Fourteen propositions will appear on California’s election ballot this fall, allowing voters to decide, among other things, whether to fund $3 billion for stem cell research and whether to require the collection of DNA from convicted felons.
One proposition initially on the ballot, a $9.95-billion bond measure to start construction of a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area, was withdrawn by the Legislature until the fall 2006 election.
Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced the measures, numbered 59 through 72, in a news release.
This is the greatest number of propositions to appear on a single ballot since March 2000, when 20 were listed, said Doug Stone, a spokesman for Shelley’s office.
“With 14, California’s voters will definitely have a lot of reading to do to learn about the issues and to look at all the background information provided to them,” Stone said.
The most measures ever to qualify for a ballot was 48, in 1914. In recent history, 29 propositions appeared on the November 1988 ballot and 28 in November 1990, Stone said.
One measure voters will face could propel California to the forefront of a national battle centering on medical science. If passed, Proposition 71 would have state taxpayers underwrite $3 billion worth of research into using embryonic stem cells to try to develop cures for Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases.
Advocates contend that stem cell research could lead to breakthroughs in curing many diseases. State Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill estimated that, including interest, the measure would amount to a $6-billion obligation.
This ballot initiative is a challenge to an executive order that President Bush issued in 2001 that limited the use of federal funds for stem cell research. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the measure.
Another high-profile item, Proposition 68, is co-sponsored by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas and is one of the two Indian gaming initiatives on the ballot.
It would require tribes that own casinos to contribute 25% of their slot machine revenue to state and local governments. If they refused, card rooms and horseracing tracks would gain the right to install 30,000 slot machines and would pay roughly $1 billion per year from the profits, primarily to local governments.
The other Indian gaming measure, Proposition 70, would grant tribes unlimited casino expansion rights on their land. In return, tribes would pay the state 8.84% of their net profit for the next 99 years.
Schwarzenegger recently renegotiated compacts with five tribes, increasing their cash payments to the state by $1 billion this fiscal year and $150 million to $200 million each subsequent year until 2030, in return for being allowed to increase the number of slot machines in their casinos and retain the exclusive right to slot machine gaming in California.
Since the signing, Schwarzenegger has vowed to campaign heavily to defeat both gaming propositions.
Other notable ballot initiatives are:
* Proposition 65, which would require voter approval if the Legislature wanted to reduce state funding to cities, counties and special districts.
* Proposition 66, which would soften the three-strikes law to specify that only violent and/or serious felonies could trigger the third strike.
* Proposition 69, which seeks to require the collection of DNA samples from all felons for submission to a state database.
Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), who wrote the bill delaying the high-speed train measure, said he doubted that voters would back another pricey bond issue so soon after they approved $15 billion in budget-deficit bonds in March. He said he supports high-speed rail, but the question became, “Do we want to spend money if we’re broke?”
Officials at the California High-Speed Rail Authority said waiting two years would not change their schedule. The authority is still planning a 700-mile train line.
Twenty-five initiatives failed to qualify for this year’s ballot because they did not receive enough voter signatures in time, and five stalled in the state attorney general’s office, which analyzes the wording of each initiative. If all 30 were to pass each step of the approval process, they would qualify to appear on the November 2006 ballot.
The other initiatives that have qualified for the ballot are:
* Proposition 59, a suggested constitutional amendment to guarantee the right of access to state and local government information.
* Proposition 60, a constitutional amendment that would counter the open primary initiative, Proposition 62.
* Proposition 61, a $750-million bond issue to finance the construction, expansion and equipping of children’s hospitals. The cost to the state would be about $1.5 billion over 30 years to pay off the principal and interest, according to the legislative analyst’s office.
* Proposition 62 is the open primary initiative. It would allow people to vote for any state or federal candidate, regardless of party registration.
* Proposition 63 would impose an additional 1% tax on income over $1 million to provide funds to counties to expand mental health services.
* Proposition 64 would limit an individual’s right to sue under unfair business competition laws to situations in which the person has suffered actual injury or financial loss due to an unfair practice. The proposition would allow only the state attorney general or local public officials to sue on behalf of the general public to enforce laws governing unfair business competition.
* Proposition 67 would add a 3% surcharge to telephone use in California to provide money for hospital emergency services and training. It would not include cellphone or business lines.
* Proposition 72 would overturn a law requiring employers with 20 or more employees to provide healthcare insurance for uninsured workers.