Opinion: Prepare to be propositioned


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You will be propositioned at least eight times on November 4, so you might want to carry a can of mace. Oh, and you’ll be needing your wallet, as well.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today that she has certified four new ballot measures for the presidential ballot. There’s one (number five) to revamp sentencing for drug and other nonviolent offenders; it would cost more than $1 billion a year. Ah, but it would also save more than $1 billion a year. Or so the attorney general speculates.


And there’s measure number six, state Sen. George Runner’s anti-gang initiative. It would increase penalties for some crimes, and deny bail to illegal immigrants who also are members of gangs. This one would run the state about half a billion dollars a year, not including the extra costs for county jails, prosecutors, etc. Just a quick reminder: the state will likely have to add $7 billion to the $17.2 billion deficit that (today, anyway) already is going to mean deep cuts and/or tax increases. Why? We already can’t manage our overcrowded prisons, and an overseer appointed by the federal court is empowered to take that $7 billion off the top of the state treasury. So how are we going to pay up? A bond -- a ballot measure -- is expected to come before voters. In November. So make that nine propositions. Now where were we?

Oh, yeah, number seven: A renewable energy mandate. It would require utilities to generate 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010. And 40% by 2020. And 50% by 2025. This one would cost a relatively paltry $3.4 million a year, paid for by fees. But rate payers would get off cheap, because it would require all the costs to be borne by fat-cat utility executives! OK, just kidding about that last part.

Number eight: You were expecting this one -- it would amend the state constitution to provide that the only kind of ‘marriage’ recognized in California is one between a man and a woman. Cost: nothing! Except our humanity. Come to think of it, both sides will probably make that argument.

Did I say nine? Make that 10. In addition to the likely prison bond, there is also a very likely redistricting revamp. Also bubbling under: a victims’ rights initiative and an alternative fuels bond. So make that 12 ballot measures.

In case you forgot, measures one through four deal with a high-speed rail bond, a humane treatment of farm animals law, a children’s hospital bond, and parental notification for minors’ abortions.

But that’s just State of California. The City of Los Angeles may have a parcel tax for anti-gang programs and an instant-runoff voting measure. The county and/or the city may have a transportation tax. The deadline for the city to act is July 2, so in theory we could get even more.


If you’re keeping track -- and of course you are -- you’ll find conflicting theories about What It All Means. Democrats will come out in droves to vote for president, so now is the time to get a new tax on the ballot. Or, Republicans and John McCain have an outside shot at California’s electoral vote, so now is the time for a law-and-order measure, abortion notification and anti-gay-marriage to keep their interest up.

Get ready for fund-raising pitches. Wealthy Republicans, expect to be asked to pay out for those three conservative measures just mentioned. High-flying Democrats, plan to be called to help fund the sentencing, renewable energy and farm animals initiatives.

If campaign consulting firms and the companies that produce political mail were publicly traded, brokers would be recommending a strong ‘buy’ order right about now. Alas, they’re not publicly traded. Yet.