Some thoughts on four ballot measures

Props. 33 (car insurance), 35 (human trafficking) and 37 (genetically modified food) are misguided, but Prop. 40 (redistricting) is a must.

SACRAMENTO — It's time to stop vacillating. Election day is almost here. There are still a few loose ends to straighten out on the California ballot.

Things such as auto insurance, sex slavery and food labeling. Also an obscure legislative redistricting measure.

Here are some thoughts — mostly negative — on four measures, in numerical order:

•Proposition 33: It's sponsored by one very narrow interest.

Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph is bankrolling this initiative — with $16.4 million at last count — in an effort to steal customers from other insurers. He wants to allow motorists to bring along their "continuous coverage" discounts.

Problem is, an insurance company could charge higher premiums for motorists whose policy had lapsed because, say, they hadn't owned a car or had been sick. However, a guy whose insurance had expired while he was laid off or on active military duty would still be considered continuously insured.

It's complicated. And this is the sort of regulating we pay an elected state insurance commissioner to handle. If he trips up, the governor and Legislature can step in.

A similar version of Prop. 33 was on the ballot in 2010. It lost by four percentage points.

I was suspicious then. And I still am.

Voter guide: 2012 California Propositions

•Prop. 35: This is about fighting sex slavery. And who can be against that?

But some fight strategies are smarter than others. This one seems clumsy.

The initiative would significantly increase sentences and fines for human trafficking. It also would expand the definition of trafficking to include the dissemination of pornography depicting child sex.

Rules of evidence would be changed to bar a defendant from citing an alleged victim's sexual history, such as prostitution. That raises questions about a fair trial.

Those convicted would have to register as sex offenders. The registry already is bulging and unwieldy.

But let's consider those sentences — up to life for forced sex trafficking of a minor. California is starting to emerge from a binge of tough sentencing and realizing that some of these long incarcerations have been both needless and unaffordable. We should not be turning back in that direction.

California and the federal government already have fairly stiff penalties for sex slavers. The feds handle most prosecuting because victims often are transported across state and international borders. In fact, according to the legislative analyst, only 18 sex traffickers were incarcerated in state prisons as of last March.

This measure was the product of former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic attorney general nomination in 2010, and Daphne Phung, a financial analyst who was inspired by a TV documentary on human trafficking.

I'd feel more comfortable if they'd taken their ideas to the Capitol rather than the ballot box. Such important changes in our criminal justice system should be run through the legislative process with expert testimony and public hearings.

The pair would have found a long line of politicians volunteering to join them in waging war on sex slavery.

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