Before we vote, we need to know...

November 8th is set to be a highly contentious election day with Californians helping to select a new President, deciding who is best qualified to represent the Golden State in the U.S. Senate, and forging our state’s future by voting on 18 (yes 18) ballot propositions. Seven of these propositions include tax increases, not counting local county and city measures.

A record setting voter guide – it is 224 pages long, cost $15 million and took seven weeks to print – will be mailed to each registered California voter, 18 million of us starting September 29. While the top of the ticket races are what consume the media and social activity, there are literally 1,000 races in California that will affect our everyday lives.
Propositions are nothing new in the election landscape of our state, but there seems to be an interesting relationship between our legislative leaders in Sacramento and individuals who use ballots as a means to bypass the legislative process. Some, like Proposition 59, are strictly advisory and have been criticized as basically a taxpayer-funded public opinion poll put on the ballot by the majority party in Sacramento.
Essentially ballot propositions are a way to pass the onus of creating state policy to the voters. As the electorate we should know what we have in store for us come November 8 at the ballot box. 
So let’s take a look at some of the more controversial ones:
Proposition 64 (Marijuana) – Our Lieutenant Governor and Napster founder and former Facebook president are large contributors to this proposition. If passed, anyone over 21 can purchase marijuana but it will still be in violation of federal law. It would also allow smoking ads back on television if the show targets an adult audience. 
Propositions 62 & 66 (Death Penalty) – Actor Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H* fame is looking to rid the state of the corporal punishment while former NFL player Kermit Alexander, who lost his mother, sister and two nephews to a senseless murder, is behind a proposition to speed up the process.

Proposition 63 (Gun Control) – Lt. Governor Newsom also wants to limit access to ammunition with his second of two propositions. The California Senate and Lt. Governor could not agree on the wording and who was to take credit for this so the Senate passed its own version of this Proposition earlier this year.

Propositions 55 & 56 (Tobacco & Taxation) – If you are a smoker or earn a targeted income of $250,000 or more the California Teachers Association (CTA) and billionaire Democratic funder Tom Steyer have proposed ways to tax you. CTA wants to add 12 years to the Proposition 30 (“temporary tax”) tax increase originally championed by Governor Brown. If passed the surtax would run through 2030. Steyer and his supporters would like to place an additional $2 per pack surtax on any smoking product containing nicotine (e-cigarettes included). The largest majority of cigarette smokers are in lower income groups.

Proposition 54 (Legislative Transparency) – It is scary that this is not a law now. It is a simple and important law if we are serious about transparency in government. It requires our legislators to wait 72 hours after a bill is made public before voting on it. It would also require that public hearings are recorded and are allowed to be posted on the internet. It was amazing that they could not agree to do this in Sacramento and a Proposition had to be written. Common sense hopefully prevails.

Proposition 57 Prison (Sentencing Reform) - This measure makes changes to the State Constitution to increase the number of inmates eligible for parole consideration and authorizes the parole board to award sentencing credits to inmates. The measure also makes changes to state law to require that youths have a hearing in juvenile court before they can be transferred to adult court. Since the passage of AB 109 and Proposition 47 in the past few years this proposition is being opposed by many in the judicial branch and law enforcement community.

New bonds for schools, more attempts to make the legislative process more accountable, and more requests of voters to regulate retailers are again on the list of “To-Dos” for the public to take action on. The irony here, of course, is politicians are asking us to do their work in an election year where they want us to vote them into office to get things done. 

Well these they are the partial list of 2016 ballot propositions in California. If you are planning to vote this November, remember to register by October 24 and to look up the complete list of propositions at the Secretary of State’s office website.

Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey, past president of Independent Cities Association and current treasurer of the California Republican Party. He can be reached at