of city property for the chance of getting more from it.  You want the throw up any roadblock you can to city government or affordable housing.  You are a small developer and you want some slim chance of developing affordable housing on city property.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe San Francisco is doing enough to find the best possible deals for city property, and you don’t want to add a bureaucratic obligation. You want to move as quickly as possible to develop more affordable housing here.  You understand that legislators won’t be able to improve the process set by Proposition P without another cumbersome ballot initiative.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, the arguments from Mission Local, SPUR says vote No, background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


Q – Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks – Would prohibit the use of tents on public sidewalks, and would require the city to offer temporary shelter before removing tents.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are so sick of San Francisco’s sidewalk tent encampments that you will take any opportunity, to have them removed.  You want to make sure that no tent is removed without offering its residents a place to stay.  Somehow you believe both of the first two things without recognizing the conflict between them.  You believe that San Francisco’s government still doesn’t take tent camps seriously.  You are a commissioned salesperson for REI.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You pay legislators and their staff to enact laws about these matters, and you are pretty sure that they can do it better than Proposition Q does.  You don’t want to let a tent remain just because temporary shelters are full.  You have seen the police remove encampments, and believe that San Francisco’s government has finally understood how upset residents are with tent encampments.  You work for REI, but you are not paid a commission on the tents.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, background from SF Public Press, Ron Conway says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


R – Neighborhood Crime Unit – Should San Francisco’s police department be required to create a unit consisting of at least 3% of all sworn police offices dedicated to preventing crimes harmful to neighborhood safety and quality of life?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes: You believe that SFPD won’t take property crimes seriously until they are forced to.  You believe that putting officers in a unit defined by a ballot initiative will change they way they do their work.  You do a lot of meth and want to lower the odds of getting caught.  If you can pass Proposition R your next ballot measure will allot 10% of the police force to putting on bake sales to reduce your property tax.
  • Reasons to vote no:  If you don’t know the SFPD’s current org chart you’re pretty sure you shouldn’t be deciding how to change it.  You would rather organize a community meeting to express neighborhood priorities, then let your supervisor and the cops figure out the right solution.  You’re worried that the NSA will tell SFPD how you voted and you will live in fear for the rest of your life.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote No, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.  Very difficult to find credible sources in favor of R.


S – Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds – Would allocate all of the 8% base tax on hotel rentals to programs supporting the arts and family homeless services.


T – Restricting Gifts and Donations from Lobbyists – Would require lobbyists to identify, when they register to lobby, which city agencies and officials they plan to lobby.  Would prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions or gifts to city officials they are registered to lobby, and would prohibit them from bundling campaign contributions.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You will take any opportunity to remove money from lobbying activities, and to restrict the power of wealthy special interests.  You do want undue influence over local politics, but all you have to offer is a really good brownie recipe.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You are a political incumbent in San Francisco.  You are a property developer and need every bit of leverage you can get to build 70 storeys in Noe Valley.  You can’t imagine that money would ever influence the angels running San Francisco’s government – shame on the authors of this initiative!
  • More info: SPUR says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes (with very odd arguments), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


U – Affordable Rate Housing Requirements for New Developments – Would increase the income level required to qualify a household for affordable housing, to 110 percent of median income.


V – Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages – Shall all soda and sugary beverages sold in San Francisco be taxed at the rate of 1 cent per ounce?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You think the city should use taxes to encourage healthy diets.  You know you are subsidizing health care for San Francisco’s low-income residents, and you would like to reduce the cost of this program.  You just realized it’s not a ‘grocery tax,’ and now you’re angry.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You get enough ‘nudging’ from your family, and don’t need it from local government.  You love soda, but that extra few cents on each serving would just put it out of reach.  You still believe it’s a grocery tax.  You’re an unethical dentist.
  • More info:  San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


W – Increase Real Estate Transfer Tax on $5 Million+ Properties – Shall San Francisco add increase the tax on the sale of houses and property worth over $5 million, depending on sales price, to a maximum new tax rate of 3%?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe anyone selling property worth this much can afford to lose a little more to taxes.  You agree that the city can use the revenue, and better that the money comes from landlords than from parking tickets or MUNI fares.  You believe it’s a necessary step toward outlawing private property altogether.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand that 70% of San Franciscans are renters, and think it is wrong to exploit this majority to seize private property.  You believe that San Francisco’s government should focus on operating more efficiently instead of just raising taxes and fees.  You are lucky enough to have a home here, and Proposition 13’s tax protections aren’t good enough.  It’s a long ballot, and at M you resolved to vote No on everything else.
  • More info: San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Hell Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No (but for more silly reasons), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


X – Space for Arts, Small Business and Community Organizations – Would require developers to provide space to replace any locations zoned for neighborhood arts, small businesses or community services of certain sizes, for any of these displaced by a development project in the Mission or South of Market neighborhoods.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that real estate developers are making so much money in San Francisco that they should be forced to subsidize artists, small businesses and community organizations in these neighborhoods.  You want to start one of these community service organization things, and this might help, or not, you’re not sure, but you sure as hell can’t draw.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You don’t care much about imposing obligations on developers in these good times, but you worry that this will stop responsible development when the bubble bursts.  You think that San Francisco has too much red tape as it is.  Even if you did want to keep artists in San Francisco, you are concerned that everyone will claim to be one of these organizations if the initiative passes, and real artists will see no help.  Anyway, you sure as hell can’t draw.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, SPUR says vote No (this time with good reasons), San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.


RR – BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief – Should BART issue $3.5 billion of new bonds to upgrade tracks, tunnels and control systems?

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  As much as you hate voting for bond issues, you agree that BART is an essential service badly in need of upgrades to tracks and stations.  You commute by BART, and you know how dingy it has become.  You commute by car and would love the extra room created by BART increasing its train frequency from 23 to 30 trains per hour.  You’ve never met a bond issue you didn’t love.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that these bonds will be unnecessary if BART’s management makes reasonable efforts to control its labor costs. You think BART riders should pay for any system upgrades.  You live and work in San Francisco and would like to reduce competition for your job here.More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

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.

Voter Guide for 2012 California Ballot Initiatives

30 – Temporary Tax Increases to Fund Education and Local Public SafetyRaises an estimated $6 billion annually for 4 years increasing state sales taxes by ¼ cent and increasing marginal tax rates by 29% on personal income over $250,000.  Directs money raised to non-administrative use by schools, and to local public safety services.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that California’s $86 billion budget won’t support public schools, and local governments won’t pay for their own public safety without this money.   You believe that the state government will get serious about reforming public pensions and prison costs someday if we just keep giving them more money.  California’s $1.9 trillion economy can’t find another few billion dollars to educate its children?  Really? 
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand that California’s budget has grown over the past 15 years by more than the combination of population growth and inflation –  school funding is a priorities problem, not a revenues problem.  You respectfully suggest that public employee unions should make the contribution this time.    You voted for all those other school bonds, what happened to that money?  You drank too much last Thursday and wound up signing Grover Norquist’s pledge.
  • More info, California’s tax system

31 – Constitutional amendment on budgeting – Forces California to create budgets in 2-year increments, instead of the current single-year budgets.  Lets the Governor make budget cuts when the legislature won’t, and lets cities and counties direct funds allocated by the state.  Sets planning and review requirements for state and local budgets. Requires advance publication of bills to be voted on.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You think you understand a very complex measure well enough to change the State’s constitution.  You’ve seen schools struggle with changing budgets and want to force the State to plan ahead.  You’re so embarrassed by your State government issuing IOUs that you’ll try anything to stop it from happening again.  You’re sure California’s legislature is broken – let our noble governors control the budget.  You think your city council should decide what to do with State money.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You think voters should not micromanage the political process, especially through measures as complex as this one.  You believe the legislature can’t stick to a 6-month budget – how is a 2-year budget going to help?  Nobody is stopping legislators from developing 2-year budgets now.
  • More info

32 – Prohibits unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes, and prohibits them from contributing to candidates or candidate-controlled political committees.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that each person should get to decide for himself which political causes and candidates to support.  You can accept that this will affect unions more than corporations.  You’d like your $100 campaign contributions to count for something again.  You think that public employee unions will bankrupt the state if their political contributions are not restricted.  If the Supreme Court won’t fix campaign donations we’d better do something.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You realize that this will really only affect unions, not corporations, so no deal.  You’re more worried about California being re-named Chevronland than you are about improving public schools.  You’re a California longshoreman and your wife’s Escalade won’t pay for itself, you know.
  • More info

33 – Allows insurance carriers to offer discounts to motorists who have maintained continuous insurance coverage for 5 years, even if they’re switching carriers.  Allows rates to rise for others.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that California insurance providers will compete and offer lower rates if given the chance.  You have maintained continuous coverage, and you’re voting for you.  You’re OK if other drivers wind up paying more to make up for the people who get the discounts.  You always read every part of your policy’s fine print, and you’re confident that this is a good idea.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You’re a little suspicious of an insurance company supporting a ballot initiative that’s supposed to lower your premiums.  Didn’t we hire an Insurance Commissioner to make these decisions?  Why hasn’t he said anything?
  • More info

34 – Ends the death penalty in California, making the maximum penalty life without parole.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the state should not be allowed to kill people.  You believe that executing 13 people since 1978 probably hasn’t been much of a crime deterrent.  You’ve read about enough people being falsely convicted that you can’t accept irrevocable sentences.  You want to save $180 million per year in courts and corrections costs.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that some people should be killed for doing certain things, and society needs to make examples out of the worst of us.  If cost is the problem, let’s just cut out all the appeals, and use Taco Bell for all final meals.  You believe that a meth-addled psychopath really does think about consequences before pulling the trigger.  You’re worried that prison is too fun to make an effective penalty.   They wouldn’t convict a white woman, right?
  • More info

35 – Increase penalties for human trafficking, and expand the definition of the crime

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You agree that human trafficking is a serious crime worthy of life prison sentences and up to $1.5 million fines.  You’re untroubled by the idea of someone facing a life sentence for photocopying a picture of a 17-year-old they’ve never met.  It could bring a few million dollars each year to the state, and we need the money.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe believe the LA Times when it says that California and the Federal government enforce strong laws against human trafficking already.  You think the state’s sex offender registry would be damaged by listing some people whose crimes had nothing to do with sex.
  • More info

36 – Revises California’s “three strikes” law so that you can only receive a life sentence if the third strike is a serious or violent felony

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You don’t care who they are – life in prison for stealing a car makes no sense.  You want to save $79-90 million per year from reduced prison and parole costs
  • Reasons to vote no:  You think that criminals should be locked up for life for the first serious or violent felony – three strikes already waits too long.  You think that habitual criminals should just be removed from society, whatever the cost.  You’re a prison guard and you’ve just seen the prices for new Harley Davidsons.
  • More info

37 – Requires labeling identifying food made with genetically modified ingredients, prohibits these foods from being sold as “natural”

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You think this is the way government should work – make sure that consumers have information about the products they’re buying, then get out of the way and let consumers decide.  You’re concerned that genetically modified foods are a serious health threat, and awareness is the first step toward further regulation.  You’re confident that we’ll find a way to protect food manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits over labeling technicalities.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that genetically modified foods are fine, and scary labels are only the first step toward nanny state bans.  You just got your new D-cups – natural is overrated.  You’d rather use that space on the box to tell you about the plastic prizes inside.
  • More info

38 – Increases state personal income tax rates for 10 years to support public schools, early childhood education and reduction of California’s public debt.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  Schools and early child care are a priority, and you’re willing to pay more to increase their budgets by 14% for first couple of years, and then 20% after that.  Gotta work on that public debt sometime – why not now?  You trust that the State will send the money where they say they will.  You know that California schools spend about as efficiently as possible – but the recession’s effects on the state budget has made their task impossible.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that $38 billion annually should be enough to cover public schools in California, but they need to spend the money better.   You believe classrooms would have plenty of money if we controlled pension spiking and other abuses.  You only make $23,500 per year – how can you afford to pay a 16% increase in your state income tax and still pay down that Polynesian dance degree?  Even though you’re all growed up, you still believe in Libertarians.
  • More info

39 – Tax treatment for multistate businesses – Requires multistate businesses to pay income tax to California based on the percentage of their sales in the state.  Funds energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • You think California’s state budget could use an extra billion dollars a year, even if the State plans to direct $550 million of it toward dubious clean energy initiatives.  You want to remove an incentive for companies to take jobs out of California.  You believe that the legislature won’t fix the loophole on their own because of corruption of Republican obstinacy.  You believe that Kimberley-Clark will keep selling us Kleenex if we pass this thing.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that more corporate taxes will just make American companies less efficient, and Californians are already paying taxes on what we buy from these companies.  You agree with the San Francisco Chronicle’s argument that the legislature should fix this problem and decide where to apply any new revenues.  Isn’t $550 million what the Feds lost on Solyndra – wait, it was more?  You’re still confused about what this really means.
  • More info

