Californians Take Initiative...Or Is It The Other Way Around?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

With its 11 p.m. closing time on the East Coast, West Coast powerhouse California is the last of America’s largest states to have a say in this year’s election.

Some would add: last and least.

After voting for Democratic presidential candidates only 9 of 25 times in the 20th Century (the winner in 6 of those 9 contests being either Franklin Roosevelt or Bill Clinton), the California of the 21st Century is strictly verboten as far as Republican red-state aspirations are concerned.

So much for the Golden State as a national bellwether. A better standard is Ohio, which hasn’t sided with the losing candidate since 1960.

However, there is a role for California to play in this election: how America’s nation-state votes on its 11 statewide initiatives (Propositions 30-40).

Not that California is the only state with intriguing ballot measures:

  • In Michigan, Proposal 2 (aka, the “Save our Jobs” amendment) would embed collective-bargaining rights into the state’s constitution – and out of reach of state lawmakers. If successful, organized labor could export the idea of other initiative states as a means of unions avoiding what occurred earlier this year in Wisconsin.
  • In Florida (like California, it has 11 ballot measures in play), Amendment 6 would ban the use of state funds to pay for abortions – except in rare cases, including rape, incest, and safety of the mother. A Florida ballot amendment requiring parental notification (not consent) passed in 2004 with 65% support (Florida constitutional amendments require 60% approval). Amendment 6 puts that conservative mindset to a test.
  • In Washington State, Referendum 74 would legalize same-sex marriage and Initiative 502 would legalize, regulate and tax the sale of marijuana. President Obama last week endorsed Ref 74, plus two similar measures in Maine and Maryland.
  • In Arizona, local frustration with federal land management has bred Proposition 120, which would give the state"sovereign and exclusive authority over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its border". Regardless of the measure’s legality, it’s safe to assume that Congress won’t be giving away the Grand Canyon anytime soon.

As for California, it’s the 11 initiatives as a snapshot of the nation-state that intrigues. That storyline includes:

  • Californians’ willingness to go along with higher taxes. Propositions 30, 38 & 39, all raise revenue (think of California in this election as “New Taxachusetts”, with some 230 measures for taxes, bonds and fees appearing on local ballots).
  • Californians’ desire to loosen Big Labor’s grip on state politics. Proposition 32 would ban unions, corporations and entities under government contract from giving direct contributions to candidates or their committees – an idea that has unions quaking in their work boots.
  • Californians’ attitudes toward crime and punishment. Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty; Proposition 36 would amend the state’s controversial Three Strikes lawby not imposing a life sentence if the third “strike” is neither serious nor violent.

In this latest rollout of Eureka, we’ll take a look at this slate of California initiatives.

Autumn Carter, executive director of Californians for Common Sense, analyzes the impact of the two big tax combatants on the ballot, Propositions 30 & 38.

Bill Evers, a Hoover Institution research fellow and a member of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, analyzes what he deems to be the many failings of Gov. Brown’s Prop 30.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, will discuss the significance of Proposition 32 as a political game-changer in the Golden State.

Henry Miller, the Hoover Institution’s Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy, will analyze Proposition 37, a labeling measure that potentially could alter the politics of food not just in California but nationally.

Finally, we’ll take a look at California’s congressional races. Ballot initiatives they’re not, but they factor into the national scheme of things in that as California goes, so perhaps does control of the House in 2013.

We hope you enjoy the columns. And with Election Day fast approaching: don’t forget to vote!