Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008 California Voter Guide - by freedomfan

Okay, Curmudgeon and I see eye-to-eye on most of the issues, but there are a few differences.

Proposition 1A: Rail Boondoggle - NO
This is a financial disaster waiting to drive businesses from the state over some utopian vision of rail travel. See my post below for a longer exposition on this. The short version is: We can't afford the $10 billion, the $10 billion is just a small downpayment on total construction costs that will likely top $60 billion, and it won't do what it's supposed to do even if we had a magic pile of money to throw at this sort of nonsense.

Proposition 2: Kinder, Gentler Slaughterhouse - NO
Are food prices not already high enough? This isn't about food safety, it's about people wanting to feel good about themselves. That's great. If you want to be nice to animals, then stop eating them. Otherwise, shut up and pass the steak sauce.

Proposition 3: Hospital Pity Pork - NO

Proposition 4: Parental Notification and Waiting Period for Minor's Abortions - YES
This is a marginal call for me. I am not enthused about the extra bureaucracy needed to administer this sort of scam, but the reality is that parents have a say in what medical procedures their minor children undergo. That's really the end of the question. Prop 4 has all the necessary exceptions for cases of parental abuse/neglect and so on, so it really is a issue of parents getting the same say over this serious medical procedure that they do over a piercing or a laser tattoo removal.

Proposition 5: Non-Violent Drug Offenses. Sentencing Alternatives - YES
Putting people in jail for consensual crimes is wrong, morally and practically. It wastes valuable law enforcement resources, encourages corruption of police, enriches criminals, punishes people who aren't hurting others, crowds our prisons (when we need the space for real criminals), turns otherwise productive people into burdens on the state, creates court backlogs, and DOES VERY LITTLE TO REDUCE DRUG USE. By the way, none of that is speculation, it's all documented over and over and is, in fact, an exact repeat of what happened eight or so decades ago when the same legal regime went under the name "Prohibition". This proposition is not an answer to the broader issue, but any step away from this disaster is a step in the right direction.

Proposition 6: Police and Law Enforcement Funding - NO
This law is another wasteful expansion of the state government into areas properly handled by city and county governments. It is a giveaway to law enforcement interest groups who understand that there is a "gravy train" effect of having a constitutionally mandated minimum spending level. Every one of those mandated minimum spending laws are bad policy, even when they are in areas that are appropriate functions of state government, which this is not. Most law enforcement is local and it is so for good reasons. Prop 6 will encourage dependence of local law enforcement on state bureaucrats and politicians in Sacramento while reducing local control and responsiveness to local needs. Be very clear about this: No money that comes from Sacramento will come without Sacramento strings. That means that politicians, primarily from Los Angeles and San Francisco will determine law enforcement priorities for your community, wherever you live.

In addition, this law (and others like it) are financial stupidity, where your state taxes will be raised (this money still has to come from you) so that you can send it to Sacramento and then it can be sent back to your community. Your community can already raise its own revenues to fund your community's law enforcement priorities, and then you have confidence that the money stays in your community instead of going to pay off political favors in Sacramento.

If you honestly don't feel you are paying enough for local government services, then feel free to support local measures to vote yourself a higher bill. But, 1) don't confuse increasing the cost of a government service with improving the service. They aren't ever the same and they are often unrelated. And 2) Don't be tricked into thinking that funneling money through the state government is a good way to improve local government functions. It is the opposite - a way to put important decision-making out of reach and in the hands of those over whom you have the least influence.

Proposition 7: Renewable Energy Mandates for Power Generation - NO
This is a dumb idea. It would be fine if it merely said that government-owned utilities were subject to the same generating regulations that the private utilities are. There is no reason to hamstring one type of utility more than another.

But, the real impact of the bill is in adding further requirements to all utilities which will unarguably make power generation more expensive. Those, in turn, will morph into rules to benefit special interests like corn and saw grass farmers so that they can get a bigger cut of the "renewable" fuels market. This, of course, will increase food prices at the same time power prices rise, all the while harming the environment by putting more currently untouched land to use in growing fuel crops, increasing runoff issues, soil erosion, transportation costs, and re-inflaming issues surrounding the water rights needed to grow the fuel crops.

Proposition 8: Banning the Name "Marriage" from Same-Sex Partnerships - NO
I actually agree that the California State Supreme Court's decision this Summer was the wrong one. It was a decision to change the name of a legal agreement from one thing to another with no substantive change at all in the nature of that legal agreement, when the voters had spoken clearly about what they wanted that agreement called. In other words, gay couples with domestic partnerships already had full legal equality in every area of law that the state of California could give it. The Court just decided that those domestic partnerships should be called marriages. I agree that the Court should not have done that.

So, if this were an amendment saying that courts are only allowed to review state law and policy for substantive legal issues and not for essentially aesthetic ones, I would be for it. But, Prop 8 does not do that.

Prop 8 is an emotional reaction to a bad decision that is based on the same immature approach to policy that the bad court decision itself was: aesthetics. The Court likes domestic partnerships being called marriage and now proponents of Prop 8 want that changed back because they don't like that name. Both parties are using their power to bicker over the name. This is silliness from start to finish. Same-sex couples have the same rights as straight couples in California and this proposition does nothing to change that. On the merits, the same legal standing ought to have the same legal name. People who actually want to turn back the clock on the domestic partnership law can take on that very separate battle. Otherwise, people just wanting to feel good about getting the name they prefer, whether liberal or conservative interest groups, need to find something more important to worry about.

Proposition 9: Parole Changes - NO
It's a waste of time and energy to fund special interests under the false premise of giving victims procedural access that they either already have or have at the discretion of prosecutors, judges, and parole boards, where such discretion appropriately rests.

Proposition 10: Alternative Vehicle Boondoggle - NO
BONDS ARE NOT FREE MONEY! If people want to purchase alternative fuel vehicles, that's great. If enough people want to do that, the market for such vehicles will grow, prices will come down, and more research will pour into developing the technology. But, it is not the taxpayers' job to buy people cars or to fund corporate research and development.

Proposition 11: Redistricting - Marginal YES
These redistricting schemes come up every so often and I have not seen one yet that ended up being worth half a damn. I haven't heard a compelling case that real change will come from this one either. The reality here is that there will be a huge pool of applicants. In any pool like that, it will be possible for the state auditors to picks sixty people that politicians like and then, among those sixty, to whittle that down to the 36 most compliant, and then find eight of those who want to do the same things the politicians who select them want to do. Basically, instead of politicians drawing their districts directly, they will get to pick the people to draw the districts for them.

The US Supreme Court ruling in Reynolds v. Sims is the bottleneck in this area, and it is not due to change any time soon.

Proposition 12: Subsidies for Real Estate Purchases by Veterans - NO
As time-honored as this program may be, it is another subsidy that increases taxes and increases home prices. I happen to have great respect for this particular special interest, but this is still undeniably special interest legislation.

Well, that's it for now. We've got one week until it's all over except for counting the bodies...

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