40 – Approves the new State Senate districts drawn up by the Citizens Redistricting Commission

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You voted for Prop 11 to keep politicians from designing districts to keep themselves in office.  You really, really want to see political challengers have a chance against incumbents.  You’re tired of political parties carving up the state for their own benefit.  You have a brain.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You want to prove that Californians can vote No on something.  You don’t care if the proposition’s own backers are now against Prop 40 – let chaos reign!
  • More info


Here is a voter guide for San Francisco’s 2012 ballot initiatives.

Voter Guide for 2012 San Francisco Ballot Initiatives


A – City College Parcel Tax – New tax of $79 per land parcel for 8 years to generate $16 million per year for City College of San Francisco.

  • Recommend:  NO
  • Why to vote for it:  You believe that 90,000 is a huge number of students, and $79/year isn’t really that much money. Someone has to make up for the state cutting funding to CCSF.  We can get serious about budget reform at the next election, not this one.  We already voted to give them $440 million in 2001 and 2005 – why stop now?
  • Why to vote against it:  You love education, but can’t support a terribly managed institution that overspends on salaries and refuses to implement even basic reforms.  Berkeley’s free online courses might provide a better education than CCSF’s teachers. Your nanny would become way too expensive with an associate degree.

B – Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond – $195 million in new bonds to fun repairs and upgrades to San Francisco parks

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that we’ll have to make the repairs sometime, and city government can’t do it without this bond issue.  You think that bonds are free money.  You’ve forgotten that you already pay taxes to the city.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You’re tired of being asked to pay again for things you’ve already paid for.  You plan to stay in San Francisco, and need to keep some cash around to cover firefighter pensions when they come due.

C – Create a Housing Trust Fund to subsidize low- and moderate-income housing

D – Consolidate elections so that City Attorney and Treasurer are elected at the same elections as the Mayor, Sheriff and District Attorney

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to save an estimated $1 million per year, starting in 2017.  Your brain can accommodate ballots a bit longer than this one.  “City Attorney and Treasurer?  OK, let’s get it over with.”
  • Reasons to vote no:  You don’t care about $1 million – the City will only waste it on some schools or parks.  Years without elections make you lonely and sad.

E – Replace San Francisco’s payroll tax with a business gross receipts tax and higher business registration fees.

  • Recommend:  Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want more jobs in San Francisco, and you believe that a payroll tax punishes companies for creating jobs here.  You’re about to hire 500 people in San Francisco and you’d sure like to avoid the payroll tax.  Making companies add another $28 million to City revenues makes you feel better about voting against the bond issues.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You’re worried this will backfire by encouraging companies to move out of San Francisco altogether.  You are the only employee at your own company, and revenues are, shall we say, strong.

F – Directs San Francisco to spend $8 million on a plan to drain Hetch Hetchy reservoir and replace its water and electrical power.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You’ve always wanted to restore Hetch Hetchy to its natural splendor.  You think that a city government that spends $6.5 billion annually needs to be told how to earmark $8 million of planning funds.  You’re pretty sure that California has always had more water and electricity than it can ever use.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You’d like to focus City government on slightly larger issues, like pension reform and maintaining MUNI.  You’ve watched the government plan the America’s Cup, and would rather they not touch the source of 85% of the City’s water.  You know that if we’re going to destroy Hetch Hetchy the companies who will supply replacement water and power would be happy to provide this plan for free.

G – Corporate personhood – Makes it San Francisco’s position that companies should not have the same rights as human beings, and that they should be subject to limits on political donations.

  • Recommend:  No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You’re outraged over Citizens United decision and you think a San Francisco ballot initiative might start a movement to overturn it.  You look forward to more mocking Fox News editorials about San Francisco.
  • Reasons to vote no:  Even though you disagree with Citizens United, you’d rather not keep abusing the ballot initiatives through meaningless proclamations. You think corporate donations are the only meaningful counterweight to the advantages of incumbency.  You wonder how the city that gave illegal aliens full citizenship rights could want to deny those same rights to corporations.  You’d kind of like to marry Apple, and want to keep the option open.


Here is a voter guide for 2012 California ballot initiatives