Gordon's Notes: Going down, coming up: The Economist and Newsweek
Gary Wills's Nixon Agonistes

California Election Proposition

Ezra KIein votes against all California ballot propositions except 79 and 80. I disagree with him on 80: I vote against it.

Ezra Klein: Endorsements Squared: For all you Californians (and particularly Angelenos) bewildered by next week's ballot measures and elections, The LA Weekly is swooping in with a cape and a pen (a pen of TRUTH) to give you a hand.... [I] couldn't find a single recommendation to disagree with...

LA Weekly: News: We Endorse: State ballot measures.

Proposition 73: Abortion notification. NO: If your teenage daughter gets pregnant and is about to have an abortion, don’t you want her to tell you? Don’t you want the physician who is going to perform the procedure to tell you, at least 48 hours before it takes place? Of course you do. But let’s take it further. You don’t want her to get pregnant in the first place. You don’t want her having sex. You and she talk about this kind of thing, and that’s great. So shouldn’t you vote for the “Parent’s Right to Know and Child Protection Initiative”? No, because you and your daughter don’t need it. But girls who can’t talk to their parents, for whatever reason, still need to be able to talk to their doctors about their bodies without worrying that their family will find out and pressure them into bearing a child against their will. Good parent-child communication is essential, but it can’t be legislated.

Proposition 74: Teacher probationary period, also known as tenure. NO: A probationary period for a new hire might not be a bad idea, just to make sure the employee didn’t forget to include something important on the résumé, like “raving lunatic.” Thirty days sounds about right. Unless you’re a teacher, in which case we’ll make it — whoa! Two years! Okay, they’re with kids every day, so let’s play it safe. But to encourage more good people to become teachers, maybe we should change it to — yikes! Five years of job insecurity? That’s what Proposition 74 would do, because Governor Schwarzenegger knows that when schools are underfunded and overcrowded, it’s got to be because we just make it too easy for people to become underpaid teachers. He’s wrong on this one, just like he is with the other ballot initiatives he’s pushing.

Proposition 75: Public worker union dues restrictions. NO: In 1998 Californians rejected a ballot measure that would have blocked unions from spending an employee’s dues money to campaign for candidates or lobby for legislation that labor leaders believe is important. Now we have this one, which is pretty much the same except that it applies only to public employees. These workers currently can opt out of paying their union to do political lobbying and campaigning. Under Proposition 75, they would have to opt in — giving the edge to corporations that do not, after all, give their shareholders the power to opt out of having their investment used for anti-labor lobbying.

Proposition 76: State budget reform. NO: The state budget is a mess. Proposition 76 would make it messier, by giving the governor extraordinary executive powers to cut spending, even under a budget that is already approved and signed into law. And the Legislature would be unable to stop him. It would also permit the governor to roll back Proposition 98, a 1988 voter-approved constitutional amendment that guarantees a spending floor for public schools. This isn’t the way to go.

Proposition 77: Redistricting. NO: The Democrats and the Republicans divvy legislative and congressional seats between them to guarantee each other safe territory at election time. Only a handful of districts are ever really up for grabs, meaning the real decisions are made not by the full electorate in the general election, but by primary voters when they choose their nominee. Or even earlier, when party bosses anoint their candidates. In addition to the lack of choice, voters get districts drawn in the shapes of various circus animals. So why not break up this insiders’ game by giving line-drawing duties to a panel of nonpartisan, pure-as-the-driven-snow superheroes, also known as retired judges? Several reasons. Under this plan, the district boundaries would be set only after national parties spend millions, perhaps billions, to persuade voters to adopt (or reject) a proposal for district lines. Then the court hearings. Then back to the judges to try again, even though they already submitted their best effort. Some repair work is needed on districting, but this isn’t it. Back to the drawing board.

Proposition 78: Prescription drug discounts, pharmaceutical industry version. NO: Hey! This would allow drug companies to give some people discounts on costly prescription drugs, if they felt like it! That would be so very nice of them! The only purpose of this proposition is to cancel more generous Proposition 79.

Proposition 79: Prescription drug discounts, consumer version. YES: Like 78, this one gives California the clout to negotiate deep drug discounts with the big pharmaceutical companies. The difference is that this one reaches far more low-income people who need prescription drugs. It also carries an enforcement stick that in effect locks drug companies out of the discount program if they don’t come through with the best prices.

Proposition 80: Electricity re-regulation. YES: This would finally throw in the towel on the disaster that was the state Legislature’s 1996 energy deregulation program. You know — rolling blackouts, a sudden scarcity of power. There would be some negative consequences, like limiting the options that many institutional electricity purchasers still have when deciding when to buy and how much to pay. But consumers would once again be protected from wild market fluctuations. The measure also requires major steps forward on renewable energy programs.

I disagree with Ezra on Prop. 80: Severin Borenstein is against Prop. 80, and I listen to him:

Borenstein says though the structure of the energy market could use some improvements, Proposition 80 is not the way to make them.... "I would analogize it to the Food and Drug Administration putting on the ballot whether they should okay a certain drug as safe and effective, putting out all the studies and saying 'you decide,' to the voters." Borenstein says 80 includes three largely disconnected ideas.

  1. End consumer choice of power provider.
  2. Curtail the practice of charging different rates for energy at different times of day during different weather conditions.
  3. Require the state to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010.

(2) is definitely pernicious. (1) and (3) I don't know enough of to have an informed opinion about--so I'll borrow Severin's